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Finding Skilled People Is Property Management’s Number One Challenge

January 04, 2019 | Nancye J. Kirk

The number one challenge facing property management companies today is recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce. This was confirmed by a polling of industry leaders last month during the IREM Global Summit. When asked, “what is the single most important problem facing the property management business today?” a whopping 78 percent put “finding enough skilled people” at the top of the list, far outpacing the three other options given: “keeping up with technology” at 16 percent, “changing tenant and resident expectations” at 14 percent, and “energy, the environment, sustainability” at 5 percent.

Property management companies are not alone in their quest to find and keep a skilled workforce. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported in August that a record 25 percent of small business owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their single most important business problem. What’s more, 38 percent of all owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill in the current period—the highest in the 45 years that the NFIB survey has been conducted. With a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, the competition for skilled workers at all levels and in all industries gets more intense.

Chip Watts, CPM, CCIM, who is a fourth-generation president of Watts Realty Co., Inc., AMO, in Birmingham, Ala., agrees. Speaking to the Journal of Property Management (JPM), Watts had this to say: “Workforce training is our biggest issue, especially as it relates to bringing new people into our industry. The compression of time for a property manager is critical. You’re always trying to get so many things done in the shortest time possible. Technology can help, but there’s a lot of pressure in this need-it-now society we serve. That’s the long-term issue. How do we address those needs in a compressed time, especially if we don’t have a suitable number of trained people to help in our industry?”

The U.S. Labor Department Employment of property, real estate, and community association managers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is a growth rate faster than the average for all occupations, which stands at 7 percent. This, coupled with the retirement of the baby boomers, suggests that the talent war will only get hotter.

And this is not just a U.S. issue. The unemployment rate in Japan, a market where IREM is growing rapidly, stands at 2.3 percent. Speaking from Canada, Cheryl Gray, CPM, executive vice president with QuadReal Property Group in Toronto, told JPM, “Aging demographics are impacting nearly every industry, but in property management, it’s significant. IREM has its biggest opportunity in engaging the next generation and helping young people develop their skills.”

So what can you do? A few suggestions:

  • Make recruitment an ongoing process, not something that occurs only when a position is open. The ability to hire the best and the brightest is problematic when the recruiting and hiring process only takes place when there’s an opening to be filled.
  • Make sure new hires get off to a solid, positive start. As noted in the Sep/Oct issue of JPM, onboarding “helps make employees feel they have said yes to the right company for them. And it guards against the possibility that new hires won’t settle in properly and wind up quitting after just a few months.”
  • Build from within. Make succession planning a priority—not only for executive-level positions but across the board. Offer current team members plenty of opportunities to learn new skills. Coach and mentor them to take on more responsibilities in line with projected business goals.

About the Author
Nancye J. Kirk, in her role as IREM’s chief strategy officer, supports real estate management businesses in the U.S. and throughout the world, helping them address the big issues with which they are wrestling—issues related to business strategy and growth, talent management, and best practices.

 

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