It’s one thing to know you need different skills on your team to succeed in a changing marketplace. It’s another thing to do something about it. It’s no secret that commercial real estate (CRE) organizations are struggling to fill the skillset gaps on their teams. For example, recruiting new talent is a key initiative in the new strategic plan for BOMA International, the largest organization for CRE operations professionals.  

While CRE is not unique in needing to adapt, there are a couple of contributing factors that make this a particularly thorny predicament in our industry. First, the generation that is beginning to retire is taking with it the kind of indispensable institutional knowledge they have accumulated over many years of managing buildings and the complex systems that run them Second, under the influence of the coworking model, tenant expectations for the workplace have changed dramatically, pressuring building owners and managers to change the way they think about the product they deliver 

There is a third related notion about CRE that also makes it difficult for the industry to fill talent gaps: The CRE industry is perceived to be a technology laggard, making it less appealing to the new crop of professionals entering the workforce. 

The good news is that this perception is less and less reflective of reality. In fact, CRE is in the midst of a thrilling tech evolution. The challenge for the industry now is primarily about selling the story of the exciting changes sweeping the industry to prospective new hires. There’s no doubt that we’re going to have to do better at getting the word out. According to a recent report by Deloitte79% of CRE investors said that CRE companies are not doing enough to attract next-generation talent into the workforce. To close the talent gap, we’re going to need to do better. 

How, then, should CRE organizations communicate the awesome opportunities our industry offers to the talented people who are currently working outside the industry or just beginning their careers? Here are a few suggestions 

  • Be more visible by being present and participating in career fairs at high schools, trade schools, and colleges. One barrier to engaging new talent is simply lack of awareness. The earlier young adults are aware of CRE as a viable career path, the better. 
  • Cultivate a larger social media presence, and that includes communicating about job opportunities. We know everyone iglued to a screen these days, especially social media. Thus, we need to meet them where they are, on the channels they view every day. You’ll do much better on, say, LinkedIn than on Monster or craigslist. 
  • Take a critical look at your hiring qualifications. Does a candidate really need a bachelor’s degree to do the work you need? Are 5 years of industry experience really necessary? If not, you may be deterring high-quality candidates with a couple of throw-away lines in your job description. 
  • Diversify who you are targeting. Try branching out to talent pools that may be different from the ones your current staff swim in. Many skills are more transferrable across industries than you may think.  
  • Market your organization as an innovative company. High performers are drawn to the excitement, innovation, and culture found in many startup tech companies. Although many CRE firms aren’t tech startups, there are similarities: Fast paced, team environment, and the chance to progress quickly. Take advantage of that in telling your company’s story. 

There is a huge opportunity for an exciting, rewarding career in the CRE industry for talented young professionals, but they can’t capitalize on it if they don’t know about it. To attract the skills CRE is going to need, we need to revamp our collective approach to hiring. Incorporating a few of the suggestions above will help you fill the gaps on your team and get you set for success in the industry’s new era.

In a recent study, “Impacts of Generational Shifts on the CRE Workplace,” we asked CRE professionals to identify the top skills that CRE teams must have for success today. Learn what they determined are the most critical skills for CRE teams today.

Read the Report