The Human Factor What You Need to Know About Staff Management

Property managers know that whether they're running a small, contained walk-up
building, a multi-unit high rise, or a sprawling condo development in the
suburbs, materials, capital and personnel all fall under their administrative
jurisdiction.

Many of the jobs handled by property managers can be described in well-defined
terms—send out monthly bills, attend meetings, file paperwork—but regardless of the size of the project, human resources are typically
considered the most important and involved piece in any management puzzle.
Managing human resources is both an art and a science, and requires a very
specific skill set, particularly since peoples' homes and personal assets are
involved.

Even a great manager may not be an expert in the management of human beings, but
nevertheless, depending on the size and nature of a community, a manager might
have to coordinate operations with a single superintendent or work with any
number of doormen, porters, custodians and handypersons. Well-trained,
motivated employees enhance the appeal and ambiance of any property adding to
both the real and perceived value, but just as managers aren't necessarily born
human resource specialists, great workers don’t just show up that way by magic their first day on the job. Good managers will
avail themselves of the resources available to maintain and improve their own
human-management skills as they build a viable support staff.


Who’s in Charge

'Workforce,' 'staff,' 'human capital'—no matter what name is given to the people who service and maintain an
association, it all comes down to “people power.” Dan Wurtzel is president of FirstService Residential in New York City, a
property management firm with offices across the country, including two in
Chicago. He speaks of some basics that must be in place, whether in a brand-new
building or one that has been inherited from another management firm. Putting
together a team of staff members who can and will work well together begins
with a basic assessment of what is needed and who is best suited to perform
each task.


“Whether a new property or an existing one, the tools are the same, a detailed
job description, schedules, and training must be in place,” Wurtzel explains. “Make sure the job descriptions and the schedules are in sync and customized for
the building. Every building is different with different amenities and
different nuances. Templates don’t always work.”


Kara Cermak, president of Rowell Incorporated, a management company based in
Elgin, Illinois, agrees. “Schedules should be firmly enforced for all of the employees, and requests for
time off should be submitted in writing, within a certain time frame,” she says, and suggests another vital component: constant communication. “Successfully managing any employees, in my opinion, includes giving them
feedback, and regularly meeting with them to find out what’s occurring in the field and how things can be properly distributed for all of
the employees.”


In addition, Wurtzel believes that all staff members, regardless of their job
descriptions, need either to have customer-service skills when hired, or be
taught them on the job. “Customer service is part of every job,” he says, and uses as example a floor polisher who, even though his job is
limited to just polishing the floor, doesn’t keep mindlessly polishing when he is approached by residents or other staff
members. “Ideally, he stops the machine and gives full attention to the person approaching
him,” says Wurtzel.

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