“The unemployment rate is dropping, and finding and retaining good people has become a really big deal to us,” says Samuel Brooks, VP of Technology and Innovation at KMG Prestige. With over 900 employees needed at hundreds of sites, it’s quite a challenge. The company suggests an investment opportunity that also serves as a solution: employee learning programs.
One way the company is boosting both the value and loyalty of its work force is by giving them the skills they need to take on new responsibilities and increase their chance for success. Brooks says that where training was approached more casually in the past, it is now considered a strategic asset.
“A first-class program of ongoing learning pays off in three important ways,” Brooks explains. “First and most obviously, it helps you avoid having to hire new talent from outside the company by expanding the skills of the people you already have – people who already know your way of doing things. Secondly, it gets the new people you do hire up to speed in all areas very efficiently. Finally, and this is often overlooked, employees these days really want to increase their skills, and even consider training a benefit rather than a nuisance.”
Brooks explains that it’s not uncommon for prospective hires today to actually ask about the training they’ll get on the job. He says this is true not only for those who want to plot their way up the career ladder, but also for those who hold themselves to a high standard and simply want the confidence and rewards that come with performing well at the jobs they’re applying for.
“But isn’t affordable different?”
KMG Prestige has a heavy presence in the affordable sector. And Brooks says there’s a misperception that a learning program is less critical in affordable than, say, in conventional, where for example staff need to understand marketing and chasing leases in a way that doesn’t apply in affordable.
“In affordable we hire a lot of folks who are specifically good at paperwork due to the preponderance of regulations and certifications that characterize the sector,” he explains. “So there’s this idea that if you have people with solid clerical skills coming in, you don’t have as much need for broad or ongoing learning. And that’s just not true.”
“You’re still competing against all kinds of properties, whether HUD or tax credit or whatever, so market knowledge really pays off. You still have issues like maintenance and security that all properties deal with. And, you still have the need to train effectively on skills such as the use of your software and company policies and procedures if you want people to be successful in their positions.”
The solution is easy
“We were one of the original users of RealPage’s EasyLMS, and we think very highly of it,” says Brooks. “It satisfies all the challenges I’ve described, and best of all makes things easy for both employees and their managers. In fact, a lot easier than the casual and haphazard manner in which many property management companies still approach learning.”
The greatest benefit of EasyLMS, he says, is that it consolidates all learning of both soft and hard skills in a single, centralized solution. One password offers access to all assigned learning as well as knowledge employees can pursue on their own to further their skills. Simple color-coded dashboards show employees what they’ve completed and are scheduled to complete, while giving supervisors a lens into who is doing what. This overview is complemented by automatically-delivered reports covering employee learning status for supervisors, and automated alerts for employees regarding courses that need to be completed. “The automation takes a big weight off of supervisors in keeping up with what’s happening and nudging employees to get their training done,” says Brooks.
EasyLMS has allowed KMG Prestige to create learning “packages” that are ready to go based on a new hire’s job title and the type of property where they’ll be working. Brooks says the beauty of this is that managers don’t have to deal with what learning to assign every time someone new joins the company or changes jobs – and with the growth that KMG is experiencing, it happens a lot.
“Every day a data feed goes from us to RealPage detailing staff changes, including job changes, different supervisors, new hires and people leaving the company,” he says. “The EasyLMS system takes all of this into account and adjusts the learning program accordingly to make sure the right people are assigned the right courses without supervisors having to get bogged down in it at all. We don’t even have to add new users to the system ourselves. The system does it for us, and sends them a welcome with a description of their learning assignments. Last time I checked we had 43 people going through new manager training!”
EasyLMS gives supervisors an easy way to see whether training might be part of the problem or solution in the case of underperforming staff. “We can instantly see whether they’re deficient in learning the skills they need to be successful or whether there are courses they can readily take that might help with the problem including both courseware and live training,” Brooks explains.
Fun and games
KMG Prestige is taking advantage of the built-in “gamification” features that add fun and competition to the learning process. And Brooks says it is making a huge difference.
“People are naturally competitive, with themselves and one another,” he explains. “They really do want to rack up these points and badges and things, and get on the leaderboards. Even the supervisors are getting into the game, showing off their own learning achievements and issuing challenges to employees to flaunt their skills.”
Brooks closes by reminding property management companies that by far their most important asset and differentiator is their staff, and that this necessitates investing in them. “The cost of a great learning system like EasyLMS is minuscule compared to the payoff in increasing the value of your employees, and holding on to them rather than having them look elsewhere,” he says. “You simply can’t afford to have learning on a back burner anymore, as something people will get to when they have extra time, which they seldom do. It’s now a critical, strategic function as far as I’m concerned.”
Established in 1991, KMG Prestige is a fee-based property management firm managing over 25,000 apartment homes in subsidized, tax credit, rural development and conventional rental communities across seven states.