Last week I blogged about customer satisfaction, and how big companies and retailers can learn a lot from the intensely customer-focused mentalities of many small businesses. That blog post was inspired by the recent sale of my home and my subsequent move into an apartment while I build my dream home. (Or I suppose it will be my second dream home, as I fully intend on winning the HGTV Dream Home 2014 in Lake Tahoe, but I digress…). This move is a big change for my family and comes right on the heels of moving to a new school last year. I’ve not lived in an apartment for over 12 years, when I crammed my sparse belongings into a 600 square foot apartment in a Chicago high rise. This new temporary place is a bit bigger than my cozy metropolis dwelling, but nonetheless is a pretty drastic change from what we’re used to.
OK. No worries – my family is used to change. Plus, being a Change Management consultant, I’m a pretty big communicator, and we talk about the impacts of big family decisions and how we’re going to handle them quite openly and often. So I’ve got that covered.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of communication from the property management company. This is a fairly large organization with many properties and a pretty decent lessee web portal, so I would assume that they’d have the New Lessee Welcome Packet ready and waiting for me when I picked up my keys. I expected this packet to be just choc full of area information, instructions about the property’s facilities, recycling and waste disposal procedures, important phone numbers, etc. Perhaps even a little welcome package with coffee and dish soap to get us started. Unfortunately…I got nothing. Nada. Zip. I was simply handed my keys and told “Good luck.”
Good luck? That’s it??
Well, perhaps expecting the coffee-and-dish-soap welcome package was asking a bit much (although if you rent a home for a week on just about any beach in North Carolina, it’s an expectation – so maybe not that far-fetched). However, like I mentioned, I’ve bought, sold and moved many homes in my lifetime, and countless apartment rentals prior to entering the fun that is home ownership, so there’s not much I can’t handle or figure out on my own.
But it shouldn’t be that way. I still need to do two full+ time jobs: Parker Avery and Mom, all while trying to unpack and make the apartment livable for the next 7 months. I really don’t have a lot of extra time to be figuring out where to take my recycling, who to call to get my wireless set up or how to obtain a key for my little apartment mailbox. And – most importantly – know what restaurants provide take out and delivery. These may seem like small things, but multiply them by about 10 and they become individual elements – and headaches – of the larger change.
The property management company could have made my life (as well as many other lessees) a lot easier by simply providing me with a page or two of details about living in the apartment community. This bit of communication and training is not a difficult thing to do, but would add tremendous value and ease the transition into a brand new environment.
Organizations embarking on even small implementations and initiatives should take the approach of over-communicating and ensuring training details are taken care of even at the seemingly most insignificant levels. Yes, I knew I’d have to get a key to my mailbox. And yes, figuring out how to obtain said mailbox key was not exactly difficult, but it took 2 phone calls to the management office plus 3 trips to the post office to get this done. I had not planned for this, and had to rearrange other schedules and priorities to accommodate these nuisances. Had I known exactly what the process was upfront, I would have been prepared and able to accomplish it much more efficiently and with a lot less aggravation – especially in the midst of digging out of moving boxes and getting my son situated in his new school.
You really don’t want your hard-working staff to be disrupted in their jobs by having to figure out the details of a new environment, whether it is a new system, a new vendor, an organizational change, or even something smaller. It’s not enough to let them know “high level” information about a change. Understand that they want to do their jobs efficiently (a key element of employee satisfaction), and you need to enable this by providing effective communications and training, or you risk the creation of rogue processes, less likelihood of buy-in and acceptance, and not achieving some of your expected benefits. Key elements to consider:
• What exactly is the new process? Is it easy for all to understand?
• Who is impacted? Who else should know about the change?
• What are the best vehicles or media for communicating the new process? (Note that these may differ depending on the audiences.)
• How often should communications be delivered?
• Whom should they call for help and what is the expectation of a response?
• How will feedback and suggestions be handled?
As bright and as skilled as they may be, don’t just hand your employees the keys and say “Good luck.” Begin early in the project and address the above points for even the smallest changes and you will have a much smoother transition, less loss of productivity and happier employees. (Now, about my pool key…)