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Position: filled

Creative strategies for finding new talent

By Journal of Property Management

The peak of the COVID-19 pandemic may be behind us, but the effects of the Great Resignation and subsequent staffing shortages are still seen today. Whether stemming from retirements, demand for higher pay and benefits, or desire for flexible working options, 1.47 million fewer workers are participating in the workforce compared to February 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. But even if every one of these workers reentered the workforce, the U.S. would still have about 3 million open jobs.

The shortages have affected nearly every industry, with the leisure and hospitality industry taking some of the biggest hits. Real estate management is also feeling the impact. A 2023 survey from Parks Associates and GE Appliances found that almost half of multifamily owners and real estate managers find it either difficult or very difficult to hire new maintenance staff, and 45% find it either difficult or very difficult to retain workers once they’re hired.

Despite these challenges, industry leaders are finding plenty of ways to find talent amid the staffing shortage.

From handing your business card to an attentive Starbucks barista, to visiting your local military recruitment office, to creating a robust 12-week internship program, seasoned real estate managers shared with us the ways they’re keeping their positions filled.

Enticing offers

To appeal to potential employees—and retain current ones—companies are enhancing their benefits packages and offering higher salaries when possible. Greystar, AMO®, has increased pay for maintenance workers and expanded their potential benefits, including extra days off and six-week sabbaticals for eligible employees.

Rosalinda Bridges, CPM®

“Along with wanting to attract employees, we want to promote a healthy work-life balance,” says Rosalinda Bridges, CPM®, director of real estate at Greystar. “We want our employees to feel at the top of their game when they come to work, so we want to make sure that we give them the time off to get refreshed and rejuvenated.”

Especially with the increased costs of living, discounts on multifamily rental units can be an incentive for managers in those communities. “We now offer 40% off rent. That’s a major benefit,” Bridges says.

The RMR Group team has also refined their benefits to gain distinction. Along with competitive pay, they offer expanded eligibility for stock grants, an enhanced well-being platform, tuition reimbursement, and a flexible working policy with two allowed remote days per week. And because current employees can be the best recruiters, The RMR Group brings in new candidates by extending hiring incentives.

Diane Proctor

“We incentivize our people to help identify talent by offering a $15,000 bonus for employees who refer a candidate for a full-time, regular position whom we then hire,” says Diane Proctor, vice president, human resources with The RMR Group. “Approximately 20% of our hires are employee referrals.”

And just how real estate managers must identify the amenities their clients are looking for, many management companies keep a pulse on desirable job perks in the industry, consistently gauging current employees through surveys and polls.

“We have conducted an employee engagement survey managed by a third party that includes prompts related to employees’ satisfaction with pay and benefits,” says Proctor, who adds that they also seek feedback when interviewing their job candidates and by getting insights from recruiters.

Greystar also polls their employees about the benefits most important to them—the impetus for the sabbaticals came from the survey results. “We want to be competitive and cutting edge,” Bridges says.

Reaching the next gen

Recruiting college students or those who’ve recently graduated is the perfect way to fill entry-level roles and bring potential employees directly into the doors of management companies. Unlike expensive benefits packages and other tactics, internships can be an advantageous option for lower-budget, smaller, or newly started management companies, as well as established firms. Local high schools, community colleges, or universities with real estate programs are the ideal places to promote these learning opportunities.

Sarrah Stutzman

“We believe once someone gets their foot in the door at CBRE, AMO®, the potential to build a career here is limitless,” says Sarrah Stutzman, vice president of people at CBRE. “We have several team members who started as interns and went on to spend their entire careers with CBRE, progressing through many roles within property management and the organization.”

Greystar’s 12-week summer internship programs get interns involved in every aspect of real estate management. “Throughout the summer, they work at one property, and they spend time working with leasing, maintenance, and management, so they get to see everything that goes on,” Bridges says. “They are always working with someone else, so they aren’t overwhelmed.”

