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"And the winner is ..." enhancing employee motivation.

Imagine a not so typical employee meeting taking place in a large ballroom filled with balloons, streamers, and confetti while a jazzed-up version of the song "I'm So Excited" fills the air. The room dims, and the spotlight focuses on several awards and a prestigious trophy. The excitement draws to a still hush as the leader begins to announce, "And the winners are..."

In order to be a winner in today's competitive residential apartment market, it is becoming more critical for on-site management to establish and adhere to stringent operational and marketing standards. Although most management companies have no difficulty establishing performance standards, achieving them on site often presents a major challenge.

The key to this challenge lies not only in effective employee training, but also in responsive follow-up and recognition efforts to enhance employee motivation. It is not enough to simply communicate performance standards, on-site employees must be effectively motivated to achieve them. That means making the job important, rewarding--and fun!

On-site awards programs offer an excellent means for providing employee training, follow-up and motivation in an exciting environment. The most successful accomplish these goals by incorporating performances standards as contest criteria and by providing performance feedback for continuing positive results.

Our company has experienced many benefits from such comprehensive on-site awards programs in the nationwide management of its 20,000 apartment units. The company introduced an annual "Standard of Excellence Program" in 1987 to fulfill two primary goals. First, to promote corporate standards of excellence in all aspects of property operations. And second, to recognize special achievements in individual and property performance.

The criteria

The company established program criteria and contest categories based on specific objectives. The program currently recognize outstanding regional achievements in three major contest categories.

The Gold Club consists of on-site employees who are acknowledged for providing exceptional customer service within their individual job descriptions. The recipients are selected by a regional judging committee, which consists of the regional marketing coordinator, branch manager, and area property manager.

Winners are selected based on actual resident responses to customer service satisfaction survey cards. These cards are aggressively distributed to prospects and residents following the property tour, move-in, lease expiration, move-out, and upon the completion of all maintenance service. This system particularly recognize the less prominent administrative, maintenance, and housekeeping employees.

The Regional Leasing Consultant of the Month is awarded to the leasing consultant attaining the highest percentage of his or her individual monthly move-in goal. The leasing consultants are also awarded bonus points for exceptional responses received on the customer service satisfaction survey cards.

The property and individual move-in goals are established by the regional marketing coordinator and area property manager, based on actual turnover as well as a projected increase in occupancy for the month. The total property move-in goal is divided among the leasing staff.

The company has found that this approach is establishing move-in goals adapts fairly to diverse market conditions, turnover rates, and property size. Because the goals are based on actual turnover, the employees are motivated to concentrate not only on move-ins, but also on obtaining qualified applicants and increasing resident retention.

The Regional Outstanding Property Achievement Award winner is determined semi-annually based on the highest cumulative score reflecting performance in five major areas:

* Move-in goal attainment. The monthly move-in goal attainment scores are averaged for the designated six-month contest period for each property.

* Property audits. The audit evaluates three major areas, which are scored separately: management and administration; marketing and leasing; and maintenance, make ready, grounds, and janitorial. The property audits are conducted by the area property manager, regional marketing coordinator, and branch office support staff.

* Shopping reports. Evaluations are conducted a minimum of twice per quarter for each property. All of the shopping report scores for the six-month period are totaled and averaged for each property.

* Lease renewals. The monthly conversion of lease expirations to lease renewals is averaged for the designated six-month period for each property, again focusing on resident retention.

* Regional vice president bonus. This bonus category incorporates a simple point system to evaluate property financial performance relative to economic occupancy, delinquencies, and operating expenses. These areas are reviewed monthly for each property and points are awarded based on how the property ranked relative to the rest of the properties in the region. Each property's cumulative score for the six-month contest period is then used.

By establishing program criteria and contest categories in this way, the company clearly outlines what the awards program is designed to accomplish:

* Exceptional customer service.

* Leasing production and reduced resident turnover.

* Improved overall property performance and net operating income.

The reward

The second major guideline is to incorporate rewards which are meaningful to the employee and offer sufficient motivation to perform. The reward for each contest category is based on prestige and recognition, as significant symbols of success within the company. In addition, token incentives, trophies, and plaques are awarded to symbolize special achievements.

Each recipient of the Gold Club Award receives a solid gold lapel pin inscribed with the corporate logo. These special pins are only awarded to the selected members of the Gold Club. Additionally, each member receives a personalized Standard of Excellence certificate, is honored at an annual regional luncheon, and is listed in an annually produced special bulletin, which is distributed throughout the company.

A Standard of Excellence trophy is awarded to each winning leasing consultant along with a personalized Standard of Excellence certificate. The leasing consultants also benefit from monetary incentives based on move-in goal achievement and leasing performance.

