The Power of Appreciation: Cultivating Employee Engagement from the Inside Out

Employee Appreciation Respect


Find Out What It Means to Employees

Compensation and benefits are among the top reasons property management professionals may be looking for a new employment opportunity, but there’s a basic need company leadership may be overlooking: a sense of appreciation. Turning to good ol’ Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the 4th level entitled “Esteem,” that need for recognition and appreciation, is what propels a team member from a worker who is simply seeking a paycheck to one who is achieving and thriving through Self-Actualization (Level 5).

Reinforcing those findings in today’s context, the 2018 Swift Bunny Multifamily Employee Engagement Study reports that 24% of on site employees are not satisfied with the dignity, respect and fairness shown to them by their employer. To make matters worse, 1 in 3 on site employees do not feel their employer cares about their satisfaction or well-being. It’s difficult to achieve a sense of value without feeling cared for or respected. These trends highlight a need to evaluate a more intentional approach to showing appreciation for team members.

Money and the Power – 2 Reasons to Harness the Power of Appreciation

Money PowerThere’s no denying one of the greatest challenges being faced by the multifamily industry today is employee turnover. While the National Apartment Association shows the industry’s annual average employee turnover rate is 32%, there is a growing number of employees, particularly on site employees, who are thinking about jumping ship. With only 57% of on site employees indicating they are “Very Likely” to remain with their current employer a year from now, the turnover crisis shows no signs of slowing. There are a variety of reasons that turnover wreaks havoc on company operations, but there are two main reasons that may be incurring more damage than you realize.

  1. Money: It’s extraordinarily expensive to lose good employees and to then recruit, hire and train new ones. In fact, industry studies (or this calculator) have shown that a 5,000 unit portfolio experiencing NAA’s reported national average employee turnover at 32% can lose up to $1.7 million in annual employee turnover costs.
  2. Power: Specifically, manpower. Vacant positions require other team members to fill in, work more hours, and cover tasks that may not be in their skill set. With an average of 43 days to fill a position, and another 7 to 14 days to train the new team member, a staff can be working past their maximum capacity for a minimum of 50 days. All of this can lead to burnout and more turnover.

When an organization takes the time to fully comprehend the impact employee turnover has on the numbers, it is very compelling to take immediate steps to improve the situation. The easiest and most impactful step is simply acknowledging the work an employee is doing and thanking them for doing it.

Turn the Beat Around – Cultivate Appreciation

Power of Employee AppreciationThe good news is that cultivating a culture of appreciation is not only possible but can quickly turn into the best kind of domino effect. My current favorite definition of culture is: the response an employee can expect from the company in any given situation.

Leaders can set the tone by verbally identifying specific valuable contributions or behaviors as they see them. This brings to mind a conversation I had with an Executive at a mid-sized property management company. He had started building his company’s new focus on appreciation by scheduling a visit to every property in the company’s portfolio throughout the course of one year. At each community, he met with the team, walked the property, listened to their triumphs and tribulations, and shared company insights and strategies. Along the way, he had some very touching interactions and learning moments.

“Bob,” had been a custodian at one property for several years. He had kept his head down, worked hard, and everyone in the community knew him. The Executive bumped into Bob on his walk of the community and stopped to chat. He told Bob, “Thank you so much for being such a solid foundation for this property. You’ve seen property managers and maintenance supervisors come and go, but you’ve been here all along. Every resident knows you and appreciates you, and I want to thank you for that commitment.”

“You noticed that?”

In that one simple response, the Executive knew it was the beginning of his personal mission to let each team member know that not only was their work noticed, it was valuable and appreciated.

That custodian is now a great source of feedback and insight for that Executive. Even more exciting, the custodian has expressed a desire to grow his skill set and take steps into a maintenance tech position.

The regionals, property managers, maintenance supervisors, and other leaders in the company have seen the impact of these one-on-one moments of appreciation and have started infusing them into their own interactions. Leading by example, being generous with praise and miserly with criticism, recognizing the little acts of dedication as well as the big ones – this is the way a culture of appreciation is cultivated and grown.

What I Like About You – Learning to Appreciate Your Team Members

great employeeWhile it’s easy to define “the company” as the executive or regional team, the reality is that each employee represents “the company” and has the power to carry on the cultural response they would like to see. Appreciation is contagious and is just as impactful from the inside out as it is from the top down.

I witnessed this phenomenon in action when I was invited to participate in RedPeak’s “Culture Camp.” The goal was to reinforce the impact that the invited individuals have on their fellow team members as Culture Carriers, no matter what their official job title might be. Among the 30 participants, there were managers, housekeepers, maintenance techs, assistants, leasing consultants, construction leads, accountants, service managers, and IT representatives.

As I walked the team members through RedPeak’s service standards, I challenged them to share specific, personalized examples of a team member putting that service standard into action with a focus on the result. I wanted to hear these Culture Carriers bragging about their team members in the field. I wanted them to practice recognizing, verbalizing and reinforcing company culture in action. It took a few minutes for the participants to think of specific examples, but once they got going, the result was beautiful. And impactful. These were stories that hadn’t been heard before, yet from the smiles and nods around the picnic tables, the individuals being bragged about – and their actions – were very familiar.

“There were nine AC units down, but he met with each of the residents and walked them through everything the team was doing to get the new units in as quickly as possible. The residents actually thanked him!”

“My regional was so grateful that I covered for my assistant manager’s unexpected family emergency, that she delivered a gift certificate for a 1-hour massage in time for my first day off in over a week! It made me feel so appreciated.”

“I look forward to her smile every morning. She brings sunshine into the office every day and shifts the mood to total positivity, no matter what craziness the team is facing that day.”


What these team members realized, and what I hope they brought back to their communities and departments, is to be the change they wanted to see. To be recognized for your problem-solving skills, your willingness to stay late or arrive early, your can-do attitude, your never-failing follow through… then recognize those characteristics in your team members. Recognize them in your supervisors. Recognize them in your residents. Your suppliers. Your prospects!

While it’s critical for company culture to be defined, communicated and nurtured from the top-down, it’s equally critical, and often as effective, when culture is supported and demonstrated from the inside out. Best case scenario? Do both.


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