To paraphrase novelist William Gibson, “Multifamily centralization is already here … it’s just not evenly distributed.”

That’s one way to understand the state of this widely discussed business strategy. For some owners and operators, the idea of centralization is little more than a trendy business term with an unclear advantage. Others see it as a way to use technology and business smarts to navigate stubborn workforce challenges while keeping pace with renters’ rising service expectations.

The industry buzz is understandable. Wages, career path, hybrid scheduling, and work-life balance have disrupted the hiring and retention picture like never before. Centralization may help reimagine workplace roles for candidates no longer motivated by the status quo.

What’s your take on centralization? Here are three field-tested lessons to consider as you weigh your options.

1. Automate the Routine, Humanize the Exception

The words are from Fred Smith, FedEx’s legendary founder and chairman. They apply more than ever to multifamily owners and operators.

“Chatbots handle many of the routine questions prospective renters have,” explains Kim Young, vice president of shared services for Tennessee-based Fogelman Properties. “There were some initial worries about the technology and leasing staff job security. But our people quickly learned how much more productive they were by turning over routine calls to bots.”

Justin Wald agrees. “It’s all about people. Technology is there to help people succeed, not replace them,” says the vice president of marketing for Berkshire Residential Investments. “Technology frees us to focus on working hot leads, which lifts team morale and closings.”

2. Nail Automation First

You have to figure out automation—what duties are best left to a human—before you can talk centralization, advises Young. That’s where partnering with a skilled practitioner makes sense. Pursuit of centralization throughout the real estate enterprise is something Yardi, a property management software leader, is qualified to assist.

“It’s not just automating leasing, either,” explains Richard Malpica, Yardi’s vice president and general manager. “What about operations and the back office? How do you automate vendor payments? How do you get job tickets into the right queue?” Automation must support workflow in meaningful ways.

3. Think Linear Career Path

This is where centralization shines. With top talent hard to find, it makes sense to hire for a skill, instead of a jack-of-all-trades generalist. Young sees that as an aha moment in understanding centralization. “I started in leasing, but I wasn’t really a salesperson. Centralization helps place people in roles they feel most comfortable in and have the greatest chance to thrive.”

Wald likes the business resilience centralization represents. “Take leasing. Centralization allows us to promote multiple properties. That offers customers a better experience because they can now consider which property best fits their needs. Centralization also helps us attract higher-level talent because we can offer a logical career path, hybrid scheduling, and an improved work-life balance, like Sundays off.”

Small wonder centralization is moving beyond buzz to a proven multifamily business strategy. Now may be a good time to investigate the next steps for yourself.

Learn more about why centralization may be a better way to solve workforce challenges and advance business objectives.