For Property Managers, Continued Education Remains The Key To Success
Learning shouldn’t stop after college or graduate school. As more industries grow and adapt to new technology, business practices and workforce trends, companies and their staff must continue to evolve their best practices. In a survey last year, the Pew Research Center found that 87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life to keep up with workplace changes.
For property managers, staying abreast of the latest commercial real estate trends and developments is a job requirement.
“Keeping up-to-date is essential to running a competitive business,” Digital Realty Director of Training Operations and Administration Jacqueline Harris, CPM, said. “I’ve been in property management for nearly 30 years and a lot has changed.”
Harris is responsible for managing administrative and training operations globally for Digital Realty. She conducts operational policies and procedures, global communications and interdepartmental negotiations. Digital Realty manages a portfolio of 170 data centers spread across the globe. Data centers house and maintain businesses’ critical data, from banking institutions to social media firms and small business. Reliability is the measure of successful data center site management.
For Digital Realty, reliability means continuing its 11-year streak of five nines, or 99.999% uptime. Data center organizations reported this year that they experienced an average of two data outages per month, lasting for about six hours for each event. These factors have caused companies to lose as much as $100M per year to downtime.
Data centers also consume an enormous amount of power, making redundancy, efficiency and electrical safety key elements of training.
With Digital Realty recently doubling its portfolio and expanding into new markets like Germany, Hong Kong and Japan, Harris needed to ensure its training programs would effectively prepare managers for the job across numerous locations and languages.
“We recognize our customers have chosen to outsource their critical data center business,” Harris said. “We, therefore, have far more transparency into maintenance operations and notify customers in advance when major maintenance projects are to be performed.”
Digital Realty’s training strategy evolved to define specific programs like employee orientation, internal certifications, external certifications and compliance. Environmental and occupational health and safety standards also factor into the training program. To tackle employee orientation, Harris’ team created “Accelerate,” a program that takes a steep six- to 12-month learning curve and develops a curriculum that significantly reduces the time it takes to reach full productivity.
Digital Realty also developed a separate "Mission-Vision-Values & Ambition" program for the training department and commonly includes it within customer requests for proposals.
“We are in a unique real estate sector where our customers and potential customers seek detailed information on our training programs," Harris said. "Reporting is a key component of our training strategy used to justify overall budget/return on investment.”
Last year, Digital Realty rolled its training program into Digital University, a learning management system. Digital University assigns, tracks and reports all training activities. The implementation of Digital University allows Digital Realty to focus on reports and key performance indicators of trainees. The company supplements its training programs with tools like WebEx, Captivate computer simulations, Brainshark videos and in-person, instructor-led training.
A large part of Harris’ own continued education in property management has been through the Institute of Real Estate Management’s training programs. Her first job out of college was with Morlin Management, whose president was the IREM Los Angeles chapter president. Harris became president of the same chapter in 2014.
“My career started with IREM and has revolved around IREM,” Harris said. “In my installation speech, I encouraged everyone seasoned and new to ‘keep coming back to IREM as a resource.’ The education is beneficial, especially early in your career for advancement.”
IREM has been a resource as Digital has expanded to new markets. IREM Education Coordinator Josie Hernandez provided a contact at a Canadian IREM chapter to help Digital acclimate to local labor requirements. The IREM IT department was also a valuable resource in developing a video-based training program, providing the equipment and expertise necessary to produce the program, as well as developing a multiyear training road map.
Property management is a combination of learning on the job and developing a comprehensive understanding of the requirements. But having a resource to return to in order to develop skills remains an essential part of the experience.
“You cannot train a manager for every scenario,” Harris said. “But training programs can provide a solid property management foundation and help develop logical thinking.”
IREM’s online course catalog, live webinars and a comprehensive toolbox of checklists, financial analyst tools and tutorials help keep managers up-to-date on the latest industry knowledge.
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and IREM. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.