In March of this year, Sodexo released a study of the corporate real estate profession, focusing on its image and value as a viable career path. Having practiced in the profession for over twenty-five years, I experienced first hand the challenges and rewards of corporate real estate as a junior manager, a senior executive and as a broker and consultant . For many years, corporate real estate didn’t enjoy the cache or prestige of other corporate functions such as marketing, finance, and even Information Technology. But this is changing with the advent of new leasing standards and workplace strategies. So it was with this personal back ground I took a special interest in the Sodexo survey and report.
In a few words, the study did not reveal many surprises. Less than half of the respondents (43.8%) were end users, while the balance were service providers, brokers, and other players in the real estate industry. Nearly 70% of the respondents were male, and the vast majority were seniors (ages 50-59). One surprise was the response to the question: What are the most important skills in a CRE career? The answer: not technical skills, but interpersonal skills (93%), leadership skills (75%), and analytical skills (74%).
In terms of compensation, the respondents were generally satisfied with their compensation (54%) while 22% reported initially low salary, but rapid growth. The respondents were generally satisfied with the fast pace of CRE as a career, as well as its flexibility, work hours, and work life balance.
In terms of leadership, the respondents were generally dissatisfied with leadership development with 45.2% agreeing that “the CRE profession is in need of strong leaders.” However the respondents agreed that “there is an opportunity within the CRE profession to become a leader,” (52.9%). The other interesting finding is that the respondents agreed that the profession offered long term tenure (57.3%) and was not considered to be a transitional or intermittent career move (60.3%)
In most cases the respondents felt generally satisfied with their image in their organization and the broader market place. They felt appreciated within the department, by external clients, and within the corporate organization.
In general the respondents were dissatisfied that their function had received any degree of promotion or publicity in company media, news releases, web pages, etc . In essence the CRE function was invisible, and kept low key. From my own experience, this lack of exposure in company media, was probably linked to a concern about negative press about real estate, its impact on the environment, its cost, etc. In summary the report put forward a series of recommendations to promote the CRE profession in the broader labor market including “better emphasis on accreditation and education,” better links to the community, ”focused media on what CRE means from a career standpoint.”
The report concluded with a series of insights and implications. The more interesting findings included:
· Soft skills remain more important than technical skills
· Work-life balance is excellent but offset by the industry’s fast pace.
· CRE is in need of leaders but provides opportunities to grow and advance
· There is a need for greater innovation
· There is a high level of knowledge and appreciation of the CRE profession among clients and the corporate organization
· The CRE profession offers many opportunities for personal growth
My bottom line on the report: no surprises but encouraging indicators that the CRE profession is maturing and becoming more self-aware as a long term career option.