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Training Day: Melinda Cotton

Melinda Cotton is the Learning and Education Manager at Rockend. One of the main things she’d like to educate the industry on is the need for greater training at all levels.

Property management can be a complex role. The property manager’s primary role is to manage the tenancy of rental properties, but it comes with a multitude of areas of responsibility – including the maintenance, security and functionality of a given property.

Then one must factor in the human component, including the needs and desires of the property owner, the tenant and the owner of the real estate agency he or she works for.

The range of issues that can and do arise reflect the relatively high turnover of staff who work in this area and who arguably have not received the level of training that would better equip them to deal with this multitude of issues.

Property management is a significant part of the real estate industry. It is a rapidly growing and changing area that must be ready to adapt to change while meeting the needs of all the stakeholders involved.

The profit margins for many small- to medium-sized real estate offices can be quite modest, so often training is one of the first things to go.

The cost associated with sending property managers to adequate training can be higher than the business owner can justify in their budgeting. But feedback is that property managers want and need more training.

Melinda Cotton is the Learning and Education Manager for Rockend. Which has developed a range of software programs for the real estate industry, she has been in real estate for over 23 years and has seen a significant shift in property management over those years.

Cotton says there isn’t enough structured training for property managers. As smaller agencies just can’t afford the time or money to send them, while larger agencies are under extra pressure to cover the workloads.

She is eager to emphasise how “investing in training for property managers is important to the running of a real estate business and support of the staff, and with that comes lowering of staff turnover. The cost of which far outweighs the cost of regular training”.

The role of property managers has become more complex and quite litigious, so it is more important than ever that they have some understanding of the legalities involved.

Cotton says, “The property manager is typically torn between looking after the property owner, who wants to maximise their return, and the tenant, who wants to pay the least amount of money.”

She feels that property managers need business training as well as practical training, and often a greater degree of emotional support.

However, she particularly recommends practical training, such as maximising the use of the software used by the agency, to make the role of the property manager easier and less taxing.

Gender awareness

According to research conducted by Rockend and published in the 2018 Voice of Property Management Report, 82 per cent of property managers are women.

While we all have the right to feel safe in our workplaces, women in particular need to feel safe when conducting inspections or attending to any issues with tenants or property.

It has become ever more important for principals to ensure their staff are well trained and have the necessary physical and sometimes emotional support to do their work properly.

Cotton raises questions like ‘When is it OK to send a property manager to a property to evict a tenant without support?’ Or ‘What happens if a property manager has suspicions of some kind of domestic violence when they visit a property?’

According to the data included in the report, “A typical property management employee is likely to be a young woman working in a full-time position who has held her role for less than two years.

She is most likely to work in a smaller business with fewer than five people, probably personally managing around 100 properties or more.”

There is a high turnover of people working as property managers, as it is one of the few industries with little enforced or formal training.

Cotton feels this is short-sighted as it is extremely important to maintain the wellbeing of staff, which in turn protects the business. In her view, it would be useful to have a training plan that is ongoing.

While there are some small components of training in the REIA (Real Estate Institute of Australia) courses, this varies widely from state to state and the majority of the training is sales-based.

Cotton believes the lack of ongoing training is potentially one of the reasons there has been a high attrition rate in the industry. Accordingly, she is a strong advocate for CPD (continual professional development), which Rockend can now offer for their in-classroom training sessions in NSW, with other states to follow.

Great experiences

Training conducted in any form provides undeniable benefits, not just to the individual staff member but the business they work for. These include:

Consistency – a defined training and development program ensures that employees have a consistent experience and awareness of the expectations and procedures within the work environment, and the customer has a consistent brand experience with the agency.

Increased productivity and adherence to quality standards – productivity and efficiency, particularly in the use of technology and software programs, usually increase when businesses invest in training their staff.

Increased innovation in new strategies and products – ongoing training and upskilling of staff can encourage creativity in many forms, including refreshing processes, business strategy creation and customer experiences.

Reduced employee turnover – staff are more likely to feel valued if they are invested in and potentially less likely to change employers, therefore minimising recruitment costs.

Risk management – helps staff to identify, assess, manage and monitor risks, particularly in situations such as staff safety when conducting inspections and handling tribunal cases.

 

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