Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Leaders in CRE: What Emerging Professionals Have to Say

Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Leaders in CRE: What Emerging Professionals Have to Say

Downtown Denver Skyline with new buildings

Last week at BOMA International in Salt Lake City, members of the Emerging Professionals Committee hosted a unique panel on how to attract and retain the next generation of talent. The panel was the brainchild of committee members, who had heard the topic of millennials and generation z in the workplace discussed, but rarely from the mouths of young professionals themselves.

The panel consisted of all emerging professionals, including Mason Bodie, Senior Property Manager with Stream Realty, Amanda Davis, Real Estate Manager with CBRE, Erin Dayanan, VP of Property Management with Pacific Property Group, Inc., and Theotto Lillard, Property Manager with Hubbell Realty Co. They represented diverse geographies, demographics, and experiences — bringing a variety of perspectives to the subject.

I was honored to be the moderator of the panel and thrilled by the standing-room-only crowd that came to hear what the panelists had to stay. It underscored the importance of fostering the next generation of leadership in CRE. Here are a few takeaways from the panel and the discussions amongst the panelists as we prepared for the panel. You can also check out this great write-up about the panel from Buildings Magazine.

First, Context

Millennials are poised to become half of the workforce in 2020. They’re also the least engaged generation in the workplace, with only 29 percent of millennials reporting being engaged at their jobs. Roughly 43 percent of millennials envision leaving their jobs within two years. With millions of baby boomers preparing to retire from the commercial real estate industry, this presents a tremendous issue for the industry. 

Millennials have also (fairly or unfairly) been painted with a broad brush of being entitled, impatient, and needy. This has created frustration on all sides as the generations have sought to work together.

While companies in all industries have grappled with how to evolve their workplace culture and benefits to meet the needs of millennials, the next generation, generation z, has also been coming of age. Generation z is beginning to enter the workplace now, with their own (yet to be determined) impact on the workforce. 

The panel aimed to give young professionals an opportunity to rise above the statistics and misconceptions about their generation in the workplace and give voice to members of this generation who are looking to have an impact on the industry.

Takeaway 1: Millennials Aren’t as Young as You Think They Are 

Most of the time when millennials are discussed, it’s as the new kid in the office, fresh out of college. But the truth is that most millennials aren’t recent college grads anymore. Cutoffs vary, but generally speaking millennials are between the ages of 23 and 38 right now — meaning older millennials in your office could have 15+ years of experience and very different priorities from young grads. This also means that millennials are actually a prime pool of management talent for your organization. Cultivating and retaining them will mean the difference between success and failure of your organization in the coming years as baby boomers retire. If you’re looking for a breakdown of the differences between millennials and generation z, this infographic is a great cheatsheet.

Takeaway 2: Give Them a Seat at the Table to Show You What They Can Do 

The panelists expressed the importance of senior leadership proactively giving young professionals a seat at the table, to both learn and show what they have to contribute. Young professionals are eager to get exposure to the higher levels of how organizations run, while also being given the opportunity to prove they’re ready for additional responsibility.

(Photo: Panel Left to Right: Emily Hossellman; Mason Bodie; Amanda Davis; Erin Dayanan; Theotto Lillard. Credit: Janelle Penny)


Takeaway 3: Pass Down Your Knowledge

Mentorship and learning came up throughout the panel. The panelists recognized that as senior leadership retires, there will be opportunities to move up in the organization and they want to be prepared. Since many boomers are delaying retirement, that means that there’s still time to pass down key information about buildings and roles, but everyone involved needs to be invested in that transfer. 

Currently many companies are delaying succession planning until absolutely necessary, which often means at the last second. The panelists encourage senior leaders to start thinking about succession planning and taking proactive steps to make sure knowledge is passed down to younger members of the teams.

Takeaway 4: Show You Value Them

One theme running through the panel was how crucial it is to young professionals to feel like their contribution is valued. This can be through small, thoughtful gestures, with panelists sharing about comments from their supervisors and mentors that made a lasting impact on them. It can also be institutional decisions, such as investing in benefits, increasing flexibility, and instituting career planning for team members. Finally, this can be by actively encouraging them to grow their careers via certifications and active involvement in BOMA. These acts (both big and small) show the investment you want to make in fostering their careers.

Takeaway 5: Talent is Talent, At Any Age

My personal takeaway from the panel is how talented, passionate, and thoughtful the panelists were. They’re incredibly committed to the CRE industry and want to make the biggest impact they can in a career they care about. They’re full of ideas, eager to learn, and want to be loyal to a company that’s going to invest in them. There’s no doubt in my mind that companies that recognize and harness that energy are going to be the companies that take full advantage of the changing dynamics of our industry and vault ahead.

This is only a taste of what was discussed at the panel. We hope the panel marks the beginning of a fruitful conversation in the industry about this crucial subject. If you’d like to connect with the emerging professionals committee or any members of the panel, please reach out to me on LinkedIn!

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