A large version of the Standard of Excellence trophy is awarded to the winning property. In addition, an exciting afternoon off with special entertainment and lunch is organized for the entire staff to celebrate their success as a team. A winning Denver team celebrated their success with a day of white water rafting on the Colorado River while a Phoenix team enjoyed a fun-filled trip at Disneyland.

An article congratulating the property and staff is included in the company magazine, which is distributed semi-annually throughout the company. Also, a $50.00 bonus of appreciation is awarded to each employee of the winning property.

These reward incentives receive added value and significance by being presented in a ceremonial fashion in the presence of corporate executives and peers. Letters of congratulations, corporate bulletins, and numerous hugs and handshakes go along with the achievements. Increased employee production, loyalty, and reduced turnover are significant results.

The promotion

The third component to the motivational effort is to promote the awards program goals, objectives, progress, and results frequently and aggressively. A promotional kick-off is conducted each year in all regions to introduce the awards program. The kick-off is an elaborate breakfast meeting conducted with a pep-rally-style agenda. Corporate executives open the meeting, reflect on the previous year's successes and award winners, and present general corporate goals for the new year.

A brief overview of the history, purpose, and benefits of the program is reviewed. Then the agenda is turned over to the on-site employees and property teams. Each contribute to the year's promotional theme in its own personal way to illustrate a commitment to the cause. Slide shows, videos, rap songs, skits, situational poems, and supervisor roastings are presented by each property, all in a competitive effort to outdo the other teams. The ultimate result is an excited group of people, proud of quality performance, loyal to the company, and anxious to produce results.

Each year the program adopts a new promotional theme to represent a new, or reinforced, corporate vision. The contest awards and incentive items are selected to symbolize the new theme. This change keeps the program exciting and offers a fresh direction in conjunction with the long-term commitment to the program.

Recent themes have included:

* "Research for the Stars in '88" with Oscar-styled trophies.

* "The 1989 Performance Olympics" and gold medals.

* "The 1990 Vision of Excellence" and kaleidoscopes.

* The 1991 "Excellence. . .A Timeless Tradition" and glass-etched clocks.

The changing themes stimulate curiosity as new programs are unveiled. Each theme is actively incorporated into all promotional aspects. For example, a large framed poster presenting the current awards theme and trophy selection is displayed in each office as a daily reminder of the program.

The kick-off meeting reaches its climax with the unveiling of the new annual promotional theme, trophy, program criteria, and awards incentives. Finally the meeting is adjourned along with competitive challenges to seize the first trophy.

Regional bulletins are produced and distributed monthly by the regional marketing coordinator to communicate individual and team progress and contest results. The bulletins focus on the positive results by promoting:

* Monthly and biannual awards announcements.

* Individual and property move-in goal achievements.

* Excellent shopping report quotes.

* Excellent customer service quotes.

In addition, the bulletins provide numerous success stories relative to general marketing, customer service, and sales information. The bulletins also features a guest column, which allows corporate executives and on-site employees the opportunity to submit articles on pertinent issues.

Employee involvement

The fourth major element the company considers vital to the program's success is active involvement of the on-site employees as well as corporate leadership. The key is to make the awards program an employee-designed program, which fundamentally promotes and reinforces the underlying investment and operational goals and objectives of the company and its properties.

Our company actively seeks feedback and recommendations from both groups regarding specific contest categories, performance criteria, and appropriate incentives.

The promotional kick-off is purposely designed to involve all employees. Promotional lapel pins are distributed during the kick-off and worn by the employees to show visible support and commitment to the goals of the program. This type of employee involvement helps create and maintain enthusiasm for the program. As a result, the team competition becomes one of the] most powerful motivators involved in the awards program.

A final thought

In conclusion, the primary element to winning property and personal performance can be traced to one basic psychological component--motivation. In order for any awards program to be successful, it must ultimately excite people to perform at their best--to be excellent. Successful awards programs accomplish this goal by incorporating effective criteria, reward incentives, promotional efforts, and employee involvement. The final goal is not only to set winning standards, but to motivate people to achieve those standards. Jeffrey J. Morris, MAI, is senior vice president and director of property management for Metric Realty Services. He directs the management of commercial, retail, and residential properties in the portfolio of Metric and its subsidiaries and clients. Prior to joining the company in 1981, Mr. Morris served as a vice president of appraisal-consultation services for Coldwell Banker Management Corporation for nine years. Fredda Steinberg is national marketing director for Metric Realty Services. She joined Metric Property Management in 1984, and is responsible for developing and implementing comprehensive marketing and employee training and development programs. She is a member of the Houston Apartment Association and serves on its Training and Education Committee. Metric Realty Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Metric is a diversified, full-service firm providing real estate investment and asset management programs to pension funds, corporations, and individuals. In over 20 years, it has acquired and managed over 40,000 apartment units and 10 million square feet of commercial space from the Pacific to the southwestern United States.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Morris, Jeffery J.; Steinberg, Fredda
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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