Millennials today consist of 82 million people in the United States population as opposed to 77 million Baby Boomers. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the majority of our Baby Boomer population will be retiring in the next 5 years. Baby boomers working in the real estate industry are no exception and many are anxious about transition planning. The solution is to be better at recruiting and retaining talent.
The Millennials Talent Challenge
The industry faces some steep challenges, the first being that the methods for engaging the young population requires an overhaul. If you ask millennials where they want to work, start-ups, non-profits and tech savvy firms are often the first mentioned. Commercial real estate has no image, no appeal, no glamour, and is usually not a priority field at most major universities. Most millennials simply don’t know much about commercial real estate.
The commercial real estate industry hasn’t done the best job creating awareness that the industry exists or how many great career paths there are. Most young professionals don’t have the slightest idea what a facility manager or asset manager does or that such jobs are even an option. They may know what a Realtor is or a large developer but there is so much more. For every high rise building in the world, there is a “mayor of that city” and all of the people who support him or her. We need to find a way to spread the word and pull our young talent into this field. If we can peak their interests in opportunities other than the tech jobs, they may actually have a better chance of getting hired and finding careers that will not only have longevity, but also high satisfaction.
Rethinking real estate : new generation, new aspirations
Even if young people do know about commercial real estate as a career path it is not always seen as sexy. The sought after positions are the development jobs and those working for the commission based brokerage houses doing large lease or investment deals.
A challenge with our recruiting efforts is the fact that millennials want to be a part of their community and surroundings. They want to be around vibrant and diverse individuals who have an opportunity to be creative and be of service. They tend to value freedom and work life balance and are more focused on purpose than on their paycheck. They also care about sustainability and CSR. Large companies may write big checks to a foundation or cause at the end of the year but there tends to be little hands on philanthropy. Herein lies one of our challenges. Currently the commercial real estate industry doesn’t really offer such entry careers, at least across the board. Most real estate professionals don’t have much flexibility. There is a lack of diversity as we look across the room at many conferences and meetings. This isn’t what the next generation wants. They need autonomy and independence to make real contributions. They need to be able to let their creativity flow and share ideas with a diverse peer group, aiding in the collaboration process. This is where the best ideas and innovations are created.
One way to fill the void with the aging workforce is to start the outreach to students much earlier in order to create awareness at the undergraduate level. Engaging some students in trade association meetings, providing free registration and student memberships, both for local and national meetings is a good first step in creating this awareness. Visiting real estate professors and volunteering to speak to student groups will increase visibility and interest. Providing mentorships and facilitating internship positions will enable and entice students to the profession. Being proactive and catching the students before they graduate or go onto masters programs is essential.
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If companies want to attract millennials they are going to have to present themselves as people oriented, innovative, sustainable and caring. They must market themselves as successful without seeming greedy and they must start early.
Liz Henderson is currently studying at the University of San Diego and is an official curator and blogger for MIPIMWorld.
Top image via Thampapon