December 20, 2017 Maria Verdin

The New World of CRE Talent Recruitment

Recruitment to the company. Young applicants are awaiting interview. a group of young people bored waiting for job interview

Once upon a time, the only tools necessary to lure the best and brightest to a commercial real estate company were a nice commission split and/or salary, some kind of “thank-you” signing bonus, and a promise of ongoing training.

These days, however, there are plenty of articles out there focused on the changing nature of employees, in terms of demographics and what they seek in a workplace environment. The CRE industry isn’t isolated from this trend, which could explain why finding talent, especially younger talent, has become difficult.

The good news is that a carefully crafted recruitment and retention plan, one that understands the needs of younger professionals, can help boost a CRE firm’s recruitment and retention efforts.

Many Retirements, Fewer Replacements

Here’s a sobering fact. According to CRE recruiting firm Poline Associates, the average commercial real estate professional is 60 years old. Baby boomers (1946-1964) and their silent generation parents are retiring from the industry and leaving holes. Generation X – the population cohort generally tagged between 1965-1984, isn’t filling the gap, partly because there are fewer of them.

But what about that massive generation of young adults known as millennials? Let’s examine another sobering fact. The 2015 NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Compensation Survey indicated 77% of firms reported having trouble hiring young, new talent.

Here are some reasons why younger professionals might not consider commercial real estate as a viable career choice.

Young professionals might not know about the industry. Poline Associates points out that commercial real estate careers don’t make it to the top 10 of viability for post-education careers. In fact, the industry doesn’t even crack the top 40 on the career list. As a result, CRE might not be considered any kind of career choice, let alone a good one.

Young professionals have different career requirements. Though large commission splits and bonus checks are nice, millennials are gravitating more to jobs that offer work-life balance, ethical leadership and relevance.

Young professionals want more workplace freedom. The organizational paradigm is shifting from “command and control” to flexibility. As such, the younger Generation X and older millennial cohorts use more technology. They want to be entrepreneurial, with a dollop of collaboration thrown in. They want flexible work spaces.

Attracting New Hires

Given the ways real estate positions align with the above trends, savvy CRE companies might want to consider focusing on the following to boost recruitment rates.

Educate college graduates and young professionals. Many companies are reaching out to universities with real estate-oriented degrees. But the outreach doesn’t need to stop there; any college or university with a business school or degree track is a good target. The ICSC, for example, encourages universities to exhibit at its local, retail and national conferences, and also encourages, and rewards, college students for solving and presenting case studies.

Consider internships. Real estate internships can provide very good industry insight, while giving the company a potential employee. There is more, however, to an internship program than hiring a bunch of college students or graduates and making them cold call all day. Programs such as CBRE’s Internship Program offer hands-on experience and mentorship, which, in turn, provides a great overview about the CRE industry.

Offer non-financial work perks. That commission split might not be effective, but non-financial compensation could work. Optional training above and beyond the standard real estate course could be a good lure. So can gift cards, trips to entertainment locales, an in-office margarita machine and concert tickets.

Host specialized events. Industry socials and workshops with expert speakers can appeal to younger professionals, depending on the topic. This could help spur interest in both the real estate industry, and the company sponsoring the event.

Focus on intangibles. It’s worth repeating: Paychecks don’t necessarily attract young talent. Corporate culture, work/life balance and volunteer opportunities might.

Whatever the recruitment strategy, it’s important to understand the target audience. Recruiting talent in this day and age requires knowing what young professionals want, and then positioning a company to meet those wants.