Staff and client turnover is the bane of every strata management company and strata manager in the industry.
It’s hard to make such sweeping statements in life generally, and in my days as an IT consultant I needed to constantly avoid such “certainty” in favour of “should bes” and “wait and sees”.
And funnily enough, it’s not just outgoing staff and clients which can cause stress, but also incoming ones (more on that later).
I doubt there’s a strata management firm operating today that hasn’t dealt with one or the other, or quite possibly both, in the last week.
If you’re running a management company and are lucky enough to have gone a month without needing to deal with issues associated with such turnover, please raise your hand, bottle your secret, make a motza, and make everyone happy…please!
For everyone else, let’s look at the impact bad systems, processes, and data can have on staff morale, burnout, and retention, and on client satisfaction and retention.
While it might seem a trite to say “happy workers are productive workers”, there’s research to back this up (by Oxford University academics, no less!). And happy workers are much more likely to hang around, even if worse workplaces offer better financial inducements.
And while you’d be hard-pressed to say that such tech-frustration is the primary reason for staff turnover, any dissatisfaction or frustration with tech and systems is bound to play some part in an employee’s decision to leave.
On top of this “personal” frustration of team members, if an inability to quickly locate accurate information on behalf of clients leads to them being frustrated, they tend to take it out on the most available team member – usually the strata manager or their assistant. This, of course, feeds further into team member frustration.
Burnout and rapid-fire staff movements are both features of the wider strata industry and clients are faced with a carousel of strata managers, assistants, or admin and ops staff. Burnout sees potentially valuable employees flee the management company (or the industry all together), certainly not an ideal experience for other staff or clients as schemes are juggled around the team.
So how to clients fit into this equation – their experiences inform how they view your company and their decisions on renewals and management changes.
Once again, bad systems or processes are rarely a primary driver of this, but I’ve known it to be mentioned when discussing changing companies, and consideration of the prospective management companies’ systems and processes invariably forms part of the selection process.
It’s also not uncommon for bad systems at the outgoing company or even a bad induction process at the new management company to further cause issues for schemes and managers.
While I would in no way endorse a scheme remaining in a bad strata management situation just to avoid changeover issues, any management change is bound to be disruptive to some degree from the point of view of, for example, invoice payments, induction of historical data, bedding the scheme into new processes, etc.
Stress during handover can be high as staff attempt to get up to speed, the day-to-day needs of owners and committees need to continue to be met, records are delayed in being input to a new system, etc.
The format of handover documents often leaves a lot to be desired. If your strata management software exports to a proprietary format which requires a specific “reader” application and export of individual files, uses non-obvious filenames, dumps everything into a folder or series of folders with no logical connection to the individual items and categories, or commits more than one of those sins (or various others which frustrate the induction process), you are simply causing further general dissatisfaction and adding to strata owners’ often already dim view of strata managers and management companies.
Suggesting it’s “no longer our problem, let the new company deal with it” is puerile and counter to basic customer service tenets. It’s not unheard of for schemes to return if a change doesn’t work out for them, but they’re much less likely to do so if they’ve been hung out to dry by such an attitude.
A drive to professionalism in the industry and legislative requirements dictate acting in the best interests of schemes at all times, and I personally believe this includes the provision of usable, clear, logically arranged records when handing over books and records, whether paper or electronic.
As an industry, I believe strata can do better, and it needs to start at the top, and be better informed by the daily experience of team members and clients.
Listening to staff about systems issues, providing an easy path to report issues, regular audits of systems and processes (and that the latter are being followed), and a willingness to correct problems or try new things are all going to be critical for management companies to “up their game”.
And when it comes to clients, six-monthly NPS ratings and a robust complaints management process do not directly address systems issues from a client perspective. Listen to their complaints and how they relate to your systems, and look for patterns where systems and processes are consistently failing or disappointing.
Undertake meaningful investigations of where your systems are falling down, and, where feasible, liaise with team members and software providers to undertake changes which improve the experience of all involved in the day-to-day running of schemes. Everyone will thank you for it.
We have a rich vein of experiences and suggestions in our staff and clients – let’s tap it to all stakeholders’ benefit.