Can Anyone THINK anymore these days?

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Can Anyone THINK anymore these days?

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think.

The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016.

Ouch.  Double Ouch.

I bring this new article to your attention for the following reason:  Rental properties involve, fortunately or unfortunately, human beings.  As I have written about human beings in other articles on this site, we are messy creatures–physically, emotionally, and mentally.  (I mean, come on….if we weren’t, we wouldn’t have jobs in leasing, property management, real estate, court systems, etc.  Everyone would play fair and do deals on hand shakes.)  

As investors and real estate professionals, whenever a property is rented lots of humans are involved.

Tenants–Landlords–Real estate agents–HOA management companies (sometimes for lease approvals)–Leasing agents–Property Managers–CPA’s–Contractors–Suppliers–etc.

Decisions have to be made every single day.  Many decisions have to be made with less than perfect data or information available, such as risk profiles of tenants or repairs.

  • Should you accept this tenant with a lower-than-average credit score?
  • Repairs have to be made, often with unpredictable results and imperfect diagnosis of the problem in the first place due to limited access to information or unforeseen consequences.  Increasing attic insulation could cause moisture condensation in a ceiling area where there was none previously.
  • Do your Tenants fail to report service issues they think aren’t important and don’t want to bother you with or themselves be bothered coordinating access for a contractor?

We all try to hire staff, train them for the skills needed for the job they are doing now, and if they show promise, for the next job they should be moving up to in the proverbial ladder of success within your company.  We all try to hire staff to do one thing:  Solve problems.

Solving problems requires critical thinking skills and verbal and written persuasion skills.  Unfortunately, young employees don’t demonstrate either skill set en masse:

A survey by PayScale Inc., an online pay and benefits researcher, showed 50% of employers complain that college graduates they hire aren’t ready for the workplace. Their No. 1 complaint? Poor critical-reasoning skills.

“At most schools in this country, students basically spend four years in college, and they don’t necessarily become better thinkers and problem solvers,” said Josipa Roksa, a University of Virginia sociology professor who co-wrote a book in 2011 about the CLA+ test. “Employers are going to hire the best they can get, and if we don’t have that, then what is at stake in the long run is our ability to compete.”

If you think you’re company has the bees-knees of the best of the best employees, well congrats, but you’re still totally screwed.

What about all those contractors you hire and their staff’s skills?  If their staff has negligible skills in critical thinking and persuasion, don’t you think it will negatively impact your company, too?  Yup, it most certainly will.

Think weakest link in the value chain here, folks.

But there is hope for improvement…if you’re serious about your success and long term survival.

Critical Thinking Skills are like muscles in the human body.  If not used, they shrink from non-use.  If stretched and used, skills can and do expand and get stronger.

Some options to consider on how to flex your muscles here:

  1. Give your staff What-If scenarios during your weekly staff meetings.  Think crazy thoughts like a tenant or landlord or even as a property manager.  Think as a devious person would think. (Hint:  If your staff is not capable of coming up with devious answers or even non-standard answers, you’ve just identified your weakest links.)
  2. Meet with your top contractors and their key staff members and ask them open ended questions on how they would handle the scenarios you created in the What-If scenarios above.  See what and how they respond to these type of questions.  (Hint:  if you get the proverbial Deer-in-the-headlights look, it might be time to find a new contractor.)
  3. Keep conducting 1 & 2 above each month.  Keep evaluating your staff and your contractors for weaknesses and help them improve, or if needed, part ways.

Should you have to do this with your people?  No.  They’re adults, at least in age.

But if you don’t engage in these activities, best of luck in your rental business, ’cause the kids coming out of college don’t have a clue for the most part.  Hope you enjoy babysitting them, because that’s where you’ll blow all your valuable time.

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