The age old question of ‘Task-based’ or ‘Portfolio-based’?

The age old question of ‘Task-based’ or ‘Portfolio-based’ Property Management to me reflects an ‘old-world’ approach to managing the staffing resources of a modern rent roll.

Contemporary Human Resource management combined with the increasing benefits of automation has enabled the industry to take a more strategic approach to the staffing structure required to resource a Property Management business.

Whilst Portfolio Management gains a lot of traction amongst those who have a naïve approach to ‘keeping the landlord happy’, it also presents a myriad of thinly disguised concerns. High staff turnover rates mean that these portfolios can be subject to constant change which puts these businesses into a regularly apologetic communication framework with landlords. Strong, high performing Portfolio Managers on the surface appear to be like ‘gold’, however often leave the company exposed when they relocate, take extended leave or even start their own business. A business employing such a Property Manager is ultimately at their mercy.

Delivering consistently high standards for clients and customers is the ultimate goal of any business. A business which divides its workload on the basis of number of clients would inherently find it difficult to achieve and maintain consistency. Property Management is no different. In fact, gather any collection of Property Managers from one business, anywhere in Australia, and interview (really drilling down) them on their processes and you will find significant differences in delivery of service. The nature of Portfolio Management not only allows but encourages individuals to use their flair, own ideas, individuality to achieve the outcomes. Consistency in all but a very few businesses is a rare find.

If Task Management is presented as the only alternative, this begs the question… is it any better? From a Productivity, Efficiency and Profitability point of view, it is clearly a front runner. Historically based on ‘industrial’ models, this approach leaves no doubt as to its effectiveness in recruiting for, training in and maintaining expectations of high performance for a singular task. It is simply a case of ‘volume’ is better than ‘diversity’ when it comes to performance in these tasks. However as the critics will quickly inform… this approach does not suit all employees, and leaves the way open for a nasty taste of ‘compartmentalising’ in the mind of the client. ‘That’s not my job’ or worse still… ‘I can’t help you with that, you will need to speak with x’ are poisonous words in any business environment and can infect this structure if not well managed.

The answer to the dilemma is that there are alternatives and high performing business right around Australia are exploring and implementing them.

In these businesses there are variations which continue to change and morph as the business grows. However the principles common to all include the following:

  • As the job role of the Property Manager has diversified, the broader range of skills required of a traditional Property Manager are harder to find in one person. Recruitment and retention is a constant dilemma for business owners who employ Portfolio Manager.
  • Customer Service expectations at the front end of Property Management have dramatically escalated, such that Leasing is now considered a specialist area where marketing strategies, response and turnaround times are under increasing time pressure.
  • A further specialisation of Business Development / New Business has evolved, requiring specialist skills sets sufficient to gain the business in a highly competitive environment.
  • Automation and technology have enabled areas of the business to become highly leveraged without diminishing the personal contact required of other parts of the business.
  • Increasing business and employment costs require businesses to take a more calculated approach to $ costing of tasks such that more technical skills are grouped together for higher paid roles and the converse also applies.
  • Transient workforces, fuelled by issues such as different lifestyles of Gen X and Gen Y employees, higher mobility, and parental leave requirements require models which are not ‘people dependent’ to the extent of a traditional Portfolio Manager.

Businesses who take a more strategic approach, and apply the above principles are rapidly discovering that the alternatives do exist, and in fact can allow high performing, harmonious and stimulating workplaces where better client outcomes, higher staff retention and greater job satisfaction prevail.

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