Internships and mentorship programs also help students realize the career potential in real estate management, and these candidates help shape the industry’s future. Expanding the number of employees from groups underrepresented in real estate management is a goal for many management companies, and hiring students or student interns is a great place to start. For example, CBRE, Greystar, and The RMR Group all partner with Project Destined, an experiential real estate-focused learning program serving students from backgrounds underrepresented in commercial real estate (CRE).

Companies can also recruit and promote their internship programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other institutions. RMR has provided sponsorship of the Real Estate Institute at Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta.

“Collectively, these approaches help create a pipeline of talent for RMR. For example, our 10-week Accelerated Analyst Summer Internship Program is a conduit for long-term roles, providing candidates with hands-on experience and exposure to CRE,” Proctor says. “Two program graduates are now working in permanent positions at RMR following their internships.”

During RMR’s 10-week program, RMR employees mentor college students in technical, financial, and leadership skills to prepare them for a live pitch competition judged by senior leaders from participating organizations. RMR has mentored student cohorts in Boston, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.

Real estate managers also agree that engineers and maintenance workers are valued and challenging to find in the current market. To solve this issue, RMR launched a successful and expanding Engineering Development Program in 2019 to train candidates in all aspects of their engineering responsibilities.

Greystar has a similar program for its maintenance workers. “On-the-job training is a beneficial offering. We’ve created a lift-off program for our maintenance team that pairs them with mentors so they can learn hands-on,” Bridges says. “They know from Day One what the job will be like.”

Bridges says Greystar also frequently attends hiring events at trade schools to reach their potential workers.

Looking outside real estate

Bridges says she always has an eye out for great talent—and it can be found anywhere.

“I focus on customer service,” she says. “We’re hiring for attitude and that inner drive, just going above and beyond for the customer.”

When Bridges sees someone displaying those attributes, she’s not shy to hand them her card and start telling them about the opportunities in real estate management.

She offers some advice for anyone looking to fill those open positions. “I would keep your eyes open and look at places you might not have thought of before, like a coffee shop, shoe store, or pharmacy. Hospital workers are also very customer-focused,” she says. “I talk to people all the time and tell them about property management. Many people don’t realize what a successful career they can have in this industry. As long as they have the right attitude, the skills can be taught.”

Stutzman agrees that customer service is a necessary trait to look for. “Many hotels and premier retail brands provide extensive customer service training for their teams,” she says. “That translates very well to providing world-class experiences for tenants in the buildings we manage.”

Recruiting military veterans

Another source of qualified candidates is the military. Many management companies focus efforts on reaching military veterans by contacting local agencies or recruiting firms, such as Hiring Our Heroes or RecruitMilitary.

“Veteran candidates often possess technical skills needed for engineering-oriented roles, and leadership skills learned in the armed forces translate very well to our business and positively impact our teams and operations,” Stutzman says. “For example, there are times when a property’s building managers must make decisions quickly, sometimes under pressure, in stressful circumstances. Military training provides a strong foundation for that.”

David Webb, CPM®

RMR employs 23 military veterans across several departments and locations and works to connect them, recognize their contributions, and attract new veteran talent, says David Webb, CPM®, director at RMR, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“We thank and recognize our veterans annually on Veterans Day, providing them with a gift specific to our Veteran Team,” Webb says. “As a result of such initiatives, RMR has been designated as a Military Friendly® Employer by VIQTORY, a veteran-owned small business, for 2024.”

Closing with culture

Regardless of where prospective employees come from, company culture is typically a strong selling point—and one that leads to long-term retention and satisfaction, says Stutzman.

“We’ve focused on defining and communicating our employee value proposition, which often differs by role and skill, to the marketplace,” Stutzman says. “As you can imagine, what matters to a building engineer differs from what matters to a concierge. We work to ensure our firm is the place people want to work: the employer of choice for all the types of talent necessary to provide excellent customer service.”

Journal of Property Management

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