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Hello & Goodbye: Staffing and Labour Problems in Condominium Corporations ( and How to Solve It!)

Updated: Apr 13

Employee turnover in the condominium industry is major issue that can be attributed to a variety of factors, especially because loss of experienced site staff is a big concern for condominium corporations. But how can Property Management companies and Boards ensure employees are happy and satisfied with where they are working?


Stratastic had the opportunity to attend the ACMO/CCI Condo Conference 2022, where we learned more about the factors causing employee turnover and how to prevent and prepare for this. It's important for condominium corporations to take steps to address this issue before it becomes too costly, such as negotiating trade contracts and rewarding employees... otherwise you may need to deal with increased costs due to lack of maintenance from inexperienced workers!


“One of the reasons why people are engaged in condominiums and stay with condominiums, is because it is a stepping stone; I think every condominium managers who's worked closely with their building staff know that you've got this amazing bright light and you're not gonna have them forever, but you wanna work with them for as long as you have them” explained Katherine Gow (Crossbridge Condominium Services).


People in an open space office

People are always looking to expand their skills and talent level, so what can you do to make sure you retain those excellent employees?


We're excited to share with you the various factors that contribute to employee retention and satisfaction, so you can do your best to keep the best!



It all starts with onboarding and orientation.


Companies with an effective onboarding process are more likely to retain staff by 82%, Mike Fernandez (Regal Security) explained. From the screening and interview process, companies and hiring staff must identify key indicators such as longevity at previous employment, culture, strategies, etc. Additionally, ensuring that the employee’s outlook is aligned with the company’s vision and mission will have them stay longer at the organization. Today's reality is that employees are quitting due to a lack of growth and development (training, feedback, learning opportunities), burnout, and lack of recognition. “Look at what your employees want, find it and propose it, and be prepared to meet them” Mike stated.


New hires need to be set up for success from the start, not only by learning how to perform their work, but also knowing the company culture and how they can contribute to the success of the workplace. To ensure employees are in the best possible position to do their jobs, it's important that they have access to as much training as possible. The training should be specific to what they are doing at work, and it should be kept up-to-date with new technologies so that they're not stuck using outdated equipment or methods.

“The training and support you provide from day one can set the tone for their employee's entire tenure at your firm or site location”, Mike remarked.


Making sure staff knows what the proper procedures are and that they fully understand them through a complete training program will help whenever there's an emergency situation. It goes without saying that an employee that is properly trained will guarantee that the job is done correctly and efficiently.


The property manager and employer also play a key role in the employment relationship. An employee should be recognized when they are committed, diligent, and responsible. Financial recognition may be tough for a lot of companies who have had to trim and slim margins, but there are many other ways to recognize an employee. Catherine explained that even a simple handshake recognizing an employee's hard work for going above and beyond will satisfy staff. Another idea is setting a fair bonus structures to give everyone the opportunity to be rewarded, or even empowering employees to make tough call decisions that are within their authority once they have demonstrated to be trustworthy and have a clear understanding of their role within the corporation.


When it comes to employee turnover, it's important to understand that communication is key.


If employees feel like they aren't being listened to or that their concerns are not being heard, they may start looking for new jobs elsewhere. The goal should be to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing any issues that come up before festering issues result in them abandoning the company.

woman thinking

It goes a long way when there's clear and active communication between employers and employees. Employers and supervisors must provide clear communication channels for questions and concerns and make sure employees know how to contact you (and not just through email!).


A well-trained and motivated workforce is vital to keep any corporation functioning. It's also crucial for employee retention, which means that employers want employees to stay with them for as long as possible. In order to achieve this, companies must provide staff with the right tools and resources so they can do their jobs effectively.


Mike mentioned that (as of October 1st) minimum wage has increased to $15.50, which means that there are other increases as well. Ontario has seen post-Covid inflation increase by 2%, and in 2021 it increased over 3%. However, in these last couple of months, we’re looking at nearly 8% increase in terms of the CPI (Consumer Price Index) - which is not only affecting society as a whole, but also the companies in the condo industry (ex: cleaning, security, landscaping companies).


Inflation in supply chain, premiums, goods, services, etc. will increase a condominium corporation's budget, therefore Property Management and Boards must appropriately plan for it. Budgets must be aligned with the expectations of the corporation, furthermore, goals and expectations that are made between management and trades (and vice versa) must be realistic.


