CRE Talent and Recruiting Best Practices

Almost daily, we see reports and read articles about the challenges businesses face with finding qualified employees. Nearly every industry has suffered from slim applicant pipelines since last year — and the commercial real estate sector is no different.

Many industries have turned to technology to help recruit, onboard, and train new employees, but the majority of CRE companies source new talent through traditional methods like recruiting agencies, positions posted on job boards, and professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

To find qualified candidates, CRE needs to expand and diversify its talent pool. It can do so by embracing the new tools available through the digital revolution.

CRE and the Digital Revolution

CRE has lagged in technology and digital disruption — partly due to the average age of certified commercial investment members (CCIM) (54) and of commercial realtors (60), according to the CCIM Institute. Change is hard, especially in an industry with older leadership who embrace the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.

CRE also continues to rely on existing, legacy technologies and traditional business approaches which conversely makes the industry less attractive to younger, more tech-savvy professionals.  Pre-pandemic, many CRE companies lagged far beyond other industries in:

  • Outdated job roles
  • Obsolete talent processes
  • Older cultures and environments
  • Generational diversity

Before COVID-19, 45% of CRE employees were 55+ — versus 4% of employees between 19 and 24 years old. Three out of 10 new hires in 2019 were baby boomers. For every Gen Z hire, CRE companies hired three baby boomers.

As the recruiting and talent landscape evolves, CRE professionals should take advantage of those changes and seize the opportunity to redefine its hiring processes and prepare for future workforces. CRE Companies must:

  • Redesign future skill matrices and the workforce
  • Implement strategies driving a workplace environment to attract a multigenerational workforce
  • Embrace and use the digital revolution for talent processes

Digital Disruption

The digital revolution is here to stay — it brings the power to influence markets, change economies, scale companies, and reinvent business processes worldwide. Thanks to COVID, office and work cultures changed significantly. People pivoted to remote work. Companies relied on new tools, technologies, and methods to manage operations and engage with each other — and their clients — virtually.

The CRE sector, still reliant on handshakes and in-person meetings, has an opportunity to take lessons learned from the past 18 months to make strides for a more tech-driven, sustainable future.

Deloitte Insights states, “The pandemic is expected to force a paradigm shift in the way the industry operates and how work is done. Digital transformation could play an important role as companies wrestle with liquidity and profitability and prepare for the post-crisis world. And so CRE companies should look at digital and talent transformation in tandem.”

Redefining CRE Roles and Skills

The Deloitte analysis of years 2014 – 2019 revealed that the CRE industry relies on a diverse skillset that includes more traditional skills — accounting, customer service, building maintenance, operations management. Over 500 analyzed advertisements identified these “must have” skills as top priority. 

The Deloitte Insights recommends modernizing CRE roles by focusing on accounting specialist, leasing manager, and valuation advisor roles, suggesting that incorporating automation of certain tasks would benefit the companies — but would require more tech-savvy employees. For example, the study envisions:

  • Accounting specialists of the future using digitized source documents of bills and checks, automating ledger entries, reconciliation, and compliance checks using cloud-based software.
  • Leasing managers using technology to create and maintain digital lease contracts, employing cloud-based software to manage integrated lease data, and managing automated invoicing and lease data abstraction.
  • Valuation advisors leveraging geospatial platforms to conduct virtual inspections and mobile apps to centrally store data, automating valuation reports, and providing more reliable, real-time valuation information.

Upgrading and Refining Talent Processes

CRE companies who want to scale and grow must embrace digitization, encourage diversity among their personnel, and recognize the value that younger professionals especially place on remote flexibility.

What better time than now for CRE leaders to rethink how they find talent — and define the qualifications they value in their employees. Because the world will continue to rely on digital transformation, hiring younger talent has become essential.

A range of tools exists to find well-qualified, diverse employees. For example, CRE companies can:

  • Recruit through a variety of channels — recruitment agencies, social media platforms like LinkedIn, college and community job fairs — and the “alternative” workforce like gig workers, freelancers, and contractors.
  • Celebrate and instill a culture of continuous, lifelong learning by providing upskill or reskill opportunities, especially learning and development training in digital skills. CRE companies can create opportunities for in-house learning — employee-led think tanks and other mentoring or knowledge-sharing programs. Younger employees can advise older employees less familiar and comfortable with digital tools.
  • Recognize what today’s workforce values: flexible work hours and locations, a good work-life balance, and — when appropriate — rewards and recognition programs.

Increasing Diversity

A more diverse workforce comprised of older and younger workers, men and women, benefits everyone. Studies show the most diverse companies outperform, generating higher profits than companies with less diversity. The McKinsey report recommended the following best practices to increase diversity:

  • Ensure representation of diverse talent by hiring and advancing that talent into board, executive, management, and technical roles.
  • Strengthening leadership accountability and capabilities of managers and leaders while holding everyone accountable for the progress in inclusion and diversity (I&D).
  • Championing fairness and transparency to support equality in opportunity by creating level playing fields. Companies should make available the criteria driving promotions and pay processes to ensure a fair, equitable, and unbiased approach.
  • Promoting openness and addressing microaggressions with a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, bullying, and other discriminatory behavior that could affect employee morale and mental health. Leaders should have access to the tools and support they need to address unacceptable behaviors.
  • Fostering a culture of encouragement, openness, and support so all employees feel valued, appreciated, and able to fully commit to their jobs.

An Organic Approach to Networking

While CREA United isn’t an employment agency and doesn’t offer job-placement services, it is an organization comprised of individuals and firms within the CRE space. What our members do well is network. And let’s face it, you never know where a random conversation may lead. Every interaction holds the promise of a new connection or a new relationship. And you never know when a chance remark might lead to a new opportunity.

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