Talent Management in the Real Estate Services Sector

Talent Management in the Real Estate Services Sector

What does Real Estate Services include?

At SILA, our businesses include – real estate advisory, project/construction management, turnkey interior fit outs, facility management, & on-demand home services. As a result, the teams are spread over all business verticals lending great diversity to the organization. The human resources team thus has the challenge of ensuring the consistency in the brand message to its internal customers (employees).

While the challenges which generally plague the sector did plague SILA, our culture allowed enterprising solutions which did away with a majority of issues. In this article, we have listed the problems and how the methods employed by SILA helped in building a robust talent management system.

Issues in Human Resource Management

Lack of Process Engineering

The services sector is notorious for the challenge in hiring and retaining people. The key reason remains lack of process engineering – which leads to over dependency on an individual’s skill set, as opposed to the process that has been set. As a result, the quality is the individual’s prerogative and cannot be controlled by the organization. If one resource leaves, there is no guarantee that the person replacing the first one is as good. Since quality control is personnel dependent, a low quality handover would lower the output further. As a result key positions are rendered indispensable, and this helps them negotiate a tougher deal.

Lack of Succession Planning

Taking the conversation of bad handovers ahead, lack of succession planning hurts organizations over the long term without them realizing it soon enough. Since the process begins and ends with the individual taking free form decisions without relying on a matrix or a flow chart – a lot depends on the individual’s inclination to have anyone succeed them. Communication gaps which exist between teams are cracked to their widest during transition, since a lot of information has never been on record.

Lack of Consistency in Information Sharing 

This results in multiple departments managing varied versions of the same information. This is not realized on the daily basis since verbal communication trumps written communication, and it takes the latter to highlight errors. Succession, however, requires a level of written handover and any misses in this process leads to half information being shared. As a result, the new recruit or the new promotion starts the first day at work with partial information, and it takes a slow unpleasant process to discover a new gap.

Lack of Internal Communication 

This affects succession planning as well. Ideally, team leaders groom future leaders which allow all the involved parties to grow. Their growth paths need to be defined, mutually agreed upon, and deserving opportunities need to be presented. A leader might need to step aside to give team members a chance, and that requires distinct maturity and a growth mind-set. If the team leader is a bottleneck, the team stagnates.

Organizations are Often Slow to Keep up with the Trends

Days of the cubicle are over, and employees rarely put in hard work at the same company, pining for the corner office. They move quickly if the opportunity is not within reach at the current organization, and they move fast, from a job to another, climbing levels respectfully as they do.

Loath to Opaque Communication from the Management

The new age workers have access to the internet and understand how companies in the same sector function. They are loathing to opaque communication from ‘the management’, and seek a dialogue at equal footing. They are willing to tear down walls, and demand transparency behind the decision making process. They seek to communicate inside and outside teams, within departments, and encourage a community driven approach. It would be elitist to apply an open approach to certain levels given their education, and deny other levels this luxury. Lines are increasingly being blurred.

Talent has Always been a Scarce Resource

Today’s workplace asks for new skill sets, and seeks an evolved integrated perspective towards all tasks. In addition to competence in managing people and dealing with the nitty gritties of operations – comfort with new technology and strong analytical skills are also sought. We live behind dashboards today, and we receive data real time. Quick decisions are required, and so is thinking on your feet. It is uncommon to find these skills in experienced resources, which would make it an ideal hire.

There is a need for Innovative Thinking

In addition to being skilled right, there is a need for innovative thinking – which only depends on the level of experience the candidate has had. To introduce innovation in existing systems requires the ability to detach, make connections outside the existing spectrum, build a case for the suggestion, seek feedback and ensure a win win. This is a mix of proactive activity, logical thinking, competence in analogy and empathetic leadership. It requires a willingness to step away from what has been learned, and try out something new. This talent pool is not easy to find.

