When it comes to building a Community Management team, coworking providers are faced with a rapidly evolving industry, limited pool of candidates, lack of recruiters with niche expertise and the absence of professional umbrella organisations.
Whilst there’s a good amount of literature responding to high churn rates, such as WUN’s ‘Survival Guide’, there is a severe lack of data comparing employee retention rates in coworking spaces against retention rates in other professions, meaning the cause for concern is often overlooked.
Jason Touray, Freelance Talent & Culture Consultant (Vice President of Talent at Huckletree and Casper), states “Having worked with both coworking providers and companies in completely different industries, I’ve seen first-hand that churn is higher in Community Management than in many other professions.”
Demystifying High Churn Rates
Jason explains the nature of the role before pinpointing both negative and positive reasons for high churn rates: “The role requires an unusual and traditionally incompatible range of skills and qualities; Community Managers need to operationally manage a space, be a brand ambassador, have strong sales and marketing skills, manage and develop a team, provide exceptional member and guest experience, build and run a programme of events and manage the budget and profitability of a space. This makes the position unique; there are very few roles which require candidates to be an expert in so many areas. You need to be two types of people doing several types of jobs; the face of the brand and simultaneously the back-office strategist. Few people can be both and fewer can balance being both.”
Due to the nature of the role, Jason explains how a lot of Community Managers simply burnout. Whilst the dynamic position might offer ownership and autonomy, the ‘sink or swim’ environment requires constant emotional engagement and it’s easy to underestimate how chaotic this environment is.
On the contrary, those who don’t burn out often thrive and flourish in becoming ‘unbelievable all-rounders’, making them highly attractive to other employers. These candidates are easily tempted by more specialised and less stressful positions, especially if they’re bored and disengaged, which typically happens as more established providers mature and withdraw autonomy.
Challenges Faced by Community Managers
Whether it’s boredom, burnout, stress or chaos, there are a few challenges adding fuel to the flame. What are the main issues faced by Community Managers on a daily basis? The first is defining the role of a Community Manager.
Diego Ferreira, Head of Community at Nex Coworking in Brazil, states “the role is still relatively new in the Brazilian market. We link assignments to the definition of ‘community’ as we believe the world is undergoing a brutal transformation of labour relations. People are not satisfied spending their time and their life in an irrelevant way, which puts great emphasis on the role of creating a community. There is a global shift towards improving relationships at work so the biggest challenge is to keep an eye out for these – whether they arise through operations, business or social events.”
The second challenge is coping with the amount of members they are responsible for. Jazmin Jabbarnia, Regional Director at MakeOffices in the US, describes the impact this has on the physical space: “there are hundreds of members constantly using different amenities which need extra levels of maintenance to keep the community happy and prolong retention. If the space isn't up-kept, members look elsewhere and we lose business.” Jason adds that the amount of members also contributes to the “unavoidable stress of managing multiple stakeholders face-to-face without warning and with varied demands.”
Thirdly, there’s the challenge of hitting targets and knowing what to do next. At MakeOffices, “the Community Manager’s role is to sell out their location. Many Community Managers are left with the question of ‘what's next?’ once they've accomplished their goal.” Considering the above, the final challenge is an accumulation of all three: maintaining a positive atmosphere.
Adli Sudjatmiko, Co-founder and Chief Community Officer at Kolega Coworking Space in Indonesia, states how difficult it can be to “create and maintain a positive, active and productive vibe and energy within the space. It takes a thorough understanding of a diverse community for collaboration to be initiated at the frequent pace required.”