All organizations in Canada’s multi-faceted real estate industry, from property management to construction to investing, are feeling economic pressure going into 2023. A recurring area of concern we see among business owners and executives in real estate is how to attract, retain, and engage the next generation of talent.
The real estate talent pipeline
Many in the industry have already realized traditional methods and practices for securing top talent won’t work in the future. Given the current labour shortages in Canadian real estate and construction, that future may be closer than we think.
You should now expect, and even pursue, applicants with more varied backgrounds, ideas, expectations of what a real estate career could (and should) look like. Especially among young people, what we think of as conventional and linear career paths are much less common. And they’re looking beyond real estate agencies and construction companies — institutional investors, property management firms, pension funds, and others are becoming attractive destinations in real estate.
The reason we’re seeing more people drawn to innovative career paths in real estate is two-fold: The aggregation of Class A real estate assets, and the growing sophistication of large property managers and investors.
These types of careers are not new, but historically, not enough young people even knew they existed. Even today, too many young people immediately associate “real estate” with the physical property side, not knowing enough about the growing importance of intellectual property and financial modeling in real estate. Raising awareness about diverse and non-conventional careers in real estate is still a challenge, but this trend is gradually changing for the better.
We’re seeing more and more real estate companies building a presence inside leading business schools and commerce programs — raising awareness and recruiting the next generation of star talent. Some business schools even have courses and academic streams dedicated solely to real estate. Fields like risk modeling, finance, technology and data, and marketing will attract people who normally wouldn’t have this industry top-of-mind.
Those who focus their recruitment and retention efforts on a diverse set of rising stars will improve their odds of a smooth succession process. Owners and industry leaders preparing for retirement should prioritize sustainability, thought leadership, and business acumen when backfilling roles.
What the next generation of leaders expects
Meaningful and challenging work
The pandemic spurred a trend colloquially known as The Great Resignation — people re-evaluating their priorities and expectations for their work life en masse. While the pandemic caused some in the real estate industry to retire earlier than planned or leave the industry permanently, “resignation” is somewhat of a misnomer. Most people caught up in this trend merely changed jobs or pursued self-employment.
Underpinning most of this workforce turnover was people seeking more meaning and connection with work. Real estate leaders and managers can create this sense of purpose in the following ways:
· Talk about impact: Your employees want to know the positive impact their work is having, not just on their organization’s bottom line, but on society in general. For example, show them how their work is helping people, even in small ways, gain housing security or create a more level playing field in real estate.
· Learn about your team: Find out what facets of the job each team member enjoys doing, and give them more opportunities to do it. Leaders must now work against the forces that caused many people to become less engaged at the heights of COVID.
· Invest in technology: To whatever degree possible, automate routine and repetitive tasks that your employees find burdensome, using robotic process automation (RPA) or other tools. This type of digital transformation is designed to free up more of your team’s time, and by extension, pay dividends in employee engagement and retention.
Diverse and inclusive workplaces
The aforementioned struggle to build awareness about exciting and challenging career paths in real estate is often paired with another separate, but related, recruitment challenge: Building awareness on organizations’ values surrounding equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). The good news is that trend is also beginning to change for the better — many companies have made strides to improve workplace culture and key EDI metrics.
The next generation of talent will expect their workplace to be more reflective of the communities where they do business. If a rising star at your organization is the only one at the table of a certain racial or gender identity, they may be uncomfortable but also hesitant to raise the issue directly.
Always be mindful of those dynamics that may not be visible on the surface. Workplaces that foster accessibility and psychological safety for people of all races, genders, and walks of life, will likely be the most successful at bucking the trend of labour shortages.
Look towards the future
Finding and retaining the next generation of talent won’t always be easy, which is why investing in their development has become all the more crucial. Helping young people see the exciting career opportunities in real estate, and creating an inclusive and dynamic workplace, are the best places to start.