The disciplines of site staff management

Site Staff Management. Having written blogs for over three years and often at the rate of posting one a week, we sometimes worry that we are going to run out of ideas. Inevitably, we tend to revisit subjects that we have previously written about but this is perhaps indicative of how property management is always evolving.

In December 2017 we took on our first block with site staff and drawing on this experience and others in previous employments we wrote about some “curious” issues that we had come across regarding the management of site staff.

Veterans of site staff management

Over two years later and having taken on more properties with on-site staff we are beginning to feel like veterans of site staff management and feel we are well placed to share our thoughts on what can be a particularly difficult aspect of management.

In the first instance, the obvious question that arises is …. “what’s the difference between managing Staff and Site Staff? At this point, we almost draw a blank, but can safely say there is a huge difference between the two.

In our blog of March 2018, Sarah told a story about her father and his philosophy about staffing in relation to his shop. In a similar vein, she tells a story her father told her about a family friend, who said a good salesperson can sell anything, be it a bag of grapes, a house or anything at all for that matter. This would seem a good starting point for saying all staff management is the same.

However, the difference between managing staff in an office at whatever level, is that you spend almost 40 hours a week with them. Often you spend more time together than your family and friends and therefore you get to know them very well, strengths and weaknesses and faults and all.

Potential pitfalls with site staff

With site staff, although you may see them frequently you are not with them all the time so you can’t be aware of their foibles and often can’t vouch for their actions as you simply do not know what they would do in a given situation. This can make it incredibly difficult to deal with disciplinary or grievance issues particularly if these result from issues on site and could result in employment action by either those aggrieved or those who are being disciplined. For the employer, who is invariably our client, the legal ramifications can be a minefield and can put you off from direct employment.

One solution is to look at outsourcing employment for site staff entirely, which removes any liability from the employer but to our mind, the cost of doing this is often prohibitive, particularly as the risk that is mitigated is often a small one, or no one including MIH would employ anyone.

Another option and one that is used by many managing agents is dual employment where the staff member is employed by a third party and the client directly. Again this negates the management responsibility for the client in most cases but does come at some cost as VAT is payable on the service provided as it not being supplied directly to the client. The VAT issue is somewhat of a minefield in itself going by the discussions we have been having with some of our associates in the industry.

Direct employment option

For MIH, we prefer an alternative option of direct employment with MIH managing the staff on our client’s behalf. As the staff are salaried, VAT is not applicable and the cost-benefit is shared by the client and the staff who are often paid more because of this saving. Although the risk is slightly greater to the client than in the other options, the management structure is simplified which means the site staff are able to have closer working relationships with the property manager with a common understanding of what they want to achieve for the client and have more say in the running of the building.

Although we are always open to the client stating their preference, we think that the MIH approach to site staff works well and if we needed any endorsement two members of our site staff surprised us with giving us google reviews about how well we manage them.

We look back at our previous blog rather nostalgically as it focused on situations we found ourselves in and like Sarah’s Dad’s take on salespeople we agree that if you can manage staff you can manage site staff and vice versa nonetheless there are different disciplines in managing the two and thankfully MIH can do both.

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