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Why Are These CRE Companies Magnets for Millennials?

Recruiting Millennials to work in the commercial real estate sector goes beyond serving free lunch, providing unlimited vacation or lavishing other cool perks on them.

As the retirement wave continues among Baby Boomers, the commercial real estate sector is grappling with its graying workforce.

According to the Institute of Real Estate Management, the average age of a property manager is 52, and many real estate professionals are in their 40s and 50s. Facing that reality, folks responsible for attracting and retaining workers in commercial real estate recognize that they’ve got to woo Millennials in order to keep their businesses running. After all, Millennials now make up the largest generational share of the American workforce.

Yet recruiting Millennials to work in the commercial real estate sector—or any other sector, for that matter—goes well beyond serving free lunch, providing unlimited vacation or lavishing other cool perks on them.

Fortune magazine recently released its ranking of the 100 best workplaces for Millennials, and several employers in the commercial real estate sphere appear on the list. NREI reached out to executives at three of the winning companies—Concord Hospitality Enterprises, Transwestern and Walker & Dunlop—to find out why their workplaces are Millennial magnets and what lessons you can learn from these employers.


Fortune ranking: 38

Larry Heard, CