Diversity, digital upskilling and the rise of the millennials are three talent trends to watch in 2019, say Australia’s specialist property recruiters and remuneration consultants.
A series of recent events – the financial services royal commission, tightening lending criteria, house price corrections and some very public construction controversies – has injected a “certain amount of nervousness into the market”, says Matt Lyndley, NSW manager of Spring Professional.
But the industry is “ploughing ahead” with large-scale and, in some cases, “long-overdue” projects. And these continue to expose skills shortages that will influence recruitment and remuneration throughout 2019.
“There is little appetite for training new staff members as companies just don’t have the time,” Lyndley explains. When coupled with slowing wage growth, “the challenge of attracting the right skills at an affordable level” remains a very real one.
Andrew McGregor, director of Design & Build, says companies are now grappling with staffing decisions made during the construction boom, during which time they “promoted people into roles they were not yet ready for – creating a skills gap”.
The critical success factor at this stage of the property cycle is to “prioritise retention and development of top performers” while also looking to attract candidates “with a broader base of skills,” McGregor says.
This advice comes as the latest Avdiev Property Industry Remuneration Report, released today, finds pay rises across the industry have moderated.
Rita Avdiev, managing director of remuneration consultant Avdiev Group, says the median pay rise of 2.5 per cent sits above the 2.3 per cent wage growth across the economy.
“But we are still seeing spikes in sectors where shortages of competent people exist,” Avdiev explains.
“Our subscribers have reported a good volume of business activity and, for most, only a modest impact on their plans to date. But they have strategies in place for the future.”
High-tech headaches on the horizon
Robotic automation, artificial intelligence and digital transformation are front-and-centre but are not necessarily easy for an industry that “still puts great stock in face-to-face meetings and an actual handshake,” says Lyndley.
Nicholas Page, Capstone’s managing director, agrees.
“Businesses aspire to be market leading when it comes to technology and innovation but, in reality, most are struggling to keep pace. The level of disruption obviously creates opportunities and companies are investing and recruiting significantly in this area,” he explains.
Page’s colleague Charlie Wright, a senior property consultant at Capstone, emphasises the importance of digital upskilling.
“We are seeing a highly digitally literate generation joining the workforce, meaning staff at all levels have had to change their mindsets and adapt to the new technology,” Wright says.
McGregor warns the industry not to ignore the rate of change that is heading our way. The impact of robotics on the resources industry as a prelude of what’s to come in property, he says, pointing to Coles’ new fully-automated logistics warehouses, “all designed to eliminate manual labour and create efficiencies in health, safety and productivity”. New jobs may be created, McGregor adds, but those employees will need a vastly different skill set to traditional logistics managers.
The upshot? Employers should be focused on attracting new employees with strong digital skills while also developing the skills of existing employees, McGregor advises.
Diversity continues to deliver dividends
The diversity discussion also continues in earnest but is broadening beyond gender.
Fiona Ralph, Capstone’s head of retail, acknowledges the “significant inroads” made by the property industry over the past five years, but says “we have a way to go”. Her clients are focused on gender diversity, while also tackling ageism and mental health.
Spring Professionals’ Lyndley says many companies now have diversity targets, and businesses are “bringing through the next generation of employees via graduate programs and cadetships that will lead to a diverse workforce organically”.
McGregor says attracting “tech-savvy millennials” to the property industry should be the next priority, and Avdiev agrees.
“Millennials, forming about 20 per cent of the general workforce, are invading traditional hierarchies,” Avdiev says, pointing to the Property Council’s Girls in Property program as one example driving “generational change”.
“Millennials are young, ambitious, with fresh attitudes to speed, change and results. With the property industry and global and local economies in a state of flux, their ways of dealing with what comes next will be interesting to watch,” Avdiev concludes.