New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Reshape Building Culture Carefully

Dan Wurtzel
President,
FirstService Residential

Reshape Building Culture Carefully

Setting the Scene

We were retained by a co-op board to solve ongoing staff performance issues at the property. We informed the board that to ensure a successful outcome, we would have to undertake a thorough process to get a full grasp of what was going on behind the scenes. The first thing we did was conduct a thorough analysis of each staff member, their job description and work schedule. We met with the staff as a group, as well as individually, and conducted ‘time and motion’ studies to see, for example, how long it takes a porter to vacuum the hallways. From that point, we began to pinpoint issues and weak spots that were causing inefficiencies in the building’s workflow.

Following the Action

Our diagnosis revealed that the staff was not receiving proper supervision or support. The chain of command was broken, and the resident manager and another staff member were found to be the weak links. We provided the board with our recommendations, which included modifying job descriptions, adjusting work schedules, implementing a formal staff training program, introducing a staff recognition plan, and initiating progressive disciplinary procedures for the identified individuals. It’s never too late to reshape the culture of a building. Recognizing that negative behavior is contagious, the board had to face the ramifications of replacing a long-term, generally well-liked resident manager – a decision which, initially, was not popular with many shareholders.

Doing It Right

Within 60 to 90 days, residents were vocal about noticing significant improvements in overall building operations and staff morale, which directly impacted their quality of life. Brokers also acknowledged improvements to the building’s atmosphere and reputation. The key to solving this issue was going through a step-by-step process, regularly communicating with the board, and managing their expectations concerning why staff changes may be necessary. Common concerns included “What’s going to happen when you make the switch?” and “What should be expected in terms of turnaround time?” Experience in facilitating such significant and necessary changes has taught us that boards are more amenable to change if you include them throughout the process.

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