Personnel for commercial real estate: demand is high, problems are no less

Professional woman working on laptop in modern office environment

Over the past year, managerial salaries in the commercial real estate market have increased by at least 30%, employers have halved the number of interviews with candidates and are ready to develop well-being programs for employees. Which, even if you cry, are still sorely lacking

Кадры для коммерческой недвижимости: спрос большой, проблемы не меньше

The main challenges for employers in the field of construction and real estate are staff rotation, the high cost of attracting new specialists and a significant acceleration of wages. This is how the commercial director of the Petersburg Real Estate company (Setl Group holding) described the “labor situation” Olga Kobyakova in her speech at the recently held real estate forum “Movement”*.

According to the announced data, since April 2023, the number of vacancies in Russia has significantly exceeded the number of resumes. The HeadHunter index, which is calculated by their ratio, in the field of construction and real estate is 3.1, which is two times lower than the norm and vividly illustrates the thesis of a shortage of workers.

According to the expert, “if earlier the business was faced with the task of filtering a huge number of applicants, choosing the best, then in a scarce market it already has to compete fiercely, abolish stereotypes, increase brand attractiveness and retain employees. Bonuses, VMI and social package are no longer enough, it is important to develop an employee support system, adapt the principles of the well-being program to your own needs and modern realities.”

The recruitment agency ProPersonnel decided to narrow down the analytical task a little and figure out in detail which middle managers and top managers business structures are looking for today and what requirements are put forward by the applicants themselves. The sample included 4,500 applications from the agency’s client employers. At the request of Business FM, experts separately analyzed the situation in the commercial real estate segment, immediately noting that the demand for specialists who understand the intricacies of the commercial market is now huge.

Кадры для коммерческой недвижимости: спрос большой, проблемы не меньше

Photo: Denis Raev/Lori Photo Bank

Previously, job searches revolved mainly around housing: companies were chasing construction directors, project managers and sales managers of the residential segment. Now we desperately need those who know how to competently build office space, work with retail and warehouse spaces and generally know everything about commercial real estate, to which investors are increasingly paying attention.

In particular, according to statistics from IBC Real Estate*, according to preliminary results of the second quarter of 2024, the total volume of investments in Russian real estate amounted to 233 billion rubles. This is only 2% lower than the result for the same period last year, when the market recorded a record volume of transactions in the entire history of observations. “In total, in the first half of the year, investment inflows into Russian real estate reached 323 billion rubles, which is 15% lower than a year ago. At the same time, the current value is very high for this period — the indicator is almost twice as high as the results of the first six months of 2021 and 2022. The share of transactions for the exit of foreign companies from Russian assets is 16% of the total volume (for comparison, in 2022 the figure was 22%, in 2023 — 30%),” the company calculated. So, in the structure of investment transactions in the first half of 2024, housing occupies less than half (42%), 43% are collectively provided by the warehouse and office segments, the rest is accounted for by trade and hotels.

But let’s return to the job-seeking managers with their requirements and potential employers with their ideas about the right employees. The first important fact that Tatyana Dolyakova, CEO of the recruitment agency ProPersonnel, draws attention to is that the first half of 2024 in the labor market in the field of commercial real estate is the most active period since the beginning of 2022. The segment has come to life both in terms of hiring staff and in terms of speed of decision-making, while the salary level has increased by about 30% over the year.

Кадры для коммерческой недвижимости: спрос большой, проблемы не меньше

Photo: Elnur/Lori Photo Bank

“Firstly, the inflation rate is rising. Secondly, during the covid period, salaries were reduced, employees were transferred to remote work, people lived in work-life balance mode. At that time, for the first time, wages faded into the background, many people had a flexible work schedule and no need to travel to the office. But the trends of 2024 are completely different,” the expert says.

Tatyana Dolyakova, CEO of the recruitment agency ProPersonnel, “According to our survey, now the first thing a candidate pays attention to is just the salary level. More than 80% of the respondents said this. Few top managers think about remote work or flexible schedules anymore, it has ceased to be a priority. At the same time, the processes on the part of employers have greatly accelerated. If earlier there were five to six stages of interviews, now the hiring of an employee is carried out in two to three steps, that is, the decision-making time has been halved. The first interview usually takes place online. The second is with several decision makers at once. A personal meeting is held with the shareholders, if the format requires it.”

