A Roadmap to Success? One Girl’s Journey to Make On-Boarding Better!

December 29th, 1998. It was my first day of “real” work. I was now a professional… trading in my costumes (I was Cinderella at Disneyland and Marilyn Monroe at Universal Studios), for suits and business attire (which I bought at places like Wet Seal and Clothestime)… hey, I was only 18!

I was psyched! I was a “grown up” now… and to boot, I had a 50% rent discount at a very nice community (my primary motivation for becoming a Leasing Consultant, by the way).

My first day of work consisted of being given a really thick “Employee Manual” and I was assigned a “Buddy”. My excitement quickly turned to panic. This community was huge, at 512 apartment homes, I was confident I would never be able to get back when I was out touring. To say that I was overwhelmed and completely scared out of my mind… would truly be an understatement. My “buddy” didn’t have much time for me and I sensed she was going to be no “buddy” of mine. She told me to go shop the comps and tour the models, I was to get “familiar” with the community. I had no idea what she was talking about…

I was never actually trained to lease, believe it or not. My company had no training program to speak of and come to think of it, no training department at that time. Being that I was in school, “training” or being in a classroom was all I’d ever known… working was a slightly foreign concept to me. I was the youngest person at my community and one of the youngest in the company and I knew that if I wanted to “make it”… I would have to just figure it out on my own.

And I did just that…

I wanted to quit just about every day I worked there! It was miserable! I wasn’t doing things “right”, but no one would take the time to show me the “right” way… so I just did it as best I could, and tried to figure it out. Thankfully, I have the gift of gab and have never met a stranger… so leasing came fairly easy for me and eventually I uncovered the “right way” of doing things. After several months, I became pretty excellent at my job… and I was set on helping anyone who was new to my community, learn. I would be the teacher that I never had… a true “buddy”! Sometime in May we’d hired 2 new Leasing Consultants and I was excited at the chance to help out someone who was new. I was assigned one of the girls and MY originally assigned “buddy” got the other.

Before her arrival I made instructions/directions/worksheets/etc… that I placed in a 3 ring binder for my trainee (her name is Danielle). Also included was a map of our community, all of our floorplans, our latest market survey (so she knew who our comps actually were), etc…

I made her, as it turns out, a LEASING NOTEBOOK!

I’d never been given one before… but it contained everything that I’d figured out, through trial and error, that I needed to know. Every time a prospective resident asked me a question that I didn’t know the answer to, I found out the answer and I added that info to my notebook. Needless to say the other trainee was bummed she wasn’t partnered with me, but took the bull by the horns and asked if she could have that info too! I was helping to create a Roadmap for others and let me tell you, it felt good! My only wish is that someone would have given ME all this info when I first started, because if I wasn’t the stubborn, I’m going to show you that I can do this with or without you, kind of girl that I am… I wouldn’t have made it past the first week!

So long story short… my on-boarding & training experience when I was new to the industry, new to my company and new to working in general… was something that I would hope no one else has ever had to, or ever HAS to, experience. It was from that point on that I vowed to help as many people as I could. In time, my self-starter efforts were rewarded by my company. I was quickly promoted, promoted again, and again and finally went on to develop our in-house training department.

At long last, all of our new associates were getting the kind of first impression that we ask our on-site colleagues to provide for our residents (it’s sad how we were asking them to give great first impressions, but yet we weren’t giving THEM a great first impression)! I was able to take what I’d started at my community and roll it out on a global scale! The efforts my company started putting into our associates on-boarding & training boosted both employee retention and ultimately resident retention (we all know how residents cling to certain people… if they are their longer, residents tend to stay longer). It was truly a win-win… and something I’m happy to say that I started.

So let me ask you… Are you giving to your newly hired colleagues an excellent first impression? What are you doing for your newly hired colleagues to ensure they have a seamless first day? Do you use leasing notebooks? Do you assign a “buddy”, “mentor” or “pro”? What does your 90-day training plan look like? Are you making each colleague feel welcome and as though they could make a career in property management? How have your efforts improved your employee retention? Resident retention?

At Sterling, we’re moving to twice monthly hiring and set to start offering an interactive and highly engaging New Colleague Orientation… that’s done live, via webinar (with live and pre-recorded video as well), on a new employees first day.

Also included in their “welcome” kit are their business cards, name tag and all their relevant new hire paperwork.
If they’re in a sales role, they’ll also receive the contents that will make up their leasing notebook and each new colleague, in all positions, will be assigned to a “Pro” (our “Pros” are hand selected and go through PRO Training… truly the best of the best).

In addition, each colleague is given their Sterling Story Career Path, which outlines their training plan for their current role and an additional training plan to get to the next level.

Finally, we also provide each colleague with a Technology Welcome Letter which outlines the websites we use and their user name and passwords for each (including how to access our truly awesome employee geared LMS, so that they can take our required first day courses; Fair Housing & Sexual Harassment).

Our colleagues feel supported from day one and our Mission and Guiding Principles are not just words on a wall… but actually lived through our actions. I’m proud to say that I’m a part of this culture and helping it to continually evolve!

View the article on Multifamily Insiders here: http://www.multifamilyinsiders.com/home/multifamily-blogs/a-roadmap-to-success-one-girls-journey-to-make-on-boarding-better-.html


  1. An absolutely amazing post Tara. Your own personal experience I can definitely feel has served you well. Not having a successful on-boarding process is why there is such high employee turnover within the first 3 months of employment. Excellent post!

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