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Skills Shortage, Diversity Hot Topics at IREM Fall Conference

From diversity and asset management alignment to cyber attacks and buildings going smoke-free, property managers have a lot to ponder these days. The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) gathered top experts to delve deep into these topics at its recent three-day Fall Leadership Conference in Salt Lake City. Here's the recap.

Skills Shortage, Diversity Hot Topics at IREM Fall Conference

Over 600 commercial and multifamily management pros attended the annual conference at the The Grand America Hotel, which focused on five key areas: asset management, building operations, attracting talent, leadership development and profit management. Educational sessions also presented subjects like management agreements, choosing the right software, job skills, and creative concessions for tenants and residents.

Skills Shortage, Diversity Hot Topics at IREM Fall Conference

This year's "Live with Industry Leaders" focused on multifamily, moderated by media vet John Salustri and featuring Related Management Co's Jeff Brodsky, Edward Rose Cos' Michael Gorman, Camden Property Trust's Michael Brown, and National Multifamily Housing Council's Doug Bibby (snapped above with Eugene Burger Management Corp's Lori Burger, IREM's 2015 president, and Presbeuo Group's Alfred Ojejinmi, IREM SVP). They all agreed that the multifamily market is exceptionally strong, but there’s a challenge in finding skilled staff to support this growth. The industry need to find ways to manufacture the talent required, Michael Brown says, especially maintenance pros. Doug added that the industry was taken aback by the Baby Boomers’ impact on rentals, citing one property built for Millennials but occupied by downsizing Boomers. As for the Millennials, he says it’s too soon to know what their long-term impact on multifamily will be, but data indicates six out of 10 new household formations will be rentals.

Skills Shortage, Diversity Hot Topics at IREM Fall Conference

One hot-button issue is diversity, and real estate companies need to implement successful diversity programs in order to remain competitive, according to The Real Estate Associates Program’s Gregg McCort and Hart Realty Advisors’ Dr. Philip Hart. They cited several incidents of organizations—from colleges and professional sports to real estate companies—that became more inclusive and subsequently experienced periods of unprecedented growth. But commercial real estate still has a long way to go: Only 6% of senior positions and 14% of mid-management positions are filled by African-American, Latino and Asian-American professionals. The first step is simply being aware of inclusiveness in your business operations—not only in how you staff your company and properties, but also in how your business interacts with the community.

Skills Shortage, Diversity Hot Topics at IREM Fall Conference

There is a greater alignment of the property and asset management disciplines than ever before, due in part to increasing downward pressure from asset managers to do more, technological tools at our disposal and greater educational opportunities specific to the discipline. But even though titles or functions change, a panel of Terra Search Partners' Bill Whitlow, Island Investment Interests' Craig Cardwell and CBRE's Andrew Genova agree that property management is not asset management—the function remains an advisory role to the asset manager, and the roles remain separate and distinct. But they questioned how up-and-coming generations—given their more natural inclination toward technology and the higher education opportunities available to them while they are still in college—will advance property management and further impact its relationship with asset management.

Skills Shortage, Diversity Hot Topics at IREM Fall Conference

There was also a special keyote with Robert Stephens, founder of computer support company Geek Squad and former Best Buy chief technology officer. He talked about his bet on the “bigger-than-social-networking” trend of the coming decade and the importance of using technology and software to build the services your company needs to establish a unique brand and innovative culture. One aspect he sees is how instant messaging is changing the way companies communicate and do business with consumers. He predicts IM systems will replace phones, emails and proprietary apps, and they will also transform the way people communicate within a company. This will have a profound impact on how companies run their businesses, he says—including property management.