How to hire quality maintenance technicians and keep them in the fold. 

Debra Cash doesn’t hesitate when asked about the importance of maintenance teams to apartment communities.

“In my opinion, they're the critical element," said the Senior Vice President of Operations at Klingbeil Capital Management, which owns and operates apartment communities throughout the West, East Coast and Southeast.

“After residents move into a property, with all of the technology we have — online work orders, online rental payments — the only people they really interact with from that point forward are the maintenance teams,” Cash said. “Their good relationships with our renters are what builds resident retention and renewals. No doubt about it.”

Cash’s comments hint at the range of skills needed by maintenance technicians in today’s apartment industry. Not only do they need to be adept at plumbing and HVAC repair, but they must have top-notch people skills as well. Finding and keeping maintenance technicians with the desired combination of hard and soft skills can be a challenge in today’s environment. However, apartment executives say the challenge can be met with the right hiring practices and by building a company culture that truly respects and empowers maintenance teams.

Finding Maintenance Rock Stars

Apartment operators looking to build high-performing maintenance teams are likely to find that doing so is far from a slam-dunk.

In today’s market, “We’re impacted by the historically low unemployment rates, so it’s a challenging economic environment for hiring anybody for any position,” says Tony Hogrebe, a Regional Service Manager for Mill Creek Residential’s West Region. Mill Creek develops, owns and operates communities across the country.

The apartment industry is facing particularly stiff competition from the construction industry for maintenance technicians, according to Hogrebe. “The construction trades are heavily ramped up, and they're hiring people whose skill sets really overlap with what we’re looking for in our service technicians and managers,” he says.

Would-be maintenance technicians are instead finding work on construction projects of all kinds both as general laborers and installers of various building systems, according to Hogrebe.

In the end, there’s no silver bullet for hiring the right maintenance technician, Hogrebe adds. Instead, he says, a multi-pronged approach is in order.

Mill Creek posts maintenance job openings on common sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, CareerBuilder and Monster. It uses social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to attract candidates, and the company also has an in-house recruiter ....

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