Communication isn’t a skill that comes naturally. It’s one of the most challenging skills to learn. Especially when it comes to training employees, an employee workshop can only go so far. Think of a time when you may have texted someone that took your message the wrong way. Have you ever found it easier to text someone your feelings vs. telling them in person? To better answer these questions, consider the dynamics. A text message cannot convey tone, facial expression, or an in-person conversation. No wonder emojis were invented!
Now let’s look at an HOA property management company. With the many roles that run in a management company, property managers must juggle multiple teams while working alongside an HOA Board of Directors. For property managers to have better communication, they must use efficient strategies and chains of communication to better work together as a community.
“The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
What causes a lack of communication in property management companies and their residents.
1. Lack of accurate contact information
When a resident or team member does not have updated contact information, a lack of transparency can begin to develop. Take, for instance, a time when you tried finding a phone number or email of someone you needed to get in touch with. You probably spent more time digging for their information than you did making the call. You may have even gotten a little frustrated and questioned your HOA’s lack of communication.
- Updated sources – As a property manager, it’s crucial to provide your team and community with your most updated source of information. This includes times and dates on when it may be best to contact you — this helps separate personal time from work.
2. Lengthy response times
When there’s not an expectation of a timeframe for receiving a response, residents can begin to feel unsupported. Take, for instance, a work order. As a resident, you submit a work order and realize that you never received a follow-up or response three days later. You may start to feel a little frustrated or upset with the lack of communication.
- Response time – As a property manager, establish a maximum response time so that your residents and team can establish a rapport of your fast willingness to help. Although you may not get to the problem right away, a simple message letting the person know you received their inquiry is just as meaningful as fixing the actual situation.
3. Lack of feedback between residents, the HOA board, and property management
When management lacks proper communication, there’s an evident lack of feedback between all parties. Without adequate community feedback, the board may push for initiatives that are not important, or worse, detrimental for the community. As a result, real issues are not addressed or resolved by the property manager.
Seven tips to creating an effective communication strategy
1. Establish communication early as a way to establish a connection with your residents, property management team, and board of directors.
- Welcome brochure – Consider creating a welcome brochure or packet that includes all the information that a resident may need to know as a new community member. A property manager has the perfect opportunity to announce the property management team, board members, and other forms of contact that may play a significance in the community.
- Community map – Provide a community map that includes directions and locations of all common areas or community centers.
- Calendar – Include a calendar of scheduled events and contact information for those that may want to gain more information about getting involved or volunteering.
2. Active listening
Active listening means being fully available. We’ve all been in situations when someone is talking, and you only half hear the conversation. There’s a lesson to be learned when it comes to active listening — you can’t communicate if you’re not using active listening. As a rule of thumb, utilize the 80/20 rule — spend 80% of the time listening and 20% of the time talking.
- Be present
- Provide the right environment
- Remove distractions
- Take notes if needed
- Talk less, listen more
3. Create a newsletter
Establishing a regular cadence such as an HOA newsletter will create trust and transparency amongst the community.
- Digital or print – Digital (e.g., e-blasts) or print are two great options to use when creating your newsletter. Newsletters not only save time from searching for information, but they also work as an informative source for members to know about recent updates in their communities, calendar events, and contact information.
- Digital – The advantages of digital newsletters come with significant benefits. Not only are they cost-effective, but they also provide measurement tools that allow you to track opens and clicks — this helps track your reader’s engagement and ways to improve your newsletters in the future.
- Print – Although print newsletters may not be as popular, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not needed. For those not as up-to-date with technology, such as your elderly crowd, having to look up a digital newsletter through an email or a website may be challenging.
4. Online portal for communication
Perhaps the most useful tip we can provide communities creating a strategy for improving communication within an HOA is using an online platform such as TownSq. TownSq helps managers collaborate with the communities they manage more effectively via user-friendly, highly optimized features purpose-built for residents, boards, and managers.
- Advantages – With an online portal, property managers and their community members can communicate on multiple levels. For example, online platforms allow members to submit feedback, work orders, and calendar events like board meetings.
- Announcements – Another advantage of using online portals is to post announcements and organize channels of communication. TownSq offers several features such as announcements that allow a community manager to send out an announcement to all or a selected list of communities, saving time in the number of messages sent.
5. Implement a social media strategy
Using social media as an HOA and property management company comes with many advantages. Social media provides an alternative way for property managers to listen to their community and create engagement.
- Fast access to information – Social media provides community members with the ability to: submit compliments, notify their community with more immediate updates and obtain contact information vs. having to use an old school directory.
- Saves money – The cost of managing a social media account for your community can come at little to no cost. Managing a social media account can even replace chains of communications such as hard copy newsletters or flyers that can be costly on the HOA.
When creating a strategy to communicate better, exercising transparency will be a large part of the process. As a property manager working alongside an HOA board, managers must maintain direct communication at all times. This also comes with being transparent about essential decisions and updates that are significant to the HOA.
- Be organized – To be transparent, property managers must be as organized as possible, with critical issues being on top of the list of discussion points. Be detailed in your explanation about specific updates, especially as it relates to financials.
- Share easy-to-read annual reports – When creating reports, convey vital transparency by providing meticulous details and simplified examples. Be prepared to answer questions and consider feedback from all members involved.
7. Build relationships
One of the most significant responsibilities of a property manager is building relationships. Creating a personal connection between the property manager, the Board of Directors, and its residents is a great way to build trust and keep an open line of communication.
Three causes of lack of communication
- Lack of accurate contact information
- Lengthy response times
- Lack of feedback between residents, the HOA board, and property management
Seven tips to creating a strategy for communicating
- Establish communication early
- Active listening
- Create a newsletter
- Online portal
- Implement a social media strategy
- Build relationships