March 7, 2023
The commercial real estate talent crunch—and what industry professionals can do about it
According to Bisnow.com between 60-70 percent of all commercial real estate firms were facing a talent shortage or labor challenge in 2021. The picture has not gotten any more favorable in 2022, as ongoing staffing challenges in a tight labor market remain high on the list of headaches for many commercial real estate companies.
Farbman Group is hardly alone in concluding that business-as-usual was not going to be enough to compensate for the historic disruption of the pandemic, and the larger structural forces contributing to the industry’s staffing difficulties. There is a clear industry-wide need to rethink how we attract, recruit, and retain new talent in a post-pandemic world. We need innovative tactics, new ideas, and a bold approach to recruiting and retention that starts early and continues throughout the arc of an employee’s career.
These are a few of the most effective tools and tactics that our team has developed to attract and retain new hires and inspire them to pursue commercial real estate as a career:
Beat the bushes
Leave no stone unturned when it comes to getting the word out to potential candidates. In a tough hiring landscape, volume can help make up for scarcity. Possible options include everything from posting job opportunities on all available hiring platforms to paying recruiters. Share hiring messaging through LinkedIn and other social media channels. Reach out to colleagues in the industry to ask for references or leads. Sometimes the direct approach works, especially if you have a good referral program that compensates employees who help find good people.
Jump into the pools
Fishing in nontraditional talent pools is a great way to land a keeper. We have had some notable successes finding people making career changes or moving from one real estate sector to another. Multifamily or residential real estate experience may not translate directly to retail, but there are quite a few skills that do carry over.
One of the things we are most excited about is a new partnership with Detroit Cristo Rey High School. Under the program, local high school students will get the opportunity to get time off from school during the week to spend time with us in a paid internship position. For the first time in a long time, we are seeing growing numbers of younger people coming into the industry, and the more opportunities you can create to introduce those young people to the commercial real estate business, the better.
We take our internship program very seriously. However, we also understand that we need to be flexible and accommodating so that both interns and the company can get the most value out of the program. Consider letting summer interns continue to contribute remotely or in a reduced capacity to continue the relationship when they start school. Allowing interns scheduling and structural flexibility helps maintain those connections and transition high school and college students in training to full time employees: an approach that has recently given us our best recruiting class ever.
Make sure your internship program and your support for new hires includes elements of mentorship and connectivity. Making new or prospective employees feel like they are truly part of the team through planned social events, one-on-one sessions, and time with senior leadership is a great way to spark excitement and strengthen bonds. Consider implementing cross-generational peer support programs that pair younger employees with experienced professionals to encourage knowledge sharing, and social and professional support.
Say thank you
Meaningful employee recognition pays dividends. Recognizing great effort and great work with both tangible rewards and public recognition keeps morale high and makes employees feel seen and valued. Make sure that recognition extends across the company, from the C-Suite to entry level team members and support staff.
To boost hiring and retention, it’s critical that you not only upgrade your recruiting and hiring practices, but that you encourage a true culture of positivity and connectivity. A supportive and social environment fosters the kind of connections and relationships that carry real weight when employees make professional decisions. Get creative and mix things up with meals and entertainment that gives your team lots of regular opportunities to engage outside of the workplace.
The confluence of a pandemic and a lean labor market may have led to historic hiring and retention challenges, but it’s also created a real opportunity for commercial real estate firms to dramatically boost their culture and their talent pipeline. The more that companies can be creative and consistent—and unafraid to think outside the box and commit to big changes—the better the outcome for the whole industry. Collectively, we can get more young people excited about the business and about the professional opportunities that await them in the world of commercial real estate.
Andy Gutman is President of Southfield, Michigan-based Farbman Group, a full service commercial real estate firm with operations across the Midwest. He can be reached directly at email@example.com.
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