Do Associations Need to Adjust Wages For their Staff to Stay in the Game?
The job market is strong. Covid-19's retreat has led to a resurgence in Americans returning to work. The unemployment rate in the United States dropped to 3.6%, a new two-year low, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released in April.
Still, workers are leaving their jobs at unprecedented rates, resulting in a record number of job openings. This trend, previously known as The Great Resignation and more recently dubbed The Great Renegotiation, has had an impact on almost every sector - and property management is no exception.
Condominium and community associations continue to look for and struggle to keep qualified personnel. The job market has evolved to favor of employees who are no longer willing to accept the status quo. Today's job market provides workers in hospitality occupations like food and beverage or guest services, with a greater number of possibilities than they had three years ago. And intense competition for workers has made recruiting qualified staff challenging.
Here’s what you should know to help you navigate today’s labor market.
Competition is Tough
It’s an employee’s market, and pay isn’t the only thing associations need to assess when recruiting new workers. In today’s competitive job market, employees assess numerous employment opportunities and companies to determine what’s best for them. This shift in the U.S. labor market to favor workers has led to many companies increasing their hourly pay. For example, last year, big-box retailer Walmart raised its starting wages for all U.S. employees from $15 to $18 an hour. Other companies have followed suit. Costco, which paid $15 an hour in 2019, raised its starting wage to $17 an hour in October.
Organizations are also under tremendous pressure to provide perks such as remote working possibilities, which is not common in the property management industry. As a result, finding someone to fill the role of pool attendant, which entails standing for hours outdoors, may be more challenging now than it was before.
To be successful, boards must acknowledge the intense competition in the job market and enhance their recruiting efforts to compete for top talent. A good property management company can assist boards in assessing their open opportunities to ensure that they’re offering the pay and perks that are in line with current labor market demands.
“Workers' expectations around organizational perks have increased significantly over the past two years, such that sign-on bonuses have become normalized,” said Brian Pompos, director of Talent Acquisition at FirstService Residential. “It’s simply not enough to offer a competitive starting wage; employees want recognition and growth opportunities. We can work with boards to help them gain a competitive advantage by partnering with them to foster these programs.”
You May Not Be Paying Enough
Quits and job vacancies have increased since The Great Resignation began in the spring of 2021, as employers vie for talent. Employers have had to pivot to meet workers' growing demands for higher pay, better work-life balance, and more flexible schedules to fill necessary positions. There is still a significant wage gap between what some boards pay for onsite jobs and what they should pay in today's labor market. As a result, many boards find that their job requisitions stay open longer than expected. Alternatively, when they hire someone suitable for the role, they lose them to "a better offer."
Wages are Rapidly Rising
A report issued earlier this year by the Labor Department indicated that wages are rising at their fastest pace in 20 years, fueled by the ongoing demand for service industry employees and employers struggling to find quality workers. Some community association boards are unaware of the speed at which wages are rising, and their lack of awareness around this growing issue has added to their recruitment and retention challenges. According to Amy Sanchez, president of the Central Florida market at FirstService Residential, “Part of the issue is the lack of transparency around wages in the property management industry. For example, in many industries, such as real estate, there is a wealth of information about housing market demands and industry pay related to those demands. The same information isn't readily available in the property management industry. This lack of information has made it difficult for associations to forecast and budget adequately for rapidly rising wages.”
Good property management companies stay up to date on current industry trends, going above and beyond to acquire information that isn’t always easily obtained.
"To stay abreast of wage trends, our HR teams conduct extensive industry research,” said Danny Ellis, president of FirstService Residential’s Georgia-Tennessee-Florida Panhandle market. “They continuously analyze industry pay and wage competitiveness to help attract and retain talent.”
Community Associations Need to Adapt
In a tight labor market, what else can associations do to tackle unfilled roles and stiff competition?
When employees have the upper hand in a job market – where they'd rather leave than stay where they feel underpaid and undervalued – associations must be flexible and adapt to the market. Boards can distinguish themselves from the competition by providing flexibility they didn't have to offer before. Failure to recognize this or reacting too slowly could mean that the quality of the programs and services in your community may suffer. Property upkeep or administrative duties such as addressing resident inquiries may be difficult if you don't have enough people to complete the task. Boards that do not respond to the workers’ needs will face recruiting difficulties, high turnover, and staff burnout (which will lead to even more employee loss) as teams with insufficient personnel work more shifts and longer hours to make up for understaffed teams.
Build an ideal workplace culture
Having the right workplace culture makes a huge difference when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. A strong company culture that focuses on the needs of its employees can lead to increased employee morale and longevity. Happy employees are better equipped to provide better service to your community. And fortunately for the property management industry, remote work options aren't the only workplace perks job seekers want.
“The pandemic and The Great Resignation highlighted the importance of employee investment,” said Pompos. “At FirstService Residential, we invest in training and leadership programs for associates to help enhance their strengths. Employers who promote and support employee investment see less staff turnover.”
Examples of a good workplace culture include schedule flexibility, educational opportunities diversity and inclusion initiatives, and mental health services (the latter which seems to be more in demand than ever).
Looking for ways to help build workplace culture? Read: 6 Research-Backed Ways to Promote Employee Well-Being
Streamline the application process
Besides raising wages, associations can improve their recruitment success by making the application process faster and easier for those seeking employment. Technology is a big part of the equation. Social media apps like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter make it easy to post job openings, but the job application process should also be simple.
"We use Text-to-Apply for a number of our roles to simplify the application process," Sanchez said. “It eliminates the need for excess paperwork.”
In a nutshell, workers want a seamless application process and to feel valued by their organizations – by pay and perks. This combined with a well-defined corporate culture is an excellent approach to help your community succeed.
For more information on how a professional property management company can help your association stay on top of workforce trends to stay competitive in today’s job market, contact FirstService Residential today.