Today more than ever, the association management industry faces growing pressures that will further tax its capabilities to meet growing consumer demands. Significant staffing shortages are one of the overarching factors.
Overcoming this challenge will require that leaders of association management organizations seek creative strategies to improve and maintain high employee morale to retain employees as a key factor in the pursuit of success.
The behavior of individuals employed by an organization is more influenced from the top down than from the bottom up. There is no single factor that consistently explains good or poor morale. Morale may be thought of as a group phenomenon but an individual matter. Group morale depends on the morale of everyone in a group.
To improve the morale of a group, “throw away your clipboard and whistle,” said Melissa Hajostek, CCAM-PM-LS.ND, Founder of Foundation Community Management, Inc. “Check in with fun and friendly support vs micromanagement and scorekeeping.
That is the difference between a supporting supervisor and your manager feeling a thumb on their head.”
Regular check-ins are key, especially in a post COVID remote or hybrid work environment. Hajostek said, “Meet on a one-to-one basis to review manager’s workflow, their work/personal life balance, identify challenges, and brainstorm solutions together. This is a great time to set small and achievable goals.”
The morale of everyone in the group must be improved, which is best achieved through the personal missionary work of the manager referred to as servant-leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf.
Greenleaf’s teachings indicate the servant-leader is servant first, after which a conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The servant-leader ensures that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.
Rikki Richter, CCAM, of The Management Trust, who manages a staff of nine onsite at Gold River, CA says that “COVID brought us closer as a team. We leaned in to lend a hand when running errands and had a daily team huddle, specifically excluding work issues, just to connect and touch base to speak about issues not related to work.”
Morale can be the fuel that drives an organization forward, or the fuel that feeds the fires of employee discontent, inferior performance, and absenteeism. Pay attention to what needs attention. It grows. Give attention to the goodness in your company. Pay attention to the negativity as well. As clients become more unreasonable, to separate ourselves from the drama and negativity, it’s important to celebrate team members when they manage a difficult situation, according to Richter.
Morale or the lack of it is dependent upon meaningful, productive, and fulfilling relationships between staff and management. Satisfied association managers and staff display visible signs that include cheerfulness, attentiveness to the needs of their clients, the willingness to go the “extra mile,” and a cheerful outlook to those that they encounter.
Lisa Triplett, VP at Bay Area Property Services, said “I feel that to get a tight responsive team, we need to connect authentically. Sincein-person meetings have become less frequent, we have adapted by scheduling one-on-one time with staff via Zoom or the telephone. This avoids leaving remote staff feeling isolated which may lead to feeling undervalued.”
A perceived lack of leadership is the most often cited cause for low morale in the work environment. Leadership-related competencies that can contribute to morale issues in employees if lacking include: communicating vision, energizing staff, trust, loyalty, and developing teams. Leaders need to create a culture of trust in an organization.
Rolf Crocker, CAMEx, CCAM, Principal of OMNI Community Management, LLP, ACMC teaches servant-leadership in his weekly staff meetings. He connects with staff in a way that is meaningful and intentional, putting the spotlight on teams and celebrating their wins, highlighting best practices, sharing why people stay, and reading aloud compliments from vendors, peers, and clients.
Crocker says, “This inspires involvement and contribution.” Quoting John Maxwell, Crocker also says, “People won’t know how much you do now until you demonstrate how much you care. It is about the journey and the relationships.”
Crocker closes his weekly staff meetings by lightening the mood playing a classic song on the guitar. Highly effective leaders like Crocker communicate their vision widely and allow their messages to be discussed in person and at staff meetings.
Leaders must remain focused on ensuring that clients receive the best care possible, and employees remain motivated and enriched by their work. Accomplishing both can be a difficult and challenging task for any leader; however, leaders who take the time to understand what motivates one individual staff member to another can energize staff by recognizing “the little things.”
Celebrating accomplishments, often through inexpensive and simple measures, and increasing the frequency of interaction among team members brings a positivity that bleeds through to day-to-day operations.
In the busy and stressful environment of association management, the “Great Retention” can be sparked by re-engaging the hearts and minds of the modern workforce.
Leaders who shape their association management workforce with the adage, “whatever you give attention to grows,” will have employees that recognize the importance of their work and stay in touch with the service orientation that initially brought them to the association management field.
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