Attracting Talent in Tough Markets | Case Study
The cyclical mindset of college students often causes unsteady commitment to jobs year-round. Here’s the story of how we helped a college-town apartment management company --- with 90 properties across 33 states --- get clear on their purpose and values and create a much-needed talent selection and initial onboarding process.
The stars of the show of these apartment communities are leasing agents, and they primarily pull from the college community to staff those key roles. The challenge is managing the dynamic, seasonal schedules of college students. Arch + Tower worked with this client to help reduce leasing agent turnover by increasing the connection to the company’s vision and the potential for a long-term career path.
We did this by creating a special program aimed at attracting leasing agents, and by helping the corporate team design a selection process that made connecting with large groups of candidates easier and faster. We delivered a comprehensive guidebook for the leasing managers that takes the guesswork out of executing the program, and scales across 90 properties.
Arch + Tower Business Values
Create a scalable, replicable program targeted at college-aged leasing agents to inspire career opportunities within the company.
Work with the corporate team to revisit their purpose statement, values, and core behaviors.
Build a selection process that efficiently distills 30 applicants into three to four, highly competent candidates.
It’s important to state that before we built any programs with the client, we started at the most important point: gaining organizational clarity around purpose and values. We worked directly with the CEO and executive team to ensure that the purpose and values were most accurate to the culture and the future direction of the company.
We worked on the values in action, which is Arch + Tower’s unique way to express values less as nouns and adjectives, and more as action statements. The company’s leadership invested the important time to wrestle with these cultural anchors to ensure they could be owned and embodied throughout the organization.
Once the purpose and values in action were solidified, Arch + Tower began to work on content to scale throughout the organization. The goal for the content is to keep the values at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Each executive picked one value and talked about it on camera. These videos were designed to allow the executives to own and express their interpretations of how the values could be lived out all throughout the organization.
Once purpose and values were clear, our next step was to get into the minds and hearts of the people we are trying to attract at the properties: college students who uniquely fit the leasing agent profile. Using some techniques from Design Thinking, which originated at Stanford University’s dSchool (Design School), the project team dove deeply into empathizing with what college students were experiencing that impacted their ability to focus, commit, and work as leasing agents. We also studied the impact of flexible work schedules that accommodated school schedules and important holiday breaks, even the ever-important Spring Break.
Once we grasped some of the tensions of a typical college student, we led the company’s project leadership team through a comprehensive program branding exercise that gave personality shape to the program: including colors, name, voice, and traits. With college students facing many hourly employment opportunities on their campuses, the thoughtful branding offered a gravity that made it more attractive than competitive employment options.
With program branding complete, we needed to design a custom candidate refinement process that efficiently illuminated great candidates. When leasing agent openings were posted, leasing managers often received 30 or more applications within hours. They had no way to process the resumes efficiently, which meant sometimes, they were tempted to randomly select candidates (or select candidates with the best résumés) for interviewing. Arch + Tower worked with the client to build a refinement process that allowed them to preview every candidate quickly.
Taking an event-based approach, the group interviews started on a Saturday morning, when students are most available. In a 90-minute, facilitated experience, the applicants participate in exercises and games that assess their problem-solving styles. Our program guides offered facilitators insightful ways to assess talent while activities were in progress. The model is very similar to an audition. The onsite facilitators (current leasing and office staff) take notes and after the 90-minute event, narrow the group down to the best candidates. From there, we crafted interviewing questions that assessed the candidates for values alignment more than skills to ensure the client was connecting with the candidate at the deepest levels.
With organizational clarity, a clear mission, and values-in-action in place, Arch + Tower set the client up to resolve its initial frustration: improving employee retention in a difficult-to-understand market. Most importantly, we guided a process that created a stronger culture and employee experience for leasing agents even before hiring and selection was completed.
Because of the diligence spent understanding the company’s purpose, values, branding and corporate personality, we were able to guide our client on selecting talent based on those key features and elements.
Once the program development was complete, we finished by producing some key assets that could be used to further market their career opportunities to candidates. We produced several leasing consultant videos highlighting the fun, flexible work environments that created more career focus. We also created some internal communications resources to help tell the story about this new strategic selection program within the company, and at their annual company conference.
Starting with purpose and values, and allowing those key elements to guide the strategic decisions of the group selection process, we’re confident this client will increase their effectiveness in attracting, developing and retaining the best talent in their college communities. For some, this may even translate into longterm careers beyond college.