America is often called the great melting pot of the world. However, the melting pot analogy is becoming a thing of the past – or at least evolving. Rather than expecting foreign-born immigrants to assimilate to the American culture, we celebrate diversity. It is more common to look for ways to not only coexist peacefully, but also encourage our neighbors to thrive in America without abandoning their own cultural identities.
Recognizing your town or city is culturally diverse is not enough. Property policies, the performance and behavior of the management team and a welcoming atmosphere are intrinsic to success. The goal is to fuse cultures together in a way that builds a unique – maybe even exceptional – community that your residents are proud to call home.
From California to New York, businesses and public service sectors see a rapidly changing population. For example, New York welcomes at least 100,000 new foreign-born residents every year – and more than 3.2 million people living in the state report they don’t speak English “very well”. On the west coast, social services workers providing Medicaid sponsored in-home service say that almost half (49%) of their clients do not speak English.
Our country welcomes refugees from war-torn countries like Sudan and actively pursues “the best and brightest” people from around the world to teach in public universities, conduct medical research and work in technology testing and development labs.
Identifying Your Community’s Cultural Competency
Whether you manage property in New York, Atlanta, rural Nebraska or Houma, Louisiana, your town or city most likely has a dominant demographic, but populations constantly change. Natural disasters, industry expansions and closings, immigration and many other factors influence community profiles.
Here are a few suggestions for identifying and responding to diverse culture groups.
Identify your service group(s). Get to know your community and the surrounding area intimately. Ask current residents about cultural differences, preferences and services they would like to see added to your property.
Engage with civic leaders. Inquire about upcoming industry expansion. School administrators are another valuable resource. Often, schools notice the population shift sooner than retail and business outlets.
Establish relationships with key partners in your town – builders, service providers, clergy, bankers. External relationships help you identify potential prospects and understand your community’s race, ethnic and cultural profile.
Educate yourself. Once you identify a new or expanding demographic, research their customs and lifestyle preferences. Some cultures are uber social, others are more reserved. If you want to attract a group of residents that value frequent family gatherings, look for barriers that might interfere and solutions that encourage socializing.
Do you have adequate meeting space? Can you make arrangements with a local venue to host a once or twice a month gathering? Can you designate part of the clubhouse or patio for impromptu brunches?
Reorganize your administrative processes. Start with communication. If you already have a multicultural community, make sure your communication encourages diversity.
Hiring bilingual (or multilingual) leasing agents shows prospective residents you appreciate and value their relationships.
Brochures, newsletters, and all property communication should be easy to understand – and if possible, translated into native languages for your non-English speaking residents.
Consider the senses. What we see, hear, feel and smell contribute to our overall comfort and sense of security. Color and décor choices send visual clues. Even the music softly playing while callers are on hold provides a subtle clue about your property values.
You can make small changes like the ones mentioned above to connect with your residents on a personal level.
What do you think? Is your property doing enough to engage diverse cultural groups?
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AppFolio, Inc. develops Property Management Software that helps businesses improve their workflow so they save time and make more money. Appfolio submits articles & blogs including topics of Resident Retention, Improved Owner Communication, Time Management, and more.