Page 26 — Multifamily Properties Quarterly — May 2021 Management D iversity. Equity. Inclusion. Those aren’t just words, but rather important goals for companies striving to become better workplaces for all of their colleagues and asso- ciates. For companies through- out the multifamily industry, the bar has been raised in regard to empowering and inspiring people to feel connected to the overall current and future success of their compa- ny. People want to know that their voices are being heard and their ideas are being shared, regardless of how junior or senior their position might be with the company. A good idea can come from anyone at any time and shouldn’t be lost along the corporate ladder. As a company specializing in multifamily residential develop- ment and property management, we saw an opportunity to set higher standards and achieve advanced goals in regard to diversity, equity and inclusion among our associ- ates. As a team, we set out to find ways to make important improve- ments that would better our com- pany on multiple fronts. While our work isn’t done, we have developed many ideas and strategies that have helped define us a “best place to work” and hopefully help others in the industry strive to find their own ways to improve. As a first step, our firm – along with the social and data scien- tists at CultureAmp – developed an associate survey that helped us better understand where we were accomplishing our goals and, more importantly, where there are opportu- nities for improve- ment. Topics in the survey included whether employ- ees were aware of career opportuni- ties and if asso- ciates felt their perspectives were being included in the decision-mak- ing process. The results were stud- ied, and recommendations were made in regard to where we could improve. As a result of the survey feed- back, an action plan was created, and several proactive steps are being taken to empower and inspire everyone in our company. n Creating a career pathing program. A career pathing program enables associates to clearly see and under- stand what it takes to reach the next level in their career so that they can pursue their goals and plan accordingly. This involves an honest assessment of the employ- ee’s skills, experience, goals, compe- tency gaps and what is required to be successful in each new role. His- torically, a leasing associate’s next career step was assistant commu- nity manager. However, these two positions rely on entirely different skill sets. Sometimes, the obvious progression isn’t the right progres- sion at all. Removing obstacles and identifying a road map for each associate helps keep them motivat- ed and improves retention. n Advancing suggestions and ideas. Helping to ensure that sugges- tions and recommendations from associates are presented at execu- tive meetings provides a direct link to the executive team and truly betters the company on multiple levels. Associates have multiple avenues for providing their ideas, including virtual suggestion boxes located throughout our digital platform. Associates can elect to provide feedback anonymously, but our hope is that many will want to be recognized for their contribution and will take an active role in pre- senting the idea to leadership and participating in the implementa- tion process. Giving a voice to your associates is a critical component to creating a workplace that is happy, productive and engaged. n Providing leadership training. By providing important leadership training, associates feel empowered to take on leadership roles. This is done through experiential learning activities, mentorships, workshops and conferences centered around learning and practicing leadership skills. Skills are taught and rein- forced, such as delivering construc- tive feedback, personal brand and nonverbal communication, prob- lem-solving, working through team members and fostering inclusion, leading by example, time manage- ment, priority setting, in addition to things like deep dives into product, market and financials. Nurturing future leaders creates greater equal- ity, supports succession planning, offers career pathways to associates and increases retention. n Ensuring top-down, bottom-up and side-to-side communication. To ensure that all voices are heard in the orga- nization, it is important to imple- ment direct channels of communi- cation. We rolled out a digital work- space (think intranet, but with more bells and whistles) that has a social component to it. It allows associ- ates at all levels and in all locations of the organization to collaborate and provide feedback by posting or commenting. Our CEO can share an idea and associates can comment on it in real time. The reverse also is true. This has resulted in greater connectivity throughout the orga- nization. Associates have a greater sense of purpose, commitment to our values and goals, and trust that as an organization we will do the right thing. We recently launched our action plan, which will raise the bar in regard to our efforts and ensure that all of our associates know the critical role they play in our overall success. We foresee our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan giving voice to all of our associ- ates and making sure that they are contributing to the success of our company and the satisfaction of our residents and clients. s Ways to better address diversity, equity & inclusion Tammy Freiling Executive vice president, Kairoi Residential