Contributed by Melissa Guyott, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Anyone working in community association management is likely aware that the industry is facing a talent shortage. At CAI’s event for management company executives in October, attendees were questioned about the scarcity, with 85% of respondents reporting current openings. In a time of high turnover and the so-called “great resignation,” how do we attract and retain new talent?
Community association managers are the professional backbone of the condominium communities and homeowners associations that they serve, providing the skills and expertise that are essential to successful operations and governance.
As managers, management company executives, and CAI members, it’s our responsibility to promote the profession. Let’s expand our search by looking for skills and qualities in candidates from other industries. Let’s explain our job responsibilities and how this career can be a rewarding one. We can share with candidates the success stories of those who started in other professions and succeeded in community management. A lot of what you’ll need to promote community management you’ll find in CAI’s Opportunities Knock guide.
New talent does not always have to come from within the community management profession. Ultimately, we are relationship managers, so we need to hire people who have experience with that skill. I look for people who work in food service, hospitality, and parks and recreation. I look for stay-at-home moms and schoolteachers. One of my favorite employees I have ever hired was a school bus driver. If someone can wrangle 20 little humans, they can handle five large ones in a board meeting.
We also see high turnover in the profession. Managers who jump between companies or who leave the profession often cite that their job is hard, their boards are fussy, or they’re tired of night meetings.
I highly encourage young managers and those new to the profession to wait out those initial challenges and work through them. It can get overwhelming, but once managers understand the pitfalls, know what to anticipate, and are ready to smoothly handle the challenges of the job, they can reap the rewards of a career that is just as rewarding as it is challenging.
As we look to solve the talent shortage issue facing our industry, it is crucial that we think of new solutions. Whether that means creating more resources to help managers take on the first years on the job, or expanding our search for finding new talent, I am confident that we will be able to attract and retain people to our industry.
Melissa Guyott is co-owner and president of Ponderosa Community Management in Spokane, Wash., and chair of CAI’s Community Association Managers Council.
>>Learn more about community association management and peruse opportunities in the industry by visiting the CAI Career Center.
There was a Talent shortage prior to “the great resignation” and it’s due to an industry that is deeply flawed and has lingered on one “relationship manager” delivery model that puts unrealistic expectations on relationship managers who have portfolios of clients responsibilities for a varying number of communities and when some unexpected event impacts one client, it often impacts them all and the relationship manager simply cannot meet the surge in demand that comes from something as simple as a cold spell that causes all communities to put in place provisions in case the power goes out. Having service delivery through a choke point creates scenarios where those people are heavily burdened at the peaks, are generally understaffed, undertrained and undersupported for the status quo, so they disappoint their communities due to a poor business model, despite their best efforts, are blamed by their management and nobody is satisfied. The industry cannot serve smaller communities effectively due to fixed costs that must be spread to fewer doors, and so they participate in underhanded design that disadvantages owners who may have job loss or other financial difficulty by making it harder to pay timely and then due to poor communications with boards, accounting and no time t follow up, owners get forced into collections and in the process pay exorbitant late fees to association managers and attorneys when they often would have much better ultimate outcomes if treated fairly and not undermined. Profitability is reached through exorbitant transfer and resale certificate fees, anything that is not so noticeable to the mainstream homeowner. My exposure to these association managers has been regular community contacts with the best of intentions, trying to do right by their owners, but a staffing and management model that just does not allow for it. As a small community association board member I can tell you that we are the product and not the customer. We do not receive a level of service that warrants hiring a management company, and then we are faced with a small pool of volunteers who are also challenged to make time, learn how to do a volunteer role and get the job done. Many volunteers are intimidated by the prospect and completely withdraw from volunteering. CAI charges high fees for training board members and the organization is dominated by vendors/business “partners” who design all materials to steer boards toward managed relationships, and those relationships do their best to make the job look difficult and the books of the organization look confusing – things like loans from reserve that never get paid off and then operating and reserve are shown independently and the consolidated view is never shown as the loan cancels out and then owners just might understand more clearly whether they have enough funds or not. By design, folks. It’s disingenious management vendors doubling down, supported by all the necessary business partners, and tangled into a web of unsatisfied communities that are afraid of self management so put up with a staggeringly unacceptable service level.
Wow, don’t hold back, tell us exactly how you feel…
Having served in this industry for over 40 years, as part of my 53 years of property management experience, we are still a relatively fragmented industry. I will agree with many of the points you make, overworked portfolio managers hired just to have a body in place, inadequate training of newcomers by those same over burdened managers, a broken system needing help.
I can’t comment on CAI’s fee structure because I am not familiar with it. I can tell you that adequate state regulations should be the starting point for competent board members. This is the only business that lets an inexperienced person disguised as a board member take over a multi million dollar asset value business with just a few hours of classroom attendance as it is done here in Florida , or worse, no classroom time at all.
The good news is that for competent long term managers, the demand for the best has driven up the pay scale to where it should have been 25 years ago. No longer are we the equivalent of Fred Mertz or Mr. Fields in TV land. The best, demand and receive the compensation due them as professionals. They are students of an evolving industry with enough chutzpah thrown in to assure that their principal (the association they manage) is adequately protected. Their guidance is based on years of study and day to day interactions with vendors, regulators and homeowners.