“Take a partnership approach with your contractors for a partnership to be successful. It's gotta work for all parties,” Mike noted. “You need to identify clear and realistic goals and expectations. That is very, very important,” he added. Within the set expectations boards tend to employ penalties if these are not met. Mike explains that rather than looking at penalties in contracts, boards should focus on bonuses and how these can reward low employee turnover. Also avoiding co-employment problems by ensuring that all work will go through the vendor entering in the contract.


Next, let's explore what to take into consideration when negotiating terms in contracts.


Justice statue

Ontario's employment laws affect the ability of condominium corporations to staff their properties. It is key that condominium corporations are properly negotiating terms in their contracts, because ultimately contracts are the core of a relationship between two or more parties. Specifically, let’s focus on the contract between the vendor and the condominium corporation.


Bradley Chaplick, JD from Horlick Levitt Di Lella LLP discussed 3 main topics that board members, management, and vendors should be aware of when entering a contract.


The first topic deals with how successor rights are involved in the condominium industry. Successor rights is when a business owner cannot remove itself from a Union collective agreement by selling the business to someone else. This means that when the business is sold, the preexisting collective agreement will pass to the new owner. Bradley pointed to Section 69.1 of the Labour Relations Act, which states that if a condominium corporation's the primary place of work (i.e.: security and cleaning staff), then a change in contractors is treated in the same manner as the sale of the business. This means that if a corporation ends a contract for security services at a condominium building and the employees at that site are unionized, the union is set to represent the new employees of the incoming company at that property. This applies to employees that are working five days a week in the building and not to employees that work only one day. Furthermore, these regulations typically do not apply to other kinds of sporadic building services, such as HVAC, landscaping, window cleaning and snow removal.


The second topic to take in consideration is related to the Employment Standards Act, (also referred to as Bill Seven). The amendments to the Employment Standards Act contain special protections for building services workers, and non-unionized workers (i.e.: security guards, cleaners, managers) Brad mentioned when changing these building service contracts, the outgoing contractor may not have another property for the employees to move to. If the incoming contractor chooses not to retain the remaining onsite workers; then the incoming contractor may be responsible for any severance payment that is owed to those workers. This only applies to workers who were primarily employed at the condominium corporation's property, and excludes workers who refuse a reasonable offer of employment from the new building services provider. “For example, a similar job at similar pay in a different building within the same municipality. So someone who rejects that offer would then not be entitled to compensation from the incoming contractor,” Bradley added.


Man and woman debating

An important clarification is that these employee protections only apply when a contractor changes. They have no impact on the ability of a contractor to replace onsite employees. In other words, these protections are in place for when there’s a change in contractors. Bill 7 considerations should be addressed at the beginning of the contract when negotiating the terms.


For example, a corporation might have a provision in its contract that requires the contractor upon termination to continue employing all the onsite staff and to ensure that they're transferred to other properties. “This eliminates the so-called poison pill scenario where an outgoing contractor takes all of its productive staff and deliberately leaves behind any staff who are underperforming or who would be very costly to terminate,” Brad concluded.


The third topic given by Brad was about shared risk. Condominium corporations can agree to reimburse the contractor only for the legally required additional wages paid in the respective contract as a direct result of the minimum wage increase. This typically means a very small price increase for the condominium corporations, while the contractor might have to raise wages across the board and accept a short-term reduction in profit margins to remain competitive in the labour market.


In summary, the condominium industry continues to be a unique beast that poses many challenges for employers. The key to success is in finding the right people for the job, who can be trained and motivated to perform well, while establishing a clear channel of communication where staff feel engaged and included in the workplace. Providing recognition to employees that have done an outstanding job is essential to employee satisfaction and long-term retention. And, last but not least, negotiating the terms in the contract to ensure that productive and committed employees are protected. It is best to be proactive with employee retention to guarantee a good workplace environment and a low turnover rate.


This was a great session that provided a variety of valuable advice, and we thank the panelists for sharing their wisdom!


-Stratastic Inc.

Authored by Nabiel Ordonez, edited by Stratastic Inc.

 

“Staffing: Where did everyone go?” addressed the importance of employee retention to reduce the turnover rate that is impacting condominium corporations. This session was moderated by Benjamin Tabesh CPP, PSP, H.Sbc (Condor Security) with panelists Katherine Gow (Crossbridge Condominium Services) , Mike Fernandez (Regal Security) and Bradley Chaplick, JD (Horlick Levitt Di Lella LLP)


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Updated on April 13, 2024.

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