Working with Millennials in Property Management

By Mike Mitchell, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

My assistant recently announced her retirement. I was not surprised as she has been alluding to it for months now. Over the past few months, I have also been asked to be on a search committee for a mid-level management position and help with other various candidate interviews. Reflecting on those interviews along with the excitement of leading my own search for a new assistant sparked my interest on the thoughts and perceptions of working with Millennials in the property management industry.

First, let me disclose that I am a millennial. I work primarily for millennial residents as I manage a graduate and student family housing apartment community. As a renter and consumer, I like things new, shiny, and technologically advanced. When I need to know something, I need to find it quickly on my iPhone or iPad preferably using Wifi to avoid data charges. AT&T captures Millennials fairly well with their “We Want More” commercial. Check it out here:

Let’s start with Millennials and Career Progression. Millennials want to climb the ladder quickly. This should not be a hard concept to grasp. If you know a high-schooler, then you know that everything is competitive. Academics, athletics, volunteerism, college admissions. Some of these kids will carry that ultra-competitive spirit throughout college and into your community office. The idea of just leasing apartments for several years will not be enough for many Millennials.  Here is where great managers will set themselves apart from the rest. Let them grow.

“Managers need to really understand the personal and professional goals of Millennials. Put them on challenging rotational assignments more frequently to give them a sense that they are moving toward something and gaining a variety of experiences.” Michael Rendell, PWC (Follow PWC onTwitter) Challenge them with tasks that may be above and beyond their current skill set. The ones that want to really make progress in the industry will find a way to complete the task or simply ask for help.

For the Millennials that are ready, advance them quicker. Forget seniority and length of service. “Millennials view success and promotions on results not tenure.” Michael Rendell, PWC (Follow PWC on Twitter) Check out Brent Williams’ blog, “Seniority Just Means You Weren’t Fired,” here for a quick career reality check if you are struggling with this concept. (Follow Brent on Twitter)

How do you advance Millennials faster you ask? First, consider rethinking roles. Does your community have to follow the traditional Leasing Agent/Consultant, Assistant Manager, Community Manager model? For some Millennials it will be all about the title and for others just the additional responsibilities or task ownership will feed the career progression monster.

As you advance Millennials, understand that it is not always about how much money they make. Take the time to help them develop professionally. My friend, Shirley Register with Camden Property Trust, does a great job explaining to multi-family professionals how to develop and advance their careers in the industry with her blog, “5 Secrets to Slam Dunk Your Career.”

Set them free. You should expect them to leave at some point. The majority will leave for one of two reasons:

  1. To advance their careers.
  2. Property management is not their passion.

The media and experts usually take a negative stance and make Millenials out to be job-hoppers with no loyalty to their employers.  The reality is Millenials view loyalty differently from previous generations of workers. “Millennials will be loyal to a company – but will not provide blind loyalty. As long as their personal interest and career needs are being met (which change frequently) – and the company is socially responsible, the Millennial will be loyal.” Bruce Mayhew Consulting Take a look at your company’s core values. How can you communicate those values to Millennials so they see how the company’s values align with their own and their career aspirations?

Cam Marston provides a great take away when he describes Millennial loyalty. He says, “Don’t waste time wishing they were different. Don’t spend your energy comparing today’s youth to the desires and drive you had at age 18. These employees are not a reflection of you, nor are they an earlier version of you. And again, that is okay. Your task is to take this new understanding and use it to reposition how you interact with, motivate, and reward your staff.” Vivian Giang, Business Insider(Follow Vivian on Twitter)