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Property Management Evolves To Attract The Next Generation Of Professionals


Young people are searching for their purpose, and they want their employers to help them find it. From green building initiatives to diversity programs and time off for volunteering, companies have started to use social responsibility and a sense of community engagement to draw in recruits. Millennials are more likely than baby boomers to research the issues a company supports before applying for a job.

In commercial real estate, the average age of property manager is 50 years old. To attract young talent, development firms and property management companies have begun presenting careers in property management as an opportunity to engage with peers and curate experiences. For SVN International Corp. Chief Operating Officer Diane Danielson, the property manager of the future will be a hybrid role of facilities expert and event planner.

Education requirements for property managers will also become more flexible to accommodate a wider range of background and skills.

“Property management has had to reinvent itself to match up to what millennials are looking for in employment,” Danielson said. “One of the ways it is changing right now is that most millennials are looking at buildings that are more sustainable and more community-oriented.”

Changes to the property management career ladder have fueled its transformation. In the past, people working in landscaping or other types of facilities management could work their way up toward overseeing the entire property. As more people head to college and opt out of these roles, the path has shifted toward softer skills like event planning and occupant experience.

Coworking spaces, where Danielson often works, have been pioneers in prioritizing the tenant experience. Rather than just supplying members with a desk and a chair, coworking providers like WeWork have built a community around their spaces, planning events like beer tastings and networking sessions with the companies sharing the space.

Young professionals working for the coworking provider do more than keep the lights on. They act as de facto community managers, turning a collection of desks into a neighborhood.


Landlords of more traditional buildings have also shifted their focus toward tenant well-being and engagement. Lounges and breakout spaces have replaced cubicles, and pop-up retail kiosks and food trucks are a part of the daily activities for employees, giving them a break from their work tasks.

Among the new skills required for more socially engaged property managers are customer service and strong communication abilities, Danielson said. For former summer camp counselors and department store cashiers, property management presents an opportunity to directly transfer those skills to a higher paying, long-term career. But older workers, who have remained in entry-level retail jobs in the post-recession economy, have taken the jobs where younger workers would traditionally acquire these skills.

“Teenagers are not getting hired for jobs because older people are taking them,” Danielson said. “So they are missing out on skill sets like how to answer a telephone or how to respond to an important client. They could learn on the job, but it is something that older people take for granted. So we have to provide that training.”

There is also the invisibility of property management as a career path. High school and college students are unlikely to choose CRE as a career path unless they have older family members in the business, Danielson said. The Great Recession also took a toll on the industry’s visibility. For five years, not many people wanted to sell real estate, let alone launch a career in it.

Education requirements have also become more flexible to tap into a pool of workers without a college degree. As student loan debt continues to rise, graduates often have to turn down the commission-based jobs that make up a bulk of the offering within CRE. Similar to the construction industry, which offers training programs in lieu of college, property management could offer a similar resource for those looking to enter the industry.

The Institute of Real Estate Management, for instance, already offers online courses and webinars designed to engage with young professionals and provide training on a flexible schedule.

"There could be a program that offers apprenticeships,” Danielson said. “Do you really need a college degree to be a property manager? Look on the brokerage side. We used to require one, but if people can self-learn math and pass the real estate license exam, then they don’t really need a college degree.”

Apprenticeships are a part of making education a more hands-on, interactive experience. For a generation that grew up with the internet and access to a global, 24/7 online community, having a learning experience that offers more participation and flexibility helps young professionals retain information, Danielson said.  

Fostering that learning experience for young professionals will be a part of “The War For Talent,” a webinar Danielson will lead for IREM on July 18. In this webinar, Danielson will discuss the demographic challenges facing the commercial real estate industry and what leaders need to do to attract millennials and their younger counterparts like Generation Z.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and IREMBisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.