The second important point is where and who are companies actually looking for today? “People are being sought in the segments of office, warehouse real estate, industrial and civil construction (PGS). They are looking for employees in an office construction company, construction directors with salaries starting from 500 thousand rubles, chief engineers. Specialists in IRD — initial permits are in great demand: their salary can range from 700 thousand rubles. Investors are also actively buying land for the construction of warehouses, and many employees (both specialists and directors) have begun to recruit into the construction and maintenance of warehouse real estate,” Tatyana Dolyakova shares her observations.

Moreover, according to her, if earlier everything was concentrated in Moscow, now the regions, in particular the Urals, where commercial real estate is actively being built, are starting to “shoot”. In addition to construction professionals themselves, employers are looking for product managers for office and retail spaces, marketers, and digital marketing specialists designed to help companies compete with employers from other industries. In general, it turns out that over most HR departments of the commercial segment, you can rightfully hang a poster “I wish that everything!”.

Кадры для коммерческой недвижимости: спрос большой, проблемы не меньше

Photo: Yakov Filimonov/Lori’s Photo Bank

In principle, according to Anna Nikandrova, partner of Nikoliers, there has always been a shortage of managers in the real estate management segment, which is due to the small number of educational institutions where specialists of the appropriate profile are trained. At the same time, there have been even fewer of them in the last year, which has led to an increase in the deficit. Accordingly, most of the specialists are trained in practice, but due to the low popularization of this field, the influx of new personnel is very limited.

“There is also a shortage of personnel in the technical personnel segment, but it is not due to the lack of educational institutions, but to the rising cost of such specialists and increased competition for them. At the same time, in the commercial block, the main problem is precisely the lack of ready—made specialists who would be adapted to the rapidly changing real estate market, had analytical thinking, creative mind and possessed all the tools necessary for the profession,” the expert states.

Anna Nikandrova, Partner at Nikoliers, “We can note that now, when selecting candidates, personal indicators such as energy, as well as willingness and ability to work in rapidly changing circumstances have been added to the standard requirements (such as work experience). The current real estate market is changing very quickly, and it is very important to remain calm in difficult situations and solve problems with a cool head, see and realize new opportunities. Therefore, it is now important for HR teams to feel such potential from applicants. If we consider young professionals, then their main request is to work and develop within the company. And this concept unites quite a lot of factors — it is a busy corporate life, corporate culture, opportunities to study with a team, a convenient office that provides comfortable work. Also, after the pandemic, such an item as a hybrid work format became important for many applicants, which allows them to work remotely for several days. We have been observing changes in the requirements of applicants over the past two years, which is primarily due to the development of ecosystems of companies such as Yandex, Vkontakte and others, which form new ideas about the workflow.”

Describing the situation in the office segment, Kristina Nedrya, Director of commercial management at Stone, emphasizes that with the development of the market of offices offered for sale in blocks, and with the opportunity to receive benefits for creating places of employment, non-core developers began to look for ways to enter the commercial real estate market. Due to the emergence of these new players, the shortage of personnel in the segment has noticeably increased.

“The development of the office area for non-core developers requires professional experience, which not every candidate has. And there is competition for employees who have sufficient knowledge and expertise in office development. From this point of view, the market is quite overheated,” the expert says.

Kristina Nedrya, Director of Commercial Management at Stone, “Developers are most often in search of analysts, product analysts, as well as sales managers with relevant experience in office real estate. Speaking of the latter, experts who can comfortably work with several projects at once are considered especially valuable — this is a special skill, although not obvious at first glance. In residential real estate, as a rule, each object is assigned its own management team. In the office segment, in our experience, the sales manager leads several projects at once — all that are presented in the developer’s line. This is due to both the unified high standards of the product, which is typical for projects under an umbrella brand, and the structure of demand: offices for sale are an investment product, and the client’s request does not come from the object, but from the investment strategy. And in order to adjust and satisfy this request, offers in different facilities are being considered. Accordingly, the request to the employer from an experienced office real estate sales manager is a wide range of areas and facilities in implementation, as well as plans to scale the business and strengthen its position in the market. Unlike small developers, system office developers will have more interesting motivation conditions for sales managers.”

