Building Trust by Communicating with Condominium Residents
Given the number of moving parts involved in the operation of a condominium corporation, communication is key to maintaining a strong relationship between the resident, board of directors, building staff and management team. Condominiums have a unique challenge to effectively blend business and community which at times can cause friction. When residents know what is happening, it increases the comfort level with the direction the corporation is going. Communicating the “why” behind decisions is crucial. Effective communication builds trust between residents and the corporation, and so it is to the benefit of everyone to provide updates on projects early and often, hold townhalls with the owners, and utilize the technology that is available to streamline the flow of information.
Boards and management are constantly working together making decisions that have a direct impact on the lives of residents and so communicating early and often promotes a better understanding of what the next steps for the corporation are and why they are being undertaken. Many owners are not experts in finance, engineering or construction and so when there is a major project or unexpected expense it is the responsibility of management and board to share this information. Transparency by explaining the rationale behind decisions will alleviate a sense of surprise and shock factor when they occur. If communication is clear and informative when a situation arises, the community will have greater trust in those making decisions. Although they may not agree, they will respect that they have been well informed of the reality and are aware of the facts. As the communication grows, trust is being built and residents can take comfort that decisions are being made in the best interest of the community.
Holding townhall information meetings is a fantastic way to communicate as they provide a forum for owners to have their questions and concerns answered and builds confidence that the board and management team want to keep them aware. As we all learn and understand differently, an information meeting is helpful as they allow for diverse forms of communication and can include slideshows, presentations, samples and guest experts. Having the corporation’s engineer, lawyer, or contractor for a specific project attend a meeting with the residents is one of the best ways to communicate. Residents want to have their voices heard and a general notice is often not sufficient for a complicated situation. When residents clearly understand the information behind decisions and have a chance to meet the vendors who are going to be carrying out the work there is an increased comfort level. We all know in operations there can be unforeseen issues, and so providing a setting where residents have an opportunity to ask questions directly will relieve stress and foster a positive environment in the community.
New forms of communication technology have greatly increased the ability to communicate quickly and easier than before. ACMO has many vendors that understand this importance and include programs with their projects that assist management with sharing information to owners. Community web portals, elevator screens, lobby screens, virtual concierge, and online surveys all assist in enhancing communication between the corporation and community. Therefore, with all of these tools at our disposal there is no reason for residents to feel that they are lacking information. Recognizing that every community is unique, these vendors will often customize a communication process that fits best and is time and money well spent.
Communication always builds trust between owners and corporation. At many owners meetings, a common hot topic is a call for more transparency as residents feel they do not know how their money is being spent that reduces trust for those spending it. The way to increase the level of comfort among owners is to clearly communicate the reasons behind decisions being made and provide them with an opportunity to have their voices heard. It is the responsibility of those with the information to share it whenever possible, the result will be a more harmonious community where everyone works together in the same direction with a common understanding of its planned objectives.
Colin Ogg, RCM, is Community Director for Maple Ridge Community Management– An Associa® Company