Department heads and their teams lead the way in building an effective organization. It is necessary to have all team members understand the scope of how everyone is interconnected, and how the harmonious motion yields results. This helps while assigning priorities to departments, and makes it easier for teams to gain support from other teams and communicate its requirement. If an executive fails to relate to what a colleague is attempting to explain, it would result in a lack of prompt support from his end which would adversely affect the entire project. This willingness of people to step out of their comfort zones and be comfortable with the big picture is essential – this can be nurtured, but in finding the right hires lies the trick.

Building a Good Company Culture

The first task before the HR and the IT team is to create a vibrant company culture that represents the organization’s soul in every interaction between teams. This involves the challenge of hashing out the talent management plan that is in existence and taking the company culture back to the drawing board.

The Compelling Brand Story

It’s important to create a balance between the internal customers (employees, whom we pay) and the external customers (who pay us). Employees need to understand the value system, to live it and to communicate that during service delivery as salary is no more the prime motivator, and all levels seek to be associated with a reputed brand that keeps its word. A compelling brand story needs to be drawn and sold within.

Stay Transparent, and Lead by Example

Transparency, the biggest challenge of any organization may it be big or small. Employees, across levels, are increasingly motivated by open communication channels and free information flow within the organization. They seek to know where the organization is heading, how their contribution is leading to an impact and how their performance can evolve to fit into the changing market requirements. They respect leaders who are comfortable in their skin, accept their shortcomings, lead a mutually beneficial dialogue, seek feedback and share relevant information. This inclusive culture breeds quality talent and boosts retention, since employee rate work satisfaction and company culture to be more important than the salary figure, while considering a switch.

Organizational Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

We realized that a person who cares is a way better cleaner than a professional who does not. We realized that a customer we are genuinely empathizing with would be happy to forgive us for our service gaps, offer generous feedback and stay retained till the end.

And we realized the difficult work of building a business and monitoring the performance of those hired to run it is done with two key activities – managing the excel sheets and having effective conversations.

Marry the Tangibles with the Intangibles for Performance Management

The key is to focus on the ‘soft’ conversations in addition to tangible performance metrics, since it makes people feel good and feel heard. Also, before initiating the tangible performance management system, do ensure that all job descriptions have been documented, communicated and agreed upon.

Intangible Performance Management

An employee’s perception of the business, their understanding of the opportunity, and their relationship with the other team members within and outside their department, their own assessment of their growth and their honest feedback on the people they work with.

Tangible Performance Management

Identification of key result areas (KRAs) and identifying key performance indicators (KPIs). This can be created for all levels, increasing or decreasing its complexity based on the relevance, to suit the reporting manager’s competence. Assigning score and weightage to each indicator, and tracking this regularly.

A combination of the above two can be plotted in a companywide performance-potential matrix, thus offering complete clarity on where an individual stands. 

The task of the Weekly follow-ups

The informal weekly check-ins between a team member and the reporting manager is supposed to ensure that the objectives match on a regular basis. Guidance and critical feedback may be offered as well.

Understanding Three Levels and Three Priority Levels

While an organization conducts one business function, three different levels work on three different priorities:

  • The investors and the promoters drive the one business function but would be concerned about fewer larger metrics, and be more focused on the EBITDA margins, Valuations, Profits
  • The middle management would help manage the one business function, but work on different concerns
  • The field teams would be on the front line of execution of the very same business function – yet their priority levels would focus on something very different than the other two levels

This follows the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As a result – the communication strategy needs to change keeping each level in mind, though the desired impact the same business functions.

For promoters, the pitch would have to include strategic perspective, impact on cost and revenue. For the middle management, the pitch would have to include career growth, glory of a successful project and how this might add to the work satisfaction levels. To the front line – the discussion would initially need to allay fears of an increased work load, and propose a genuine effort by the employee and an increase in pay by the employer.

The massive job of employing Technology to Achieve Scale and Transparency

Keeping in mind the mentioned three levels, it is necessary to apply the same rule to performance management systems. In case of real estate services, a large number of personnel are deployed on the field, resulting in challenges in managing them. In such cases, a lot depends on the nodes – managers who work as the points of contact within the remote site and head office. Technology helps us break through barriers and get and every front line employee on record.

