Case Study: How a Property Management Company Rocks Their Culture

by Aug 30, 2016

I talk about organizational culture A LOT. While culture can’t solve all of your problems, it can certainly make your life easier.

If you have and live a culture of respect, most people in your organization will be respectful. When they aren’t, they will stick out like a sore thumb, and their behavior can be adjusted before it gets out of hand.

Many organizations do not focus on culture because they believe there will be no tangible benefits.

Well, I recently ran into an old friend who I saw speak at a conference when she managed the culture at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, and she is now the Director of Human Resources (AKA “Employee Lifestyle”) at HG Fenton. Always fascinated by businesses actively managing culture, I asked her for a quick informative interview.

Here’s a recap of our conversation:

I know that a strong culture comes from employees finding meaning in their work. But you do property management, so how do you help employees find meaning in property management?

Our purpose is essentially to create opportunities for our employees to flourish, our residents to live well, and for businesses to succeed. So we focus on those three things all day, every day, and that’s how we find meaning in our work.

How does your organization communicate the culture?

We have a set of values and we live by them. I have never seen a company intertwine culture into the day-to-day the way we do here. We don’t need posters on all the walls, everyone knows the values and we honestly live them each and every day as they are incorporated into our conversations, decisions, and business goals.

I talk about living corporate values all of the time, but that’s an abstract statement for many. Can you provide some real examples of HG Fenton living its values?

One example is we do true pay-for-performance. A lot of companies say that but in reality they just manage “merit” increases by plugging numbers in a spreadsheet to balance out to an overall percentage increase across the board. Here, when determining annual compensation increases, the Executive Team holds a multiple day meeting, and every single manager comes in and presents how each and every one of their employees is performing.

The manager then proposes a salary increase based on the employee’s performance and the position market data provided to them. I’ve often seen the Executives say that they thought the employee deserved more than what the manager was proposing. The point is based on that employee’s performance and the market data for their role, we take this opportunity to celebrate success, make a plan for any opportunities the employee may have, and reward appropriately. It’s not a dreaded conversation like they are in most companies.

That’s awesome. What else can you tell me about managers intertwining with the culture?

We just rolled out a leadership development program that focuses on helping others flourish.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a training program focused specifically on helping people flourish. Pretty cool. So does your office environment speak to your culture? Sometimes people laugh at me when I offer redecorating the office as advice to change culture.

We realized that our culture is all about collaboration, but the way the office was set up, people weren’t colliding throughout the day so that they could collaborate. We decided to create more opportunities to collide, and we spent some serious dough to update our office. The new office creates a more transparent and collaborative workspace, and you can see people colliding informally and connecting. People develop great ideas in those casual collisions.

Wow. What is the ROI on the office remodel? I know my clients are going to ask what the ROI is on something like that.

We haven’t set out to measure the ROI on this project because it’s just common sense to us that our work environment should match our purpose and culture. We know our culture works, we know it’s why we’re successful, and we knew we needed an environment that supported this culture that drives our success.

Okay, one final question. I always recommend a culture strategic plan. Do you have something like that?

We don’t have a culture strategic plan. We have one strategic plan for the company, and half of the action items on it are focused on culture. Growing and developing leaders is all over the plan, and the strategic plan is our Bible – while we continually reassess it and update it as appropriate, we follow it to a T.

Okay, this really is my final question. Do you outperform your competitors? You said your culture works, so what does that mean for the company’s performance?

Without sharing confidential information, we’ve had 110 years of success and our goal is to have another 100 years of it.  Financially and from a service perspective (as measured in the industry customer satisfaction surveys) we outperform our competitors.  Our employee retention rate far exceeds within and outside our industry.  Each year we tell our employees that if we hit our aggressive financial plan, that we will close the office and everyone can enjoy the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  I am not sure what the feeling would be around here if we did NOT get that week off…because every year we have.  Our employees are flourishing, our residents/tenants are living and working well, and our shareholders are happy.  Win-win-win all around!

So there you have it folks.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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