COVID-19 brought unprecedented changes to real estate investment trust Gables Residential’s policies, procedures, and the need to ensure the health and safety of its associates, residents, customers, and vendors. With sweeping changes to protocols that have worked for decades, it was immediately apparent that training was needed on every front for all associates.
In March 2020, Gables Residential pivoted to 100 percent live virtual instructor-led (VILT) training sessions.
The changeover started with more than 200 corporate associates to teach them the technologies and IT security measures required for immediate remote work. By the end of March 2020, every department (Operations, Marketing, Accounting, IT, and senior leadership for a total of 1,000 associates) had engaged with at least one live virtual course. By the middle of April 2020, Gables Residential had converted or was in the process of converting all of its in-person curriculum into live VILT sessions. In many cases, where training was needed but did not previously exist, the Training team created and delivered new content that was relevant to the needs of each group of learners.
Conversion included maintenance skills and certifications, as well as soft skills such as leading teams, change leadership, and customer experience. With the abrupt shift to remote work came the need for new technology skills for selling virtually, as well as new procedures and processes—including new payment methods for rent and how to implement payment plans for customers navigating through job loss due to COVID-19.
Gables Residential’s senior leadership team was intimately involved in designing, marketing, and facilitating COVID-related training, including both process and policy updates. The president of the Management Company, senior VPs, and VPs of Operations co-facilitate many of the procedure courses.
As of today, 100 percent of Gables Residential’s instructor-led trainings have been adapted to the live virtual space. This has enabled the team to reach all associates companywide with minimal disruption to their workday. The organization saw a 228 percent increase in course participation between March and May 2020 over the previous three months. And since moving to 100 percent live virtual learning, more of Gables Residential’s regional and executive leaders have been able to partake of learning opportunities.
Recent internal feedback indicates that live virtual training has resulted in an increased “stickiness” to associates’ learning. For example, Maintenance Training managers have achieved a pass rate of 82 percent for a complex and challenging live virtual curriculum. And regional leadership has noted that when associates return to their work directly after attending a live virtual class, they are immediately able to implement the skills they learned.
In addition to the sheer volume of learners (228 percent increase) engaging with Gables Residential’s live virtual courses, the company also saw year-over-year increases in key performance indicators such as associate engagement (4 percent), associate ambassadorship (8 percent), Net Promoter Score (7 percent), revenue (1.3 percent) and controllable net operating income (1 percent).