Multifamily Talent and Culture: When People Issues Align

By Andy Helmer, CEO of Shelters to Shutters

In an unusually challenging market for talent, it makes sense to seek new sources of employees. At Shelters to Shutters we work with a network of partners to provide a private industry solution to a public social issue – homelessness. We find that many people are surprised at the difference multifamily companies can make to this problem and by the potential benefits of being part of the solution.

About three million Americans experience homelessness each year. 83% are situationally homeless – i.e., they have recently been made homeless by some event – like a sudden job loss, medical event or natural disaster, for example. A relatively high proportion of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and have less than $1,000 in their bank account, putting some normally-reliable employees one incident from homelessness.

The window for action is short: a high proportion of those who experience homelessness for more than a year become chronically homeless – a much harder situation to escape. It’s critical to get people back into work and housing within a year, and that’s where our partnership with the multifamily industry comes in.

How multifamily companies can help

Shelters to Shutters works with organizations that help those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness to find people with skills that are in demand. We introduce potential employees to potential employers through regional hiring events. When a candidate is chosen for a role, we offer case management and education to ensure a smooth and complete transition into the role. In exchange, our partners provide discounted rent for the first year of employment.

That investment in year one rent pays back impressively. According to NAA, the multifamily industry has 31% churn rate annually – more like 50% for entry-level positions. The churn rate for the associates we have placed is just 13%. Of the 87% who stay beyond year 1, 89% have received some form of a pay increase.

These numbers should resonate with people managers. Finding, training and retaining entry-level resources is extremely resource-intensive for multifamily organizations. Our value proposition is to provide pre-screened, qualified, and ready to work individuals who typically stay with their employers. We find that participation in our program also benefits companies’ social responsibility, affordable housing and impact objectives, which in turn contributes to company culture.

The multifamily industry is well-placed to make a difference to homelessness. With our industry partners, we have been able to structure a program that solves both the housing and employment problems at once. Our partners now look to us as another means of securing quality talent, and the associates we place are rewarding the companies that have given them a second chance.

D2 Demand Solutions, Inc., a multifamily consulting firm focused on driving revenue and NOI for its clients, recently published a white paper, 20 for ‘20 – and asked senior multifamily operators about a range of issues, including recruitment and retention of talent. 2018 was a challenging year, and leaders repeatedly cited culture as a lever in an increasingly competitive employment market. This article was included in their white paper, recognizing Shelters to Shutters as a source of new candidates to multifamily operators.


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