The logistics can be a nightmare, and the chaos can be overwhelming. People have meltdowns and even quit. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and nothing short of an act of God can stop the inexorable march of… new students arriving! That’s right, I’m talking about the hectic time known as apartment turnover.
As a cleaning industry insider, I know how critical it is to stay on schedule and within budget during turnover. I’ve been on a mission to find ways to improve the process for everyone involved. The following provides strategies to help you improve your turnover process performance. They are based on my firsthand experience and insights from property managers over the years, as well as on valuable feedback collected in forums like the recent turnover roundtable at the InterFace Student Housing conference in Austin, Texas.
No matter what piece of the turnover puzzle you’re holding, the following can help you be more efficient and productive — as well as keep you sane!
Training — and more training
Well before turnover time, start training your teams. Provide thorough written documentation that explains clearly what will be expected of them. If possible, train workers for specific duties and responsibilities — not just once, but a lot.
Training should also include preparing them mentally for turnover turmoil. Don’t sugarcoat it. If anything, overestimate how difficult turnover will be and emphasize how important it is that everyone stays calm. That way, if things really do get bad, your workers won’t be surprised. Letting people know what to expect creates cooler heads when challenges arise.
You should also prepare them for an indefinite schedule. In other words, when you’re asked what time they’ll finish, just be frank and tell them you won’t know until you reach your targeted daily goal.
When it comes to turnover, Murphy’s Law is alive and well. The importance of being prepared for worst-case scenarios cannot be overestimated: What if there’s an emergency like a flood? What if a key person is sick? A tenant isn’t out on time? A service provider doesn’t show — or is behind? Make sure everyone knows the back-up plan for scenarios like these.
Remember to order supplies well in advance. If possible, stage them a couple of days ahead of time. Once turnover begins, stage supplies each night for the following day. This also gives you a chance to check if you’re missing anything. Ideally, you should maintain a running list of what you’ll need for the following day.
Save time everywhere you can
Make a schedule for each day. This will help workers hit the ground running, which is especially important for day one and all subsequent mornings, when people are likely moving the slowest.
Constantly be looking for ways to save trips and keep things moving. Minutes saved here and there start to add up to significant time — and money — saved. Consider even the seemingly little things. For example, if the elevator is tied up, make sure workers opt for the stairs.
Avoid pile up in the workflow by keeping units to a single vendor if possible. Also, having a team member trained to help with making supply runs, delivering keys, picking up food, etc., can be a great help in facilitating a smoother day and preventing unnecessary delays. And about that food, supplying it so no one needs to leave the building is just one more way to stay on track.
People aren’t just accustomed to visual information today — they expect it. Consider providing a helpful video for tenants that prepares them on exactly what they need to do before vacating.
Similarly, vividly illustrating through video what’s expected of employees and service providers (especially new hires) can go a long way toward preparing them.
For actual turnover tasks, having a large turnover board to record progress can be a good way for workers to quickly absorb where they’re at and what they need to do next. Of course, a board is only as good as the methods used to keep it updated. Real-time technology (see below) can be an even better way to stay organized and keep progress moving forward.
Embrace the benefits of technology
Like so many other tasks and responsibilities today, turnover time can be helped tremendously by using the latest technology. For example, when a team finishes a unit, use an automated method to record and share it in real-time, allowing everyone to know when units are completed. This does wonders for streamlining communication and maintaining an efficient workflow.
Learn and improve for next time
Update your training materials every year with what you’ve learned, even down to the minutiae like where the best place is to park. Also, note any consistent problems so that you can deal with them better next year.
Finally, be vigilant for ways to improve. Do research to identify tools, supplies and strategies that can help you be more efficient. Don't forget about the potential software applications out there that can help speed up the process and take the turnover tension down a few notches. And who doesn’t want that?
— Kayla Storlid is cofounder of the TurnoverApp, owner of Kayla’s Custom Cleaning, and CEO of BliNk Business Consulting.