Talent Trends in Real Estate 2022 – Shaping What’s Next

Industry TrendsSuccession PlanningFinancial ServicesPrivate CapitalReal EstateBoard and CEO AdvisoryC-Suite SuccessionAssessment and Benchmarking
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September 06, 2022
5 min read
Industry TrendsSuccession PlanningFinancial ServicesPrivate CapitalReal EstateBoard and CEO AdvisoryC-Suite SuccessionAssessment and Benchmarking
Executive summary
Russell Reynolds Associates captured 4 emerging themes that reshape the 2022 talent landscape.
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Across the real estate industry, boards and C-suites conducting succession planning face numerous headwinds, including limited (and expensive) talent pools, rapid changes in market sentiment, and steep competition, all of which are occurring within a backdrop of global macroeconomic unease. These challenges have had profound implications for the talent market in 2022, as both employers and candidates adjust to a period of deep uncertainty. 

The War for Talent1 from 2021 continued into the first half of 2022 through rapid increase in C-suite turnover, explosive growth in debt funds, and growing sophistication and capital raising success of small and mid-market firms. While we anticipate overall hiring volume to slow slightly through the remainder of 2022, multifamily continues to see strong talent demands, particularly with the flight from urban cities to secondary markets (such as Florida, Nashville, and Texas) and widespread housing shortages. Office use is still drastically down, with the vacancy rate at 18.1% nationally – only slightly lower than the pandemic peak of 18.5%.2 As for occupancy rates, still less than a third of workers are back in office in cities such as San Francisco, while the city of Austin led the return charge, with approximately 60% of workers back in office. 3

Amid this backdrop, RRA has observed the following changes in the talent marketplace:

1. Uptick in senior level activity in asset management

As interest rates increased, Russell Reynolds experienced a corresponding increase in demand for senior level asset management (AM) talent. In fact, 25% of our new work in the last 60 days has come from the AM area – compared to just 10% in the last 12 months.4 Even clients who have yet to begin searches are seeking counsel on structuring the AM function. These clients are aiming to protect their assets and  maximize existing value in the face of uncertainty. There is a new premium being placed on asset management; with it comes increased demand for a sophisticated and financially savvy approach. Specifically, we see demand for several key characteristics: 

  • Exceptionally strong financial and analytical skills, with an ability to model the impact of various capital stacks and rate changes on asset values
  • Creative and strategic leadership style; comfortable being vocal during investment and divestiture decisions
  • Hands on and “close to the asset” style, with asset-class specific expertise; confidence jumping into difficult situations to maximize results
  • Experience working across multiple investment cycles and managing portfolios through downturns, bringing a creative perspective on how to create value

2. Candidates have increased risk aversion in a move

Increased market uncertainty has heightened candidates’ risk aversion, which has manifested in two distinct patterns of behavior:

First, many candidates are no longer willing to consider a move. Well-placed executives have built up personal capital and financial rewards (both short and long term) in their current situations. They view the prospect of being the “LIFO” individual as more potential risk in an already uncertain market.

Second, those who remain open to a move are looking for ways to manage this risk. We see this happening in terms of real security or financial terms, including more guaranteed compensation, longer time-frames, and heightened focus on severance and related elements. We also see this risk management in perceived security or non-financial terms, in the form of increased connectivity with leadership and the board; a solid, realistic strategy and an understanding of the financial resources in place to execute this strategy; and a clear understanding of the company’s overall risk profile. 

3. Increased investment in internal development

RRA research reveals that the retention and engagement of next-gen leaders hinges on greater transparency around succession practices. Importantly, adopting robust and engaging development plans can enhance the fit of next-gen leaders or “out of the box” talent ideas, providing confidence to both the individual and the hiring team.

With the maturation of human capital within the real estate industry, leading-edge organizations are tackling succession by establishing a programmatic yearly review of their human capital needs, often facilitated by an external provider. Progressive organizations have started laying the groundwork for the evolution of the leadership team two to five years in advance. There is effectively a “heat” map for each position and a timeline for the role’s corresponding development needs. Importantly, development plans and experiences are formulated with an eye towards internal candidates who could be positioned for the next leadership spot. This kind of investment in an individual’s development strongly links that person to the company.

4. Shifting compensation dynamics going into year-end

Over the last 18 months, we saw significant increases in total compensation across the board, as employers needed to guarantee retention in key functions and at all seniority levels. At the beginning of 2022, we were dealing with a candidate’s market; however, over the past few months we have started to see the pendulum swinging back to employers. With some market softening and deal flow slowing, there will be less emphasis on using compensation as a retention tool. We will continue monitoring this trend as the year continues.

The most successful leadership teams understand the interconnected nature of these real estate trends and recognize that talent at all levels of the organization is key to resilience in the face of economic and geo-political headwinds.


 

Sources

1 Russell Reynolds Associates, Talent Trends in Real Estate 2022

2 Moody’s Analytics, Where Office Vacancy Stands as Working from Home Becomes Mainstream

3 The Real Deal, Office Occupancy in New York Finally Hits 40%

4 Russell Reynolds Associates, Real Estate Search Volume: 2021 vs 2022


 

Authors

Deb Barbanel Deb Barbanel leads Russell Reynolds Associates’ Real Estate practice. She is based in Los Angeles.

Kristi Walters is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Real Estate Practice. She is based in Dallas.

Cameron Scott is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Real Estate Practice. She is based in New York.

James Baek is a member of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Financial Services knowledge team. He is based in New York.

 

 


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