With a possible labor shortage on the minds of many chief engineers and senior property managers, the concept of knowledge transfer is becoming increasingly important. How does a new hire become the next great portfolio chief engineer? How does a leader take someone with transferable skills and turn them into a commercial real estate professional? It is all in the planning.
Before any knowledge or skills are transferred, the right person needs to be walking through the door. That does not always mean the person with the most commercial experience, rather the person that can learn and absorb in the best way. Tyrone Chilcote, a regional vice president with Able Services, came into commercial real estate as a tradesman and ended up an executive. He said he believes the industry needs to work to show potential candidates that this industry is an option for them.
“People haven’t seen being a building engineer or going into the trades as a career path for them and it’s almost developed a negative connotation,” Chilcote said. “That has been one of our challenges with recruitment, just fewer people are coming in.”
Employers should be looking for people with transferable skills. Those are the candidates that will bring new experiences, thought processes, and backgrounds to the job. A willingness to learn and natural leaning towards the base functions of property management or maintenance can create a great employee. Mark Dukes, vice president of asset management with Physicians Realty Trust, said he looks for people that are kind when interviewing potential property managers.
“You cannot underplay the role that you have in taking care of people. You have to want to do that. Not just getting to know that but figuring out what you can do to make their life great,” Dukes said.
Knowledge transfer can take place in a few different ways. Whether through mentorship, formal training, or informal conversations about career paths, there is a responsibility of leadership to teach the next generation the necessary skills. For Chilcote, he said engineers need to learn their building beyond the technical skills.
“Going from an entry-level person up through a chief engineer what they need to learn are how a building lives and breathes.,” Chilcote said. “We now have a lot of technology that helps us control the building, but you need to understand the fundamentals of how that equipment works.”
Mark Dukes, like many other commercial real estate professionals, did not begin his career in the industry. He said education and mentorship helped him learn the technical skills he needed to do the job. Now, as a leader, he believes the specific knowledge transfer is the experienced professional’s responsibility
“You are hiring people for careers, not just jobs,” Dukes said. “You’re investing from day one and ensuring that within an amount of time they are ready for new opportunities and that doesn’t happen without knowledge transfer,”
While the upper management needs to be developing formal systems of knowledge transfer, new hires need to be a sponge. Mentorship is a two-way street and that means that an environment must be created so that a mentee feels comfortable asking questions.
“I think a mentee has more responsibility than the mentor. You can’t count on the mentor to know what you feel you need to know more about,” Dukes said.
Leaders should also be considerate when creating and executing knowledge transfer systems. There need to be controls in place to prevent the loudest or most visible employee from being the only one trained. New employees need to show interest and make sure their manager is aware of their intended career path and professional desires.
One-on-one check-ins are a great way for managers to ensure all employees are having their professional development needs met.
“You have to find the right people in your organization that want to support and bring in that younger generation,” Chilcote said. “You also need to find the people in your organization who want to grow and are willing to do the hard work to grow.”
Knowledge transfer is a long process that takes time from both the mentor and the mentee. However, if knowledge transfer is successfully executed it can better the lives of both. Effective knowledge transfer will also protect the industry from future labor shortages and increase the overall diversity of the commercial real estate industry.
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