Recruiting and retaining staff in the Build to Rent sector today is arguably harder than ever. Alongside a national recruitment boom that creates stiff competition, working in Build to Rent is calling for increasingly skilled staff and involves more and more responsibilities.
By Jon Hammond, Head of Real Estate Parcel Locker Solutions (UK & Ireland), Parcel Pending by Quadient
To create the right team to manage a Build to Rent asset requires investment in providing a fulfilling job. One way to do this is to make the most of the tools available to automate manual tasks and leave employees to focus on the most important factor in success: resident happiness.
The recruitment challenge
Across sectors, recruitment is currently a challenge. Nick Hammond, Head of Build to Rent at global executive firm deverellsmith, told me that “hiring activity across the UK remains at an all-time high”.
“KPMG and REC’s latest UK Report for June 2022 highlighted a continued lack of candidates and an increase in demand for staff. This is hugely positive for candidates in the job market. However, as employers’ demand for talent increases, this is causing fierce competition and ultimately adding inflationary pressure on salaries.”Nick Hammond, Head of Build to Rent, deverellsmith
This is against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and continued disruption caused by Brexit and the war in Ukraine. Nick believed that recruitment confidence will be tested as costs and disruption continues to rise.
Alongside the challenges posed by this national recruitment boom is a need to find employees armed with the skills and energy to make resident happiness their priority. HomeViews’ recent Build to Rent report highlighted how important having a concierge is to residents. Clearly, customer service is not an aspect of Build to Rent operations that can be left to chance; a skilled team is essential.
However, customer service has become more complex since Build to Rent was established in the UK, not that long ago. It has become even more like the hotel industry and hospitality sectors, with a property management team who can operate facilities such as resident lounges, for example, and offer services that Build to Rent residents look for.
The job of a property management team doesn’t stop at visible customer service, either. As well as prioritising resident happiness, staff have a wide variety of responsibilities that a resident is not even aware of. They must be trained in fire safety, for example, as well as supply chain management and equipment maintenance.
Nick Hammond highlighted how the lack of candidates nationwide is being felt in the Build to Rent sector in particular, “as companies battle to attract talent from a shallow talent pool of ‘sector experienced’ staff”. To recruit and retain the people who can fulfil this often-complex role, Build to Rent operators need to create an enticing employment proposition. Today, it’s no longer enough simply to offer a competitive salary.
The technology solution
One answer, or at least a valuable component of it, is to use technology and services available today to reduce the amount of manual tasks that property management staff need to carry out. In a recent article for Property Week, Mary-Anne Bowring, Group Managing Director at Ringley Group and Chief Executive of rental management software provider PlanetRent, highlighted how tech and economies of scale are key to unlocking and adding value in the operational phases of Build to Rent.
“Automating functions such as facilities management, health and safety compliance and on-site staff recruitment can drive efficiencies, with asset owners benefiting from the aggregation of marginal gains.”Mary-Anne Bowring, Group Managing Director at Ringley Group
Automating processes doesn’t just drive efficiencies. It can free up an employee’s time to do more fulfilling tasks that progress their career and focus on the job of securing resident happiness.
Today, many elements of property management can be automated – rent collection can happen on an app and sensors can be used to proactively manage maintenance. Residents can be given more control over booking amenities digitally, which is clearly a factor in resident satisfaction.
We can see first-hand how installing automatic parcel lockers can benefit both residents and property managers. Residents have access to their delivery 24/7, using a code automatically sent to them when the package is placed in a locker. Property managers don’t have to spend hours of the day manually sorting parcels in a crowded storage room, with all the risks a lost parcel presents.
It takes on average four minutes to log, store, inform and distribute a parcel manually – multiply that across a 100-unit building where a resident receives a parcel on average every four days and that’s 2.25 hours. If a building has 400 units, that equates to a full-time job for a member of staff just to sort parcel deliveries.
If an employee is freed from the task of parcel management, as well as other manual tasks, the job of providing excellent customer service gets much easier. At the end of the day, a Build to Rent operator will gain two things: a happy resident and a happy employee.