WorkProud® CEO, Michael Levy, Interviews Philip Altschuler of Gables Residential

Join WorkProud’s CEO, Michael Levy in a discussion with Philip Altschuler, Senior Vice President of HR, Gables Residential. 

In this interview, Philip Altschuler describes the importance of appreciating and recognizing employees consistently over time. He discusses the role of the pandemic and remote / flexible work arrangements in bringing more urgency to digital recognition and rewards systems. He also emphasizes the need to consistently recognize employees “doing things right,” versus providing feedback only during annual reviews, which unfortunately tend to focus on what people do wrong, instead of what they do well. 

Watch the full interview below.

Michael Levy:

All right. I’ve got a special guest with me, Philip Altschuler from Gables. Thank you so much for joining and being part of this together, tell a little bit about the story of recognition of Gables. Philip, for everybody in the audience listening in, can you tell them a little bit about yourself, and your role, and Gables itself so there’s a little context for this portion of the segment.

Philip Altschuler:

Thanks Michael. Thanks for having me today. My name is Philip Altschuler. I am the senior VP of HR and Training for Gables Residential. Gables is a multi-family real estate company. We basically build, lease, and manage apartment buildings across the US. We’re in seven core markets. We have 109 communities and seven regional offices, which means we’re a very distributed company. Talk about our journey, we had very traditional recognition programs, but the truth is it’s very hard to do when you’re such a distributed company because the managers are everywhere. The likelihood you’re going to be at the right place at the right time to see someone doing something right is pretty remote, so having an online rewards program allows us to have a much broader reach and really recognize a lot more good things instead of just focusing on what people are doing wrong.

Michael Levy:

Philip, a great introduction. As it relates to the current times, and that is the COVID phase, and now of course, the post COVID phase with, I guess, the hybrid workplace, the extent to which the hybrid workspace has actually impacted you or your very remote structure as you said, do you think recognition is more important now, less important, the same as it’s always been? Any information you could share on that front?

Philip Altschuler:

Sure. I think recognition has always been very important. I had a dentist when I was a kid who said only brush the teeth you want to keep, and I think the same applies to people. I think when you start ignoring people, or if you only focus on things they do wrong, it doesn’t take long before they go home and they complain to friends or family. I don’t know if you’ve ever been married to someone or dated someone who was very disgruntled at work, but at some point you start saying, “You need to leave that job. You need to quit that job. You’re not very happy.” What happens is they start to become more and more disenfranchised working for you because they don’t feel any love. They don’t feel any appreciation for their hard work. When you’re working together in an office environment, it’s easy to yell down the hall or you’re walking by someone and just give a genuine thank you.

Philip Altschuler:

When COVID started, and we went to a completely remote workplace, everyone’s working from home and people were working in many cases harder than they were in the office. In apartments, when everybody was sent home, you know where they were sent? To the place where we all work. Our people were working harder. Many of them putting themselves at risk. A lot of the managers were sent working remote. The need to give the recognition was never more important, and it was lucky we had a system that we could do that. We leveraged our online rewards program heavily throughout the pandemic.

Michael Levy:

What are examples of great recognition that you can share with the audience?

Philip Altschuler:

I think a heartfelt recognition is always great recognition. The more specific it is, ours are tied to values of the company, so we always ask the managers, identify the values that people are tapping on. That way not only does the person know why they’re getting recognized, but other people can see what types of ways to get recognized themselves. The other thing is ours also come with points. We have folks who love these points. Any award at Gables at a thousand dollars or less is paid in, our program’s called Gables Ovations, and they’re paid in Ovations points. Those points can be used for time off with pay. They can be used for gift cards. You can make charitable contributions with them. You can use them for travel, or you do merchandise.

Philip Altschuler:

Because you have such a wide variety of ways that you can use them, it really appeals to everyone just multi-generational. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for the company. If you’ve worked here only a short time, time off with pay is very, very attractive. If you’ve worked here forever and can’t use all the time off with pay you get, everything else works really well too.

Michael Levy:

Do you see the monetary and the non-monetary having a value? If so, how would you articulate the difference between them and what the relative strengths benefits application in a real world situation has been for you?

Philip Altschuler:

The non-monetary, we call it a social recognition program because it really is about the social recognition. Anybody can give anyone else recognition. That means peers can give recognition, or someone in accounting that really worked hard to help you out. You, as a leasing person, can give them recognition. That means a lot. I mean, people just love to be thanked. Because it’s so public and you have to put up a one of those little giffies or an e-card with it, it makes it a little bit more fun, very visible. The other magic to it is if I get recognition, I’m exempt, but if I got recognition, my boss gets notified through an email. They can go in and see, and then I get another round of recognition from them many times with points. Now I feel not just like the people I work with appreciate me, but I feel like my boss or someone else in the organization that’s recognized me also appreciates me, and that feels good.

Philip Altschuler:

I can’t be the only person that if I get recognized, it makes me want to do it again. What I find is that people who get this recognition and who get points, frankly, are more likely to work hard and go the extra mile again and again and again.

Michael Levy:

That leads to my final question, which is what are your observations of the link between the input in a recognition and frequency of recognition and the outputs either in retention, or productivity, or engagement, or surveys? How do you guys look at that connectivity between the two input and output?

Philip Altschuler:

Sure. We do a lot of analytics around engagement. We survey our associates four times a year on their satisfaction and engagement with a number of factors, including recognition. The truth is is recognition is only valuable if the person being recognized feels valued once they’re recognized. If they don’t think that the way they were thanked was meaningful, then you’re just wasting time. We get people into this program early. We have gamified it in a few ways. We have Gables love day where if you go out and you say something nice about somebody, I pull a winner every hour for eight hours, and it just makes the whole system blow up. Little things like that to just get people to value it go a long way because once people value it, they like to see their name on the system. They like to be recognized there. They love getting the points.

Philip Altschuler:

We’ve actually made this recognition system the heart of many of our other programs, including our wellness program. Instead of giving you a discount on insurance, every quarter, if you have done the challenges and tracked your steps and that stuff through the Virgin Pulse Platform, they translate to Ovations points. Because we’re doing so many things that push it into points, people value them and are constantly looking at ways to earn them. The primary part of that program is recognition, and we find that our people really like it. It’s probably a differentiator for us that some of our competitors don’t offer.

Michael Levy:

All right. Well, Philip, thanks very much for sharing some of your pearls of wisdom today with us, and all the best to the program. Appreciate the opportunity to work with you.

Philip Altschuler:

Same. I appreciate you powering such a dynamic and useful system. Thanks so much.

Gables Residential is nationally recognized for excellence in the management and development of luxury multi-family communities. Privately owned, Gables owns, develops and manages multi-family and mixed use communities around the country.

Connect with a WorkProud Expert​

POSTED

SHARE

Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on email

GET THE INSPIRED WORKPLACE NEWSLETTER

FEATURED ON:


Apple

Spotify

Google

Stitcher

iHeart

Amazon
Back to Top