The big trial of documentation and Documentation

Creating a process, documenting it, having teams follow it, seeking feedback and revisiting it regularly is a fool proof method to save you from the harm caused by attrition. All formats, rules, regulations and process flows need to be stored and used extensively. An organization chart focused on job descriptions helps clarify overlaps and plan recruitment.

Senior Management needs to be encouraged to give their inputs and share all information that helps them manage their departments. The organization ought to make the employees empowered enough to not worry about being dispensable. To take the next step, one ought to life one’s foot off the ground. In an organization, there should always be someone who would replace an existing team member.

Finding Innovative Ways to Institute Processes

Processes are often made, but rarely followed. Every business has a set of processes; however the challenge of instituting these processes or educating employees about the vision is always a challenge.

Finally, the workplace Strategy

In a nutshell, the focus of an organization should be within, in creating attractive and engaging work spaces. Humans thrive on feeling valued and achieving success that they had perceived to be beyond them. Transformational Leadership helps position an organization in a unique manner as compared to the sector it operates in – and gives all teams a common goal, a shared vision, an inspired tale of glory – which attracts and retains quality talent. You are as good as your word, and that applies to companies too.

Practices at SILA

  1. At SILA, we stress on offering flexible career growth paths to our employees. We try to identify potential right from the interview stage, creating and offering the right opportunities, grooming them right and offering guidance to help them achieve the desired results. This process is mutually beneficial. The organization benefits by looking for skill sets in unlikely places and being successful, the employee benefits by skipping multiple rungs in the career ladder resulting in faster growth. Some of our field team leaders have grown to head regional operations, a person that came in for a security guarding job is now heading our statutory compliance department, and a former customer service manager is spearheading Facility Management operations in a city office.
  2. In 2013 we decided to create something called a ‘Process Training Manual’ (PTM) – a manual with all SILA’s important processes, key terminologies, deadlines/timelines, and targets. The Process Training Manual also includes a test/exam that is mandatory for every internal stakeholder to submit after he/she has studied SILA’s high level processes & values that are set out in the PTM. This has allowed us to effectively communicate & educate our internal stakeholders about the processes that exist to begin with.
  3. SILA Connect is a technology solution, created as a cloud based ERP system for complete management of operations, payroll, human resources and procurement. The intelligent employee database shifts the entire recruitment process online, offering easy accessibility to the data. Cloud based technology with custom made parameters help us track and analyze the performance of every single front line respective teams, making this a transparent, prompt process – thus minimizing the complaints.
  4. At SILA we conduct monthly town hall meetings at the end of every month. Here the Directors of the company share the latest developments of the company from that month, and we also celebrate the birthdays of the month. Every quarter, we also acknowledge the good work done by our employees by honouring them. This is our way of staying connected and valuing our employees as we believe your team builds your company.
  5. We have an open door policy at SILA. We encourage employees to come by and speak up when issues or important situations arise or when they have creative ideas. This promotes a culture of friendly openness and builds a belief in others that the manager is truly interested in their work as well as their growth thus fostering closer relationships with employees. Also, a good idea can come from anywhere, so we don’t necessary follow a top-down approach; it can be a bottom-up approach as well.

About SILA:

SILA is a Real Estate Services company with expertise in Facility Management, Real Estate Advisory, Project Management & Interior Contracting, servicing clients in over 50 cities with 4,000+ employees. The company’s Facility Management clients include Mumbai International Airport (T2), J&K Bank, Piramal Enterprises, Adlabs Imagica, Tata Sons, WeWork amongst others. SILA’s Projects division has projects across property asset classes – Hospitality, Industrial, Commercial, Mixed Use, Retail, & Residential, and Turnkey Interior Contracting for Commercial Offices, Restaurants & Retail Stores to its service offerings. SILA’s Advisory business provides with a comprehensive range of services such as Research, Valuation, Feasibility Studies, Equity/Debt Syndication for Real Estate Projects. SILA’s goal is to use the experience gained across all our services and projects, to provide our clients with in-depth advice and support for their Real Estate.

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