We recently had an opportunity to interview Jen Piccotti, Chief Operating Officer from ManagInc. We wanted her perspective on the connection between Fair Housing and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Enjoy her comments to our questions below.
What Is CSR?
FHI – Jen, can you tell us exactly what CSR is? Is this just a new buzz phrase?
Jen – Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) means focusing on the needs of all of the stakeholders who make your success possible: employees, suppliers, residents/clients, investors and the neighborhoods and communities you do business within. While it’s a relatively new up-and-coming business term, it’s a topic that is gaining traction with society and is influencing individuals’ decisions on who to work for, who to partner with, who to do business with and even where to live.
FHI – Why should leadership be paying attention to the immediate and future impact of CSR
Jen – In addition to influence decisions of potential residents and employees (especially Millennials), more and more investors and capital partners are evaluating an organizations CSR practices, known as Environmental, Social, And Governance (ESG) criteria, when choosing investment opportunities. In fact, in the “Warning Letter to CEO’s” sent this year by Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock (the world’s largest asset manager), stated, “Start accounting for the societal impact of your companies, or risk disappointing the largest asset manager in the world.” We’ll begin to see more and more of this kind of accountability being demanded by investors, employees, and residents in the very near future.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Employee Training
FHI – What is the relationship between CSR and employee training?
Jen – One critical component of CSR is the workplace and supporting employees to do their best work. Sir Richard Branson says it best, “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers.” In our 2018 Multifamily CSR Benchmark Study, we once again found a direct relationship between employee turnover and resident turnover. The lower the employee turnover, the lower the resident turnover. When you consider that a 5,000-unit portfolio can lose up to $14 million in employee and resident turnover annually, it’s compelling to take a closer look at how to better support our employees. Education is the critical component in reducing employee turnover, beginning with new hire orientation and a formal onboarding program. Only 80% of property management companies have mandatory new hire orientation and/or formal onboarding, and studies show that a new employee who does not receive adequate new hire training only lasts about 3 months in their position, on average.
When it comes to building a career, the data is even more troubling. Based on our study, only 53% of property management companies have a formal career development program, and according to the 2018 MultiFamily Insiders Professional Development Research Report, only 18% of multifamily professionals feel they have been prepared to take the next step in their career. If we’re not preparing our team or supporting their development, they’re not going to stick around.
“Fair Housing lawsuits are a serious threat to any property management company’s reputation”
Fair Housing Lawsuits and CSR
FHI – How do you think Fair Housing lawsuits affect a company’s CSR?
Jen – CSR is the next evolutionary step in reputation management, and all stakeholders are evaluating how property management companies treat every individual they interact with. Fair Housing lawsuits are a serious threat to any property management company’s reputation. In today’s “ratings and reviews” culture, it only takes a blink of an eye for word to spread that Property Management Company A is being accused of treating Citizen B in a discriminatory way. How a company educates its team members and supplier partners and how it responds to Fair Housing complaints will make all the difference in how they are viewed by each and every stakeholder, both inside and outside of the company.
FHI – What can happen if a company treats Fair Housing training as just a “check the box” task?
Jen – It’s the difference between reading a manual on how to drive a car and actually driving a car with an instructor beside you. Reading or hearing words and putting words into practice are two totally different things. Understanding why Fair Housing laws are in place, learning each team member’s role and responsibility in upholding Fair Housing practices and nurturing a culture of inclusiveness and fairness in every interaction is something that must be cultivated daily, not just once a year. Those who merely “check the box” will quickly find themselves in hot water for an action or word that may have been dropped casually or inadvertently due to a lack of true understanding.
CSR Affects The Bottom Line
FHI – Overall, how does paying attention to your CSR affect the team and company’s bottom line?
Jen – As we like to say, “Everyone Can Win” when a company takes care of all of the stakeholders who make their business successful. By educating and supporting employees to do their best work, they will support and provide the best service for residents who will then choose to stay in their communities. Add in an intentional focus on being good stewards of local resources and champions of meaningful causes, and a company will attract the best talent, prospects, and investment partners that will support continuous and healthy NOI growth and asset value. Take care of the people, take care of the planet, and you’ll experience the profit. I like to boil it down to one question: if your company or property suddenly disappeared, would the local community miss you or celebrate your departure? That is the impact of CSR.
FHI – Jen we want to thank you so much for taking the time to answer these important questions. Your impactful responses regarding corporate social responsibility are sure to resonate throughout our industry.
Comments contributed by Jen Piccotti, Chief Operating Officer, ManagInc
Jen is the multifamily industry’s leading educator and authority on resident retention, employee engagement, online reputation management, and corporate social responsibility. A noted author and highly followed blogger, she has spoken at such industry events as NAA, NMHC OpTech, AIM, Multifamily Social Media Summit and Canada’s Landlord WebCon. Because Jen began her career as Quality Manager for a property management company in Southern California, she speaks your language and knows firsthand what property teams encounter each day. Jen holds an MS Quality Assurance from California State University, Dominguez Hills.
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