Believe it or not: Internal cost cuts spur employee engagement

Camden Property Trust was honest about its bad news; employees responded with an outpouring of feel-good messages.

You wouldn’t expect employees at a real estate company—especially one with properties in Southern California, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami—to have been too excited about cutting costs or cheering their bosses up as the bottom fell out of the market in 2008 and 2009.

But at Camden Property Trust, a multi-family company based in Houston but with offices in 13 states, that’s exactly what happened.

“Their inspiration has turned into great communication tools for us,” Margaret Plummer, director of employee relations for Camden, said at a Ragan Communications conference last month at SAS headquarters in Cary, N.C.

How’d the employees get so inspired? The company was honest with them, Plummer said, and never delivered bad news without putting a humorous spin on it. And they responded with ideas and projects meant to bring everyone in the company together toward the goal of getting through the pain.

“When a high-trust environment exists, our companies have more flexibility and more adaptability to change, because our employees trust what we tell them and will therefore be more able to adapt to what it is we need them to do,” she said.

An honest, old-fashioned approach

Camden doesn’t have an intranet and reserves most of its online communication for customer service, Plummer said.

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