Self-Reflection Fuels Growth Along Your Apartment Maintenance Career

A man is painting a room with a ladder

Krista Washbourne is the former VP of Learning and Talent Development for Lincoln Property Company and boasts 20+ years of apartment management and L&D experience. With a strong passion for helping companies create a modern learning and engagement experience, she helps to embrace the individual’s unique talents to drive the company forward.

Reflecting on Your Maintenance Career

There are certain questions that drove me throughout my career as a talent development leader:

What truly sets apart one company from another? Why do some people love the company they work for and their chosen careers, while others tolerate it, or even worse, just plain hate it? What does “engagement” for your maintenance teams actually look like, and what drives some people and companies to outperform others?

What are your responses to:

  • What makes you stay at your current job?
  • What made you leave your last job(s)?
  • If you are more experienced or further along in your career (i.e. you’re over 40), do you remember what made you leave a company when you were in your 20s? 30s? Did the reasons change as you got older/became more experienced? If you are older, why would you stay or leave now?
  • As you look back on the trajectory of your career, what set apart one company from the next?

The Push and Pull of Training and Development

If you looked deeply into your past (or even present), you may see a pattern that includes some forms of learning and training at your job, although it might not have actually looked quite like “training and development” in your own mind.

Instead, it may have looked like a boss or mentor who encouraged you to take classes or go to conferences, or those who didn’t. You may remember a time of frustration, when you looked to be promoted, but couldn’t figure out a path (or a person) to point the way.

Maybe, the culture you were in didn’t seem to actually see you as an individual or you didn’t feel they knew your worth. Possibly, there was no autonomy to make key, impactful decisions. Maybe, you didn’t feel safe expressing what you needed in your position, and no one asked. Perhaps, you had a boss who didn’t seem to care about you.

Maybe, you left one company for another for a step up in your career or because you’d already learned the next position’s job functions and you were ready for the next career challenge. Oh, and more money.

Looking back, you may see key things that kept you from, or pushed you to move to another role. These very questions are what excited me to lead a team of learning professionals in my past positions and thrills me for the future of Interplay Learning within the multi-family space.

The Thrill of Working in Apartment Management

When people start in multi-family, generally they are young, perhaps straight out of high school or college. They’ve never heard of “apartment management” as a career, but soon get sucked into the family-like vibe of working onsite and the rush of too much to do with so much immediate responsibility.

Nowhere is there a job quite like it, where you get to impact a community, individuals and potentially run a team in a matter of years, if you stay focused and continue to learn.

Conversely, nowhere can things be going so well one minute, then be complete chaos the next. Rarely does one job encompass community outreach, quick repairs, financial analysis, maintenance diagnosing and sometimes childcare worker (hello, youngster…is there anyone watching you while you swim?) all in the same day. It is that very thrill that keeps so many of us within apartment management for the majority of our careers.

However, that same chaos and multiple-hat wearing means that the need to understand and effectively perform your job is paramount. Let’s face it, sometimes maintenance training is neglected due to its complexity and sheer volume of hands-on-ness needed.

Also, what one person knows everything needed to do everything in a particular community? It’s hard to find a trainer who knows ALL of plumbing, electrical, HVAC, appliance repair and is also a person who likes to train and does it well. Where would all of this time come from to train in-person? Now, add the impact of COVID, which created further impediments to get trainers onsite.

What are facilities or learning professionals to do? Contact Interplay Learning as soon as possible. Everything about their training hits on how people experience and engage with their careers.

A Return to Key Questions about your Maintenance Career

Let’s run back through the key questions we talked about earlier:

Does someone encourage you to take classes? If someone does, now you have a database on every subject you’ll need to become highly skilled and advance into roles that would have taken many more years to learn. Without Interplay you’ve had to wait for a person to teach you.

Maybe there aren’t any classes offered at all, so you’ve relied on (sketchy? bad?) YouTube videos that may or may not explain what you need to learn. Even worse, you wait to get training in-person, once a year from a maintenance supply vendor on a subject you may or may not use, need or be ready for.

If you want to learn quickly, you can search for and find whatever training you’d like to take immediately. It’s available anywhere, anytime. Make sure that your company is willing to pay you for the time you train if you choose to do it after hours and you are not exempt status.

If no one supports your learning and growth, it doesn’t matter. You can take charge of your training without asking or waiting.

When you wanted to be promoted, but couldn’t figure out a path or a person to point the way. Now you have both a path and data to back up your desire to begin a promotion discussion. Interplay Learning’s course catalogs spell out the classes, and you see exactly what you’ll be learning, the classes you’ve completed and simulations that prove your knowledge.

Plus, your supervisor has a way to objectively tell you where they’d like to see your skill set prior to promotion consideration, so you’ll know exactly what they value and expect. Just having these conversations are invaluable. From there, you can easily pair your skill set questions with more robust questions about where you need to grow in coaching, leadership, budgeting, financial acuity, etc.

Has a culture of, “I’m unsure exactly how good you are,” persisted because your supervisor was unsure of your skills? Now you can easily establish your knowledge base.

Maybe there’s not been autonomy to make key, impactful decisions. Growing your skills leads to higher confidence, and people with greater confidence naturally step up to take more of a leadership role. Also, your burgeoning knowledge and skills helps others feel more comfortable letting you step in and take over.

Understanding what’s happening in maintenance operations more thoroughly lends itself to financial decision-making on maintenance budgeting and strategy. Owners, supervisors and corporate wants to know that you fully understand how to cut costs by doing maintenance in-house, avoiding replacement costs, saving time by more quickly diagnosing issues, and training your own team to avoid turnover costs. Bottom line results always lead to more autonomy and trust.

Finally, no one wants to promote a person or hire them into a bigger role when they don’t already know the job. Now, you can learn all facets of troubleshooting, repairing or replacing HVAC, electrical, plumbing and soon, all appliances. You can almost promote yourself or move to a different company into a larger role, and earn more simply by continuing to use the Interplay Learning platform.

Great Maintenance Training Requires Interplay Learning

Ultimately, Interplay Learning’s massive experiential content library and assessments exponentially increase your teams’ engagement. New hires can learn the safety and basics quickly, immediately preparing them to advance. Techs can grow into Leads, or focus on community-specific maintenance issues to aid their property quickly. Leads and Regional Service Managers can solidify their skills and grow those under them. The transparency into the learning and the ability to learn all facets of property maintenance ultimately lengthens tenure, expedites promotions and adds much-needed training that’s fun and proven. Your maintenance teams thrive, while strengthening your company’s bottom line.

Krista Washbourne

Former VP of Learning and Talent Development, Lincoln Property Company

Krista Washbourne recently joined Interplay Learning as a multi-family and training consultant. Her 20+ years of apartment management experience has encompassed corporate marketing and learning roles, most recently as the Vice President of Learning & Talent Development for Lincoln Property Company, the second largest apartment owner/manager in the country.