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Red hot market: How demand for top talent is outstripping supply in the property sphere

  • Written by Peter Rose, Chief Revenue Officer of Forbury

Finding experienced people to fill vacant roles is shaping up to be one of the sector’s biggest challenges in 2022, observes Peter Rose, Chief Revenue Officer, Forbury

Are you as surprised as I am that, two years in to a global pandemic which promised to mire our industry in recession for years, well credentialled property personnel are now commanding salaries significantly higher than those they enjoyed in pre-Covid times?

It’s a real turn-up for the books, given salary cuts and redundancies were the order of the day, back in early 2020. At that time, owners and investors were grappling with the myriad of uncertainties created by the crisis and bunkering down in preparation for tough times ahead.

That’s no longer the case, in Australia and further afield. Right now, seasoned individuals who’ve worked in the acquisition, management and development spaces are hot property, if you’ll forgive the pun. The sums they’re commanding for their services bear this out, with many asking for, and receiving, hefty hikes in remuneration, when applying for new roles.

Late 2021 saw New Zealanders with a modicum of decent experience in property and proptech being lured across the ditch by salary increases of between 50 and 80 per cent.

Over here in the UK, where I’ve decamped temporarily to build Forbury’s UK team and presence, it’s a similar story. Industry contacts have shared horror stories with me, of talent searches taking months and turning up no one of suitable calibre. Businesses that hope to hire someone by mid-year are advised to embark on the recruitment process now, cross their fingers they’ve not left it too late – and have their chequebooks at the ready.

Where have all the property people gone?

So, is what looks like a serious shortfall of bodies the result of more job openings, fewer candidates pursuing those openings, or a mixture of both? I suspect it’s the last. The Great Resignation of 2021 took a percentage of potential candidates out of the pool, although some have since returned, helping to push workforce participation figures back into pre-pandemic territory in Australia and New Zealand. And, given the preponderance of baby boomers working in the sector – here in the UK, the average age for a property valuer is a ripe old 58! – it’s possible some old stagers have decided it’s a good time to hang up their hats.

The fast growing prop-tech sector has also become a contender for talent, with companies like ours looking to secure the services of property professionals whose deep knowledge of the sector we can harness to augment and optimise our high tech platforms and products.

Building a talent pipeline

Bottom line: our industry has a staffing problem that needs a long term solution and perhaps it’s time businesses with skin in the game start to work together to develop one.

Some ways we can help to develop a talent pipeline include introducing programs to nurture graduates and young professionals, and fostering vibrant, healthy workplace cultures that make it attractive for them to pursue long term careers in the sector. The property industry enjoys a well-earned reputation for being conservative – the unkind may call it hidebound! – and loath to innovate or deviate from the status quo. Given the seven and eight figure sums typically at stake in industrial and commercial deals, that’s hardly surprising but it can reduce the sector’s appeal to bright young things looking for the opportunity to do things differently and make their mark.

Making people a priority in 2022

While the property sector deals in assets of eye-watering value, a stable workforce of high performing professionals can be just as valuable as a portfolio of blue chip properties. With top talent currently at a premium, businesses across the sector will have to work harder than ever to acquire, nurture and retain the talent they need to drive profits and growth.

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