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How to Effectively Manage Change in Your Property Management Firm

By Sandra Zimmerman

how-to-effectively-manage-change-in-your-property-management-firmOften, the only way to survive and prosper in business is through change — or at least evolution — whether that change is in the form of processes, personnel, target audience, or overall strategic direction. Change may be necessary as developments in the marketplace out-pace the evolution of your company’s internal processes. For instance, the Millennial generation, who also skew heavily towards renting, prefer to do the majority of their research, communication and financial transactions online, and often while mobile. Is your property management firm adequately prepared to handle the needs and demands of this target audience? If the answer is no, then it’s time for a change.

It is often said that people don’t like change. And this is largely true. But could it be the way that change is managed rather than the change itself that causes so much resistance and negativity?

Case in point: I rely quite heavily on a software platform to help me get my job done every day. There was an initial learning curve at the beginning, but now I am a self-certified pro! Or at least I was until last week, when the company who provides this platform suddenly changed the entire user interface, without so much as a warning or notice that they were doing so — or an explanation of why.

On top of that, no tutorials or training have been offered to help me learn the new interface. I have been left on my own to figure it out, which is taking a fair amount of extra time. But perhaps the worst part is that I don’t see the benefit of this change — and that makes going through it even more frustrating.

I didn’t see a need for the change. In my eyes everything was fine, because even if the experts could see inefficiencies, I wasn’t aware of them. I was able to use the system to get my job done.

I think what would have made a difference for me in this situation is being offered an explanation of how this change will benefit me and make my job easier once I get over this re-learning curve — and of course, a tutorial would have been absolutely grand! Since I find this interface prettier but less intuitive than the previous version, I have formed the opinion that this change was only made to give the platform a more modern image to appeal to new customers.

And that reveals another truth about human nature. If you don’t give people an explanation, they will inevitably draw their own conclusions — which are at best inaccurate and at worst, way off base.

So what can property managers learn from this in terms of effectively managing change in their own organizations? As in all relationships, communication, empathy and respect are the keys to success.

Let people in on the plan

No one likes to be left in the dark. Well in advance of any changes taking place, let people know what is going to happen and what the timeline is. This will give them a chance to prepare mentally as well as get their ducks in a row organizationally, to make the transition smoother.

Tell them how they will benefit

People will be less resistant to change if they can see that there is a significant benefit to them — such as a reduction in repetitive time-consuming tasks and the opportunity to participate in more creative and rewarding work, such as strategic planning and marketing.

Empathize with how they may be affected

Acknowledge the fact that the intended change will cause some disruption and perhaps require a little extra effort initially — and at the same time let them know that their contributions will be greatly appreciated. Most people just want to know that someone understands what they are going through and appreciates their efforts.

Invite people to give their input

People will be more accepting of change if they feel like they are part of the process and their input is valued. Plus your team members are obviously very familiar with their own roles and the workings of their departments, so they may have some great ideas for how to make transitions go more smoothly.

Provide adequate tools and training

Set people up for success in any new situation by providing the tools and training they need. Remember that everyone has different cognitive strengths and as a result learns differently — so do your best to accommodate these idiosyncrasies in your training plan.

Check in to see how it’s going

At various stages in the transition process, as well as periodically after the change has taken place, ask those affected how they are managing with the change and if anything further can be done to make things easier or better for them.

Celebrate success

Once the team has settled in to the transition or change, celebrate everyone’s contributions with a special lunch or other fun event. This will help maintain a positive morale overall, plus give people more positive feelings about any future changes or new processes that are introduced.
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