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A survey of motivation in property management.

A Survey of Motivation in Property Management

Job satisfaction has been defined as the difference between what an individual wants and what he or she perceives is received. The more wants exceed what received, the greater will be the dissatisfaction.

In 1961, Lyman Porter conducted a national study on job satisfaction directed at managers in a variety of occupations. The questionnaire used by Porter was based on Maslow's theory of In the questionaire, each manager was asked how much of a given outcome there should be in his or her job and how much of this given outcome there actually was in the job. The discrepancies in the answers were considered to be a measure of satisfaction. Porter then developed a scale for measuring the levels of satisfaction.

I conducted a survey of three real estate firms based on Porter's questionaire as part of an internal review of our firm. Let me emphasize that the survey was not meant to be formal research and that the general results are not necessarily true for all real estate firms. At the same time, it does give managers some points to consider in assessing the motivation and attitude of their employees and may encourage other managers to conduct their own internal reviews.

The firms surveyed

The first firm surveyed was located in Connecticut and operated by two active partners. It was a full-service real estate company, engaged in both residential and commercial brokerage, but with an emphasis on property management. At the time of the survey, the firm managed 800 apartments and small office and strip center properties in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It employed 20 people, ranging from office personnel and real estate sales agents to janitorial staff.

The second firm was located in Arizona and operated primarily as a property management company specializing in syndication of real properties in Arizona and Nevada. The firm had developed individual, mobile management crews that were sent to various problem properties. In essence, miniature management companies were transplanted and established at these properties. Structurally, this technique led to a decentralization of management responsibilities and decision making. The firm employed 25 people.

The third firm was located in Nevada and was primarily engaged in residential and commercial brokerage. This firm was owned by a larger corporation, which owned other real estate companies throughout the country. The company employed 60 sales agents working in various decentralized branch offices. This firm was included in the survey to compare its reactions with those of property management firm employees.

The questionaire

The questionnaire consisted of 13 statements about the employees's job. Each statement contained one of the five need levels included in Maslow's hierarchy - security, social, esteem, autonomy, and self-actualization. For example, one statement was "the opportunity for independent thought and action in my position."

Each statement was followed by the same three questions, asking the employee to rate the characteristics in the statement in reference to his or her job:

* How much is there now? * How much should there be? * How important is this to me? Ratings were done on a scale of 1 through 7, with 7 representing the maximum.

In each firm, employees were given the option to participate or not in the survey. They were asked to complete the questionaire in private and not discuss their responses with others. Surveys were conducted anonymously. The two real estate management firms obtained a 100-percent response from their employees; the third firm had only 30-percent participation.

The results

The answers to the questionnaire were tabulated according to the mean schedule developed by Porter.

Figure 1 measures the relative importance of the different needs given as choices in the questionnaire. The higher the score, the more important the need relative to others.

In each company, the need for security was more important than any other need. Self-actualization was the least important. [Tabular Form Ommitted]

Figure 2 shows the relative dissatisfaction with the different needs. The higher the score, the more dissatisfied an individual is with the given need. [Tabular Data Ommitted]

In each firm, security is the one need that is the least satisfied. Self-realization has the lowest score, indicating that it is the most satisfied need in relation to the others.

While the survey was not extensive enough to explain why security was both the most valued characteristic and the one least satisfied, some thoughts can be considered.

The role of security is important in all occupations, but the relationship of the management company with its employees may make security even more of an issue. Because many employees work for the owners of the property but are hired and fired by the management company, they may see themselves as very vulnerable to change.

In addition, the relative invisibility of most owners probably makes these employees feel less secure. Because employees are unclear about the role of the owner, they may fear that an owner will fire them, even if the management company thinks that they are doing a good job.

A second concern may arise from the employees' knowledge that any property might be sold. Employees may then be retained by the owner, offered a new position by the management company, or laid off. This uncertainty also contributes to a sense of insecurity.

Finally, job security also relates to compensation. If an apartment complex is barely profitable, the management company may delay payroll or other payments because of poor cash flow. Such practices can demotivate employees and lead to feelings of insecurity. This problem is particularly critical when an above-average employee works at a marginal property. The management company that is unable to properly compensate such a person risks reducing his or her enthusiasm.

The survey also revealed that the need for self-esteem was not being met for many employees. In discussions held after the survey, resident managers and maintenance personnel frequently remark that they could understand why residents at their complexes never showed them respect because they were shown no respect by their property managers.

While resident feelings cannot be controlled, the property manager must treat all employees with respect. Often, all that is required is a simple "thank you" for a job well done. It is amazing how much this recognition can further stimulate performance.

The real benefit from this questionnaire was the discussion held by each firm after receiving the results. These talks presented new opportunities for employees to discuss some of their feelings about the way the company was operated and led to some significant changes that benefited both the organization and the employees.
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Author:Holland, Barbara K.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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