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Industry Leaders Focus on Finding, Keeping Talent

With talent management being a number one priority for much of corporate America, executives of three of the country’s largest real estate companies agree that recruiting talented people and keeping them in the company comes down to company culture and treating people with respect. This was a key message they delivered on October 21 during the industry leaders panel discussion at the IREM Fall Conference in San Diego, CA

Industry Leaders Marla Maloney, CPM, of St. Louis, MO, president of asset services, Americas, at Cushman & Wakefield, AMO, reinforced the idea that culture is everything in noting that “people leave bosses, not companies.”

It comes down to knowing that someone believes in you, said Tony Long, of Dallas, TX, global director of client care at CBRE, AMO. “We all have pressure on us to perform,” he said, adding that, “How many of us perform so much better  when we know the person we’re working for, the client we are working for, really believes in us.”

The same holds true at Pinnacle, AMO, where it’s all about culture, said Rick Graf, CPM, of Addison, TX, Pinnacle’s president and CEO. According to Graf, Pinnacle’s culture is captured in three basic principles:  First, be nice to people. Second, do the right thing. And third, be humble. “We understand our roles as property managers in the larger spectrum of the real estate investment cycle and to be humble in the role we play” and with regard to the success of the organization.

Industry Leaders Serving as moderator and fielding questions to the panelists was Jana Turner, CPM, of Newport Beach, CA, principal and partner at RETS Associates, a real estate search firm. Observing that the three speakers all represented very large companies, she asked them to offer some advice to executives at smaller companies for recruiting top talent.

Graf said the concept is the same whether you are with a large firm or a small firm. The same set of skills are sought, he said. You want the very best. As part of the leadership team, he said, “You have to sell the dream. You have to believe in the company and sell it.” He went on to point out that being with a large company presents its own set of challenges. Of special note, delivering the same message throughout a large portfolio can be difficult, he said.

Citing the hiring practice in place at Southwest Airlines – “hiring for attitude and training for skill” - Long said that as a very large company, CBRE essentially is four or five companies, each with its own culture. From this perspective, smaller firms have a big advantage. “You can affect your culture very quickly,” he said, “You can be very nimble.” That’s one of the difficulties in being a big company, he noted, it takes a long time to set in – but is well worth it for those that get it right.

Asked by Turner to comment on the most important skill sets for a successful real estate career, Cushman & Wakefield’s Maloney reinforced the idea that property managers create value and this means having a sense of urgency and understanding that “we are in the service business” and that no one can do this alone – that “it takes a team.”

Industry Leaders Noting that millennials are looking for a company with a social conscience, she described how Cushman & Wakefield’s hiring process has changed in recent years, particularly influenced by younger entrants into the workforce. In the past, interviews were confined to the conference room.  Now, she said, when we bring someone through we start in the conference room, but we then go on a tour, see open collaborative workspaces and how people work. Reminding the audience that “People spend a lot of time at work,” she stressed the importance of establishing connections.

On the multifamily side, said Pinnacle’s Graf, there is constant interaction with residents. He pointed out that Pinnacle interacts with half a million people every day in a personal place – their homes – and in a personal way. This kind of interaction means that those who work for Pinnacle really have to have the heart to help people in a very personal way and truly want to be of service, to help people. 

Flexibility also is becoming more important in the workplace – not only among millennials, but also among baby boomers whose responsibilities often involve caring for older parents. For all ages, today’s workers want flexibility in their work schedules, flexibility in their work environment, the ability to work from home. When asked by Turner if it is true that flexibility is becoming more of a priority than compensation, all the panelists agreed.

Looking into the future, CBRE’s Long suggested that engineering work processes is a skill that all real estate practitioners are going to have to learn. This includes optimizing the processes that clients go through – from the acquisition through the disposition and everything in between – with attention to improving and supporting the overall customer experience.

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