Getting and Keeping Young Talent

Young property managers and executives offer insights at IREM's fall conference in Scottsdale.

IMG_0300As is the case throughout the commercial real estate industry, finding talented young professionals and then keeping them is a high priority for property management. A panel discussion at the Institute of Real Estate Management’s fall conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week sought to identify what the coveted members of the Millennial generation want, how to hire them and how to keep them.

“This Millennial population is looking for organizations that have a purpose,” noted Mark Stapp, the panel’s moderator and executive director of the master of real estate program at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of business. Another characteristic of those in their twenties and early thirties is that they thrive on mentoring but dislike hierarchy.

Va’Shajn Parr, who recently joined Capital Growth Properties Inc. as an assistant property manager in La Jolla, Calif. , offered insights into mentoring strategies. “Share your stories with young professionals,” he said. “It’s really about relationships. Be open—talk about how you got where you are.”

Another new entrant to the property management profession emphasized the desire of young colleagues to tackle significant responsibility as a key to winning their loyalty. “If you hire a leasing agent, let them lease,” asserted Robby Waldrop, who joined Sealy Management as a property manager in Northport, Ala., only two months ago. “If you hire a property manager, let him or her do something. Let him or her make a budget . . . If you’re top talent, you love to be challenged.”

Parr and Waldrop encouraged their contemporaries to be open about their goals. “You really do want to express what your aspirations are,” Parr explained. Mentors are apt to foster connections with experienced professionals who can offer resources. The senior managers endorsed the idea of discussing career goals with their younger colleagues, while adding a caveat. “I will mentor/train/teach individuals into that role, whatever that is,” vowed Kacey Morris, director of property management for Prologis Inc.’s metropolitan Atlanta portfolio. That said, however, “I still need that position filled.”

In light of the competition for young property managers and other capable recruits, Alliance Residential Co., a multi-family investment and management firm, introduced an online applicant tracking tool designed to connect applicants with the appropriate property manager, reported Tina Mortera, the company’s Phoenix-based senior vice president of performance. In addition, she said, “We recently introduced an on-boarding program so we don’t lose people between the offer and the start date.”

One panelist cautioned that some tools have their limits in sizing up job candidates. Before joining Capital Growth, Parr had a lead on a property management position. Several strong interviews seemed to give him the inside track. But a standardized personality test turned out to be an unexpected hurdle. The results somehow persuaded the prospective employer that he would not be a good fit for the company after all. Parr’s recommendation: “Be transparent in terms of your personality tests so your not automatically writing (candidates) off.”

When it comes to retaining young professionals, recognition may be the most effective tool of all.. Alliance Residential Co., a multi-family and investment company, evaluating performance has become more subjective in recent years, explained  the company’s senior vice president of performance. “If you get the results, you’re going to be recognized,” she noted.

Morris concurred with the value of recognition. Pats on the back—in the form of face-to-face communication or an email—provide valuable motivation. Supervisors should also know when to ease up on the gas pedal when a mistake is made or an encounter with a difficult client leaves a young professional unusually discouraged.