The commercial real estate industry is aging. Couple this with the fact that very few young people went into the business during the years 2008-2013 and you can do the math. We need to replenish the pipeline of talent and we need to do it quickly.
As an industry, we can no longer recruit through closed networks and business as usual. Recognizing this challenge, we surveyed more than 325 Millennials to find out what we can do to attract young talent and prevent a brain drain in the next two to five years. Fortunately, our goal of diversifying the industry aligns very neatly with Millennial demographics. But the industry does not currently meet many of the Millennials’ expectations. Below are a couple of recommendations excerpted from our report on the subject.
Only 27 percent of our SVN CRE Career Survey (SVN survey) respondents found a commission-only job appealing. While much of this was due to personal interests or perceived lack of skills, at least 29 percent listed student loans as an obstacle. To recruit the best and the brightest of this smaller subset of the population, firms will have to open up their networks to include women and people of color. In addition, Millennials want to join companies where there is a clear path for advancement and mentorship. If they don’t see reflections of themselves further up the management ladder, it’s a clear signal that a firm has a closed network when it comes to those opportunities.
It’s not enough to say you collaborate; your firm needs to actually do it to retain young talent. In the SVN survey 82 percent of Millennials ranked a collaborative environment as their most important cultural factor, followed by entrepreneurialism, diversity and conscious capitalism. They are seeking careers at companies that grow through common goals and open problem-solving. They want to be where innovation and risk-taking are rewarded. They don’t want to work for a company where executives sit on a different floor, or where the marketing and research departments do things a certain way simply because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” They want cloud-based, collaborative technology and they want it now.
The most surprising finding in the study was that young men wanted flexible hours and work locations as much as, or even more than, the female respondents. This means that flexibility is not a women’, or even a parental issue; it’s everyone’s issue. Flexibility does not mean working less than a full day; it means working whenever and wherever is most efficient. This is something that can be enabled through the right technology and encouraged by managers who measure results, not just face time.
In the SVN survey, more than 75 percent of men and women put high earnings potential and training programs as their most important factors when choosing employers. Additionally, nearly an equal number (74 percent) cited that they would consider whether an employer practices conscious capitalism when deciding where to work. Conscious capitalism is when businesses serve the interests of all stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, communities, suppliers and the environment. Millennials are challenging all companies to have a purpose beyond monetary profit. This is a challenge we can and need to address, especially as commercial real estate has such strong ties to the health of our communities.
With the big banks and large conglomerates falling under scrutiny, commercial real estate has a unique opportunity to recruit top talent. But to do so we need to open up our networks, collaborate and market the entrepreneurial aspects of our business to potential candidates.
Shortly before we published this study, I went up to my alma mater, Colgate University, to serve on career panels promoting commercial real estate to students. During my two days on campus I watched our survey results come to life. While we didn’t have the most students attend our panels, there were more than in previous years, and there was more diversity among the students. We were asked about training, what a typical day is like, career paths within the industry and, yes, we even fielded a question about conscious capitalism.
The compete SVN CRE Career Survey can be found here: http://info.svn.com/generation-y-and-millennial-career-report.
Diane Danielson is the COO of Sperry Van Ness International Corp. (SVNIC), the commercial real estate franchisor for SVN and the author of the 2016 SVN CRE Career Survey.
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