Seen here on the TEDx stage, Peter Lynch is a noted Fortune 500 global executive in talent, operations, culture, and HR. He serves as the chief people officer at Cardinal Group Cos.
Courtesy Peter A. Lynch Seen here on the TEDx stage, Peter Lynch is a noted Fortune 500 global executive in talent, operations, culture, and HR. He serves as the chief people officer at Cardinal Group Cos.

Amid the many challenges of running an organization during a pandemic, multifamily developers and property managers had to strategically reinvent. Many found that technology offered a pathway to greater efficiencies to help counter the challenges, along with following pandemic health and safety protocols.

Yet, regardless of the technologies that are available, there was and is still a human component. These organizations were dealing with changes at a breakneck pace, while trying to protect their employees and residents as well as maintain a profitable business.

Peter Lynch saw it all happening through the lens of one of the nation’s largest property management companies, Cardinal Group Cos., a Denver-based organization with more than 1,400 employees across the country.

Lynch serves as the chief people officer at Cardinal and is a noted Fortune 500 global executive in talent, operations, culture, and HR. He also is a podcaster, a TEDx speaker, and a high-performance coach. In September, he’ll be presenting at the Multifamily Executive Conference in Las Vegas.

At the event, he’ll share his insights on contagious culture and the art of recruiting and retaining talent. Fortunately, he points out that it’s not hard to find talent today.

“There is a culture-first dynamic in the workforce right now,” Lynch says. “Millennials are going to Glassdoor because they are choosing not to apply to jobs at companies that don’t align with their beliefs. It’s not hard to find talent today, but it’s hard for companies that aren’t set up for this shift in the future of work.”

Lynch shares that Cardinal saw a 30% increase in applications last year and expects another 30% this year. He attributes that to the company’s focus on culture, pointing to research that states that the No. 1 workforce factor that matters the most is culture and values, way ahead of compensation, which sits at No. 5.

Having a strong culture is great, but how is that experienced while working remote during a pandemic?

Lynch says the virtual process is critically important. He cites a study from advisor and generations researcher Jason Dorsey that the most important day in a millennial’s work experience is day one, which actually has an 80% predictive rate to whether the employee will stay a full year. During that first day, the employee has to feel welcome, their manager has to make time for them, and technology has to be ready and available for them.

“In a virtual world, these three things are present and even more important,” Lynch says. “Feeling welcome can be a platform to virtually connect to employees. Managers have to spend time with them, get them excited, make them feel comfortable. The technology piece is a big one and a hard one. Our current expectation is to have anything fixed in an hour. Showing up for work and not having the right technology is a big failure.”

Beyond day one, the manager is more important in today’s changing environment than ever. Lynch points out three key things that managers have to be doing now to develop their staff and retain talent in a virtual world:

  1. Offer consistent one-on-one meetings. Staff members need that connection;
  2. Create mechanisms for tracking projects and the work that is getting done; and
  3. Drive autonomy. In a virtual world, it’s easy to feel disconnected and to lose trust. It’s also easy to start micromanaging, but managers have to resist that impulse because giving autonomy is critical.

Employees not only need that strong connection with their manager, but with others in the organization.

“Fifty-three percent of the workforce today feels invisible,” Lynch says. “Not just disconnected, invisible. To me, this is a recipe for disaster. Social connection tools have become even more important. Social technical forums like Slack, Google Currents, and Microsoft Teams are important to recognize teammates, see pictures, have interactions with polls. When connections can’t take place in an office, this is where they can take place.”

Organizations have to be obsessed with designing ways for employees to make connections. This can be in the form of virtual events, or creating a centralized headquarters environment where they want to come back but are not forced to return. Lynch suggests creating thoughtful ways to get in front of team members to build that connection and make them feel like they have a voice.

The virtual world is similar to the real world in that they both need metrics and quantifiable results. At Cardinal, Lynch has created a system with three key elements of performance.

  1. Up: Team members’ voices can be elevated by offering surveys to capture their insights to improve programs and processes;
  2. Down: Managers and leaders work with staff to guide objectives and key results, and to offer coaching; and
  3. Sideways: Peers offer insights with 360-degree feedback and net promoter score surveys.

Cardinal uses this three-pronged system to get a holistic view of the employee’s performance, and to make sure there is culture addition within that process.

“We want to build an organization that people can bring their whole self to and add to the culture,” Lynch says.

A huge element of that is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Lynch says data should lead the way to creating a more inclusive company creating benchmarks and goals to act on to make it less about words and more about actions for real change.

“At Cardinal, we wanted to increase leaders of color in 2020,” Lynch says. “We went from 14% to 18% in leadership roles. That’s a 30% increase during rapid growth. We also increased women leaders. We saw women in senior leadership roles increase from 9% to 33% at vice president and above in just 12 months. And, Glassdoor recently reported that we ranked in the top 1% for our diversity, equity, and inclusion ratings for all real estate companies.”

Watch Lynch present at the MFE Conference, Sept. 13 to 15, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Use code MFECultureKey to receive a $150 discount on the registration.