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New CEO Says Commercial Real Estate Lacks Young Talent

Gemma Burgess stepped into her role as CEO of the talent management firm Ferguson Partners last April and is already lamenting the scarcity of young talent in the commercial real estate sector. “The toughest thing right now is to try and recruit that next generation of leaders, folks who have got 20 years of experience, but not 40 years of experience, who are sort of coming up behind the baby boomers taking leadership roles,” said Burgess in an interview with CoStar. “But we do really suffer from that missing generation.” 

Burgess cited various factors, including the industry’s cyclical nature, for the dearth of commercial real estate experts in this category. While older generations usually stayed in their roles for longer and developed their careers by gradually moving up the ladder at one company, younger generations are more likely to propel their careers through job-hopping, leveraging their positions from one company (and one sector) to another. This means that many young employees leave the real estate profession because they get in positions they don’t like or are unaware of the range of careers available to them in the sector.

With the norm of younger workers leaping from one role to the next, the sector needs to take action to close the significant talent gap that commercial real estate is currently experiencing in order to assure a sufficient supply of future leaders. “We’re going to have to evolve as an industry to build more of this training machine that will allow people to come in and do something for a while and then roll off and do something else to try and keep people for a bit longer than the sort of year or two that they want to stay for today,” adds Burgess. Burgess insists that brokerages and real estate companies must also invest time and money in programs that train employees for various positions within the business and the sector as a whole, yet  there’s something to be said about making the industry more resilient to job-hop culture. Perhaps firms should consider allowing or even encouraging roles to be changed to keep a stickier talent pool.

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