Middle managers are in high demand in shopping malls, especially for rental and development, Pavel Lyulin, Vice President of the Union of Shopping Centers, continues the conversation. “The high demand from the industry is being met by a shortage associated with both a shortage of new staff and relatively low salaries. Technical managers are also among the current vacancies: for many years, technical education was not a priority, and the profession of an operational engineer itself is unpopular,” the expert emphasizes.

Pavel Lyulin, Vice President of the Union of Shopping Centers, “If we talk about top management, for example, about the managers of shopping centers, then there is no shortage of supply on the market, since wages are high and there is interest in the profession, there are many responses. However, there is another problem: there is a request for highly qualified managers, which is difficult to satisfy, since many top managers have left the country, and there are also those who have moved to another field. Experienced managers now rarely move from one company to another if they are satisfied with everything. At the same time, the search for such employees takes place in a closed mode, vacancies rarely enter the open field. Companies require mainly professional experience from candidates for managerial positions, the ability to make decisions and take responsibility on their own, an understanding of the company’s business model, and a willingness to work for results. However, sometimes it seems that employers are looking for “business partners”, but they are willing to pay them as hired managers. This creates a certain dissonance in the market.”

Stanislav Akhmedzyanov, managing partner of IBC Global, generally calls the warehouse real estate sector one of the most “sick” from the point of view of personnel and at the same time one of the most interesting. “The fact is that, unfortunately, the gap that lies between the expectations of the market, the demands of companies and what specialists in the field of warehouse real estate can offer is very large. It’s huge. Incredible! Specialists in this industry do not graduate from universities, are not trained or nurtured anywhere. All the knowledge that is given at universities does not meet the needs and requirements of the modern market. Everything that is said there does not look much like what specialists will actually have to do. This state of affairs requires a rethink of approaches to education and, possibly, the development of new programs focused on practical skills and knowledge needed in this industry,” the expert is sure.

Stanislav Akhmedzyanov, Managing Partner of IBC Global, “In the field of warehouse facilities, even specialists who came with real estate education must undergo adaptation in two to three years in order to be able to respond to market demands. Although in fact, for smart, quick-witted people, this course would definitely be a maximum of two to three months (provided deep daily continuous learning). This is a course on adapting your knowledge: financial block, technical block, specialized block, contract block, legal block and so on. That is, we do not have much data and knowledge that is necessary for the work, but they are all practical and highly specialized. As a result, the situation for us is as follows: middle managers are those who grew up in this industry, in most cases they already have real deep fatigue, but their demand is high. They know how to present information from the right side. They don’t need to be educated, they don’t need to spend time explaining. And experienced tenants do not want to communicate with newcomers in this field. And experienced employees have neither the time nor the energy to train newcomers. Everyone is constantly busy with transactions, they have no time to distract themselves with educational activities. Those who teach often do not have such high expertise relevant to the market — they are carriers of knowledge from five to seven years ago, which is a little outdated.”

As Stanislav Akhmedzyanov says, when viewing candidates, employers pay attention to experience in real estate, understanding financial models, the ability to evaluate objects, analyze the territory, transport scheme, and the ability to work with a large flow of information. “The last point is even more important than the previous ones, because there is much more psychology in real estate than it might seem. Often, how and when the information was submitted is more important than the technical characteristics. The best managers know who needs to present information on Monday, to whom on Friday, and so on,” the expert notes.

So what’s the most important thing about a candidate? “In the first place — the skills of a good psychologist, in the second — the ability to quickly and efficiently process a large amount of information, in the third — stress tolerance, in the fourth — work experience in real estate. In general, there are zero high—quality personnel on the market, if we add specific selection factors. Employers are now forced to “vacuum” all sites in order to find a candidate who is at least able to study not in two or three years, but a little earlier,” Stanislav Akhmedzyanov sums up the sad line.


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