In a previous article, we pointed to data showing that despite leasing agents’ desire to grow their careers, many are not seeing opportunities to do so at their current place of employment. For leadership, this presents an opportunity to show leasing agents — often in the entry level of their careers — how to grow their careers and prepare them for leadership roles. In the meantime, your leasing staff still has an important job to do, and it’s one that data shows can be optimized in numerous ways. So while you are showing your leasing agents how they can gain valuable skills that will prepare them for a successful career, it’s important to consider optimizing the lead-to-lease process so that they can perform at the top of their game.
Here’s what the data shows:
Technology can streamline marketing and leasing
AppFolio recently surveyed boots on the ground property managers, maintenance technicians, and leasing agents to understand what they expect from their employers.
As part of our survey, we asked leasing agents: “Which parts of the marketing and leasing process would you most like to see automated or streamlined through the use of technology?” Processing lease renewals was the top choice with 45% of participants responding this way. The greatest opportunity to streamline the leasing process is by eliminating any friction in the renewal process with comprehensive technology that automates the process as much as possible. There are knock-on effects to this as well. A streamlined process boosts leasing team-satisfaction, resulting in a stellar resident experience, which can then reflect positively on the property owner. This creates a virtuous cycle that in a best case scenario can boost occupancy and revenue.
Finalizing & signing leases agreements and screening & approving applicants were tied for second for marketing and leasing processes that can be improved with technology. Marketing vacancies was third.
Not surprisingly, the survey found that younger employees would like to see more use of technology in the marketing and leasing process, compared to older employees.
As younger generations become more and more digitally native, forward-looking property management companies that want to remain competitive as an attractive place to work should ensure that they provide their leasing teams with software that streamline these aspects of marketing and leasing. It’s worth noting that the aforementioned AppFolio survey was conducted at the beginning of 2022, when property management firms were struggling with employee retention as a result of a tight labor market. Even if changing economic pressures might limit future hiring for some, the efficiency-boosting nature of these tools will become even more important.
With all that said, tools that enhance efficiency are only one aspect of what leasing professionals expect in today’s day and age.
A key learning to come out of The Great Resignation is that productivity is not a byproduct of working from a specific desk under managers’ supervision. In fact, those who are allowed to work remotely or flexibly report increased productivity. Naturally, certain jobs require an on-site presence, but others don’t. Leasing is one of those jobs. And to satisfy current and would-be leasing agents, there’s data to back up why you should allow them to have a flexible work schedule:
In our survey, 37% of leasing agents were more likely to say making work-from-home an option would improve their job satisfaction, compared to 28% of property managers and just 7% of maintenance employees.
In fact, when asked “What changes has your employer made in the last 12 months that have improved your overall job satisfaction?”, the most common answer among leasing agents was more flexibility in their schedule.
With centralized, remote leasing teams gaining traction in the property management industry, consider moving away from having a leasing agent(s) stationed at each property. To remain an attractive place to work, consider offering your leasing teams more flexibility by setting up a team of remote leasing agents who work across all properties in a region, with their in-person requirement remaining in place for showings.
41% of leasing agents reported a desire for more time to focus on higher value tasks, and leasing agents ranked “opportunities for career growth” as more important to them than any other group of property management employee.
As part of our research, we asked Steve Cadigan, a renowned talent strategist, work culture consultant, and best-selling author for his perspective. Here’s what he had to say:
“I really encourage leaders to give employees new projects, something out of the norm, that is going to allow you to see if they have the capability to deliver value in unexpected ways. It’s a really great way to spark people. I find forcing people to do the same thing again and again over a long period of time makes them feel stale and tired. Even if you don’t necessarily have a promotion or a step up in their career right now, I think what you can do is feed it with new experiences.”
But here’s the rub: with little time for these new, higher value tasks, many leasing agents feel stuck in their day-to-day with no opportunity to showcase what else they bring to the table. So what to do?
Re-evaluate your technology stack
The right property management technology stack can reduce the most time-consuming aspects of property management, so that employees can provide faster service to residents and focus on higher level tasks that can prepare them for a higher level role. For leasing agents, this can be an AI enabled leasing assistant that handles all prospect inquiries, responding efficiently to casual inquiries and funneling serious prospects down to your leasing staff. Then, give them CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools that integrate seamlessly into your property management platform and help nurture these leads to optimize conversion rates.