The Great Talent Hunt

Written by Holtby Turner

Finding, hiring and holding onto truly great individuals, is in the top three of every CEO’s priority list in real estate and construction. As Brexit make matters even tougher, leaders must find novel ways to think about future talents and most importantly, how to capture their value.

We all understand the importance of developing talent, with many real estate heavyweights dedicating pots of money to talent management. Still, an astonishing number still struggle to fill both key and developing positions, severely limiting their organisation’s growth potential. Many have overly complicated and confusing talent management processes, and lack the flexibility to spot new kinds of talent that doesn’t fit these processes.

Others struggle with managers not taking personal responsibility for talent management, assuming that HR will handle the issue (and take any forthcoming blame). Both problems stem from the assumption that recruitment is a straightforward and fairly bureaucratic process, instead of the key strategic function it has become.

Too often we still seeing managers trusting that top talent can be attracted simply by the reputation of the company or by paying a small premium. The reality of the matter is that top tier talent have many options – inside and outside the industry. As such, they take their time to pick and choose, especially those who have lead organisations through transformation.

This is further aggravated by the fact that many companies do not know which talent they should be looking for, until it is too late. Today, specialists in innovation management or machine learning based business modelling for example, are in major demand and attract astronomical salaries. Smart leaders in the build environment who played a long term strategy game saw this coming five years ago. Not only did they hire wisely for a lot less, they have a people working who are invested deeply into the business lines they put time in to built up.

What does this mean? Well, that those in the built environment that will succeed in the future are the ones who take steps to improve their talent processes today. Obviously, as we are in the business of executive search we are biased in this opinion, but these days, it’s less bias and simply a statement of fact! With the real estate world being shaken to its core by transformation, our businesses simply cannot afford to ignore that old school talent with old school roots is highly unlikely to yield the innovative results the industry needs.

Talent management – and recruitment more broadly – must ensure they can adapt, evolve, and grow in much the same way as the rest of the industry has. This demands strategic thinking, commitment the executive team and more than anything else, a willingness to learn and develop, as my colleague and Senior Consultant Noor Salih discusses below.

See Beyond The CV

Whilst the traditional CV has many things going for it, it can also blind you to non-traditional potential. Instead of only focusing on traditional industry experience, build a talent-spotting process that sees the benefits of diversity. CVs remain a poor means of capturing someone’s capacity for learning. Have tools in place for assessing key competencies for future leaders: creativity, adaptability, and the capacity to utilise new technology. Take time to look at, and consider, which idiosyncratic skills and/or experiences may add value in five years. Why? Well, think back to the 80’s when coding was seen as most curious, whereas now it’s one of the most in demand skills you can have! Several CEOs and CTOs in the industry have learnt machine languages such as python and JSON – I can think of at least three I know personally. Five years ago that was zero. The same will be true in another category so go seek the niche.

Seek The Niche

Diversity is the greatest insurance against disruption real estate has. A great way to ensure that you have a diverse pool of talents to develop into the superstars of tomorrow is to look beyond the usual places to spot talent. For instance, can you spot creatives from the tech world, or fresh thinkers from Asian markets and rising stars that come from non-traditional educational backgrounds? If you can’t, and only hire people who think like you, where’s the new thinking and fresh ideas going to come from?

Portfolios Skills

No single individual will have all the skills and all the competencies you need to succeed in the future. As much as we’d like to find them, highly intelligent and creative 28-year-old digital natives with 10 years of experience in the real estate industry and a Masters in project management simply do not exist! By thinking in teams, portfolios and networks, rather than just for superstar individuals, you will end up winning. Establishing a top influencer in blockchain for example, is a great way to hook into their network and tap talent acquisition, for example.

Make Intelligent Bets

If you want to capture new talent, that is forward thinking and forward leading, you’ll need to develop a tolerance for risk and accept that not every bet will pay off. When hunting for tomorrow’s leaders you sill occasionally have to bet on someone yet to prove themselves. Whilst some such bets won’t pay off, they increase the chance you manage to hire the talent that generates value at a level of 10x, or ten times better than merely 10% over their costs. But how can companies make intelligent talent bets? Again, think in pools and portfolios, and outside real estate advisory. For every four “safe hires”, consider a fifth that is a little risky but potentially high gain. For every nine managers with typical industry experience, promote or hire one with a radically different background. Change happens when difference exists.

Talent Management Needs Development Too

Last but not least, try to stop thinking about your talent management as ever finished. HR processes need extensive development and improvement. Organisations in real estate who do this are those who learn as an organisation, and look critically at their own processes and strive for continuous improvement. This might mean HR disrupts and re-imagines itself. If the old tools and the old processes fail to find sufficient new talent, the flaw isn’t necessarily in the pool of talent.

Testing Your Talent Pipeline

To get a sense of your company’s relationship with leadership planning and talent management, here are six questions for CEOs and Senior Executives to bring to the next executive meeting. If there are more than two no’s, you have a sizeable talent issue to address.

  • Do you know which skills your organisation needs to deliver its growth objectives?
  • Do you have people with those skills already in your organisation?
  • Has your CEO made it abundantly clear your organisation is 100% behind developing talent in your organisation, globally and locally?
  • Do you have a system in place that spotlights, evaluates and creates specific development plans develops for high-potential future leaders across all fast-growth business lines?
  • Are there sufficient, diverse pools of talent with individuals who could successfully and immediately leap into leadership roles when new business opportunities arise – without completely disrupting your company?
  • Are your managers and executive team held accountable for identifying and developing talent in their businesses, service lines, and local markets?

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