From building operations and maintenance to financial management, contractor negotiations, and board and resident communications, a day in the life of an NYC property manager is ever-changing. It takes a special personality to navigate the intellectual rigors of this job. Among the many factors that make a good property manager and a successful management company, is the effective staff management for their building. 
An efficient building staff can be considered the core of a management team. The building staff essentially serves as the eyes and ears of the building and can report on the daily conditions to   the property manager. While a good property manager will be on site visiting their properties routinely, the building staff is immersed in the daily goings on of a building and serves as the front line – whether it is greeting residents, responding to an emergency, or maintaining consistency in building upkeep. For these reasons it is important for a property manager to understand how to effectively and efficiently manage their onsite building staff in order to maximize performance and yield results that will meet the expectations of the board. 

Onboarding and Training

To achieve a harmonious and productive working environment, property managers should continuously improve upon staff management skills. This is essential to maintaining conducive relationships which will lessen the burden of individuals in all roles – that of the managing agent as well as the building staff. 
First, begin with an understanding of candidate qualifications. Hiring qualified staff members who undergo the proper onboarding processes and training will go a long way in avoiding future conflicts or setbacks when it comes to executing daily tasks and staff scheduling. 
Continuous training is also beneficial in that it provides encouragement and support to building staff, helping them become established individuals within their professions and allowing them the opportunity to realize growth from within an organization. This, in turn, will assist in reducing the rate of turnover which is highly significant in terms of the stability of a property. 
Managing a building staff in New York City can have greater challenges when the building employees are members of a Union and subject to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  This Agreement is negotiated by attorneys from the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (with the assistance of managing agent representatives) on behalf of the Cooperative and Condominium Boards - the Building Owners.  
Managing agents must follow all rules set forth by the unions as per the negotiated bulk contracts. As a representative of the board, a property manager must consult with the board on any necessary actions concerning building staff, and is prohibited from making unilateral decisions. 

Communication and Delegation

As with any relationship, an important factor is communication. As it relates to building staff management, it is important for a property manager to routinely welcome and understand feedback from building employees. This can be achieved through scheduled building staff meetings. 
Understanding each employees’ strengths is important but understanding the staff’s grievances is equally as important when promoting a harmonious working environment. Whether the issues at hand are concerning scheduling conflicts, differences in points of view concerning building operations, or conflicts with other staff members, an effective property manager should identify ways to encourage staff members to take pride in their work by providing the necessary support and resources for conflict resolution.  

Managing Expectations and Enforcing a Chain of Command

A property manager should be explicitly expressing what is expected of each building staff member while at the same time allowing members’ needs and concerns to be acknowledged. 
By implementing an organized system of ranks and tasks, and concisely describing the responsibilities within each building staff member’s role, managers will improve staff relations.
The main unions dictate responsibilities for each building staff member, providing specific language on what can and cannot be done within those positions. Having these job descriptions in writing, approved by the board, will ensure that expectations for the resident manager/superintendent and building staff members are being communicated, managed and enforced. 
Effective delegation of tasks throughout building staff ranks is also key. This will improve the overall property operations and also strengthen a property manager’s leadership abilities in overseeing staff. A resident manager/superintendent will play a key role in effective delegation as they oversee the staff on a daily or nightly basis. 
Establishing and recognizing a hierarchy within the building staff system is important as well. This implemented chain of command will come into play when enforcing job descriptions or any terms of discipline as detailed in staff members’ terms of contract. Typically, a good guideline to remember is that the property manager is responsible for managing the building staff with the input they receive from the board. This way, all parties involved have aligned expectations and the system allows for a much more manageable work load and harmonious environment for all. 

Support and Motivation

To instill pride in a building staff member’s everyday tasks, it’s essential for the property manager to identify what motivates them, and then respond by providing appropriate support. 
If there are building employees who are unhappy, communicate and consult with them to determine the root cause of the issue. This is important as negativity among staff members will often be detected by those in their environment, including building residents. While some staff members may unfortunately be motivated only through disciplinary actions, simple, straightforward, and regular communication with staff can go along way and serve as positive motivation. 
It’s also crucial for a property manager to have a comprehensive understanding of the union contract in order to know how to adequately handle issues that arise such as overtime hours, absenteeism and performance evaluations, among others.
There are other industry resources available to help property managers support and motivate their building staff – a good property management company will provide in house training to prepare managers for a variety of outcomes and external services, and the Institute of Real Estate Management offers training courses on staff management as well. 
By maintaining clear expectations, communicating concisely and respectfully, and having a comprehensive understanding of union procedures, property managers and their boards can establish themselves as efficient and effective leaders improving their building staff management. With this type of approach, managing agents will be positioning their staff (and themselves) for successful building operations. For more information on how to effectively manage building staff, contact FirstService Residential.
Friday April 15, 2016