Life Preserver - photo credit: Mick Haupt

Surviving ‘The Great Resignation”

If 2020 was the year of Covid-19, then 2021 is shaping up to be the year of “I quit.” Here's how the multifamily industry can survive it.

If 2020 was the year of Covid-19, then 2021 is shaping up to be the year of “I quit.”

After spending more than a year at home, an eye-popping 95% of all U.S. workers say they are now considering leaving their jobs, according to a recent survey. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 12 million already have.

Not too long ago, such a large number of people quitting would signal a booming economy. But the pandemic led to the worst recession in U.S. history, and as it recedes, millions are still unemployed. At the same time, employers say they’re struggling to fill almost 10 million job vacancies.

The “Great Resignation,” as it’s now known, has many origins, but they all generally center on a single theme: People’s post-pandemic priorities have shifted, and their current jobs just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Multifamily housing, already a high churn profession heading into the pandemic, has been particularly hard hit. Where 30-50% annual employee turnover was once the norm, anecdotal evidence suggests some are seeing close to 70% of their workers heading for the exits, including many of their most experienced property managers and maintenance personnel.

What’s fueling the mass Exodus? Burnout, for one. During the pandemic, mandates like stay-at-home orders and eviction moratoriums placed unrelenting demands on onsite property staff, leading many to feel overwhelmed and overworked. For others it was a sense of being poorly compensated and lacking growth opportunities that made them head for the exit.

In general, people want more money, more flexibility and greater work-life balance, and they feel confident they’ll find that somewhere else.

So, what’s the typical multifamily community owner or operator supposed to do? To quote a well-known computer company: “Think Different.”

One of the reasons many in the industry have been so hard hit was a long-held assumption that high employee churn in site-level staff was acceptable because people could be quickly replaced.

Covid upended that. More important, the additional time at home during the pandemic changed the expectations employees have of their employers to such a degree that millions of people are willing to quit an unfulfilling job in search of a better one.

That kind of worker attrition leads to painful and potentially risky decisions like promoting inexperienced staff and piling more on to other people’s workloads. It’s not a sustainable model.

The reality is a successful multifamily community needs good, dependable onsite staff to manage the asset, which isn’t possible if almost half of them leave every year.

Interestingly, there’s a simple solution for the problem of churn: Recognize good work.

According to a recent survey by, 63 percent of those who said they were regularly recognized for their work were also very unlikely to look for a new job.

Another easy way to keep good people is to invest in improving the tools available to them. To wit: Onsite staff is all too often still working with paper and spreadsheets in a world of smartphones and cloud computing.

Providing people with access and training on newer cloud-based and mobile software technologies not only improves skill sets and job satisfaction, but it also benefits the whole business. Information from these systems is more timely, accurate and easily shared with others in the company.

The pandemic radically changed what workers expect from their employers. Successful companies in multifamily housing who want to not just survive, but thrive, need to shed their conventional thinking and embrace these new standards to increase retention and improve operations. Recognizing employees for their good work and investing in their skills with new technology and training are two simple and effective ways to do that.

Those who ignore it should expect to be hit hard by the Great Resignation.

This article was originally published on the National Apartment Association website

Share this post:

Keep in touch

Stay connected with us by subscribing to our newsletter to receive the latest news and insights from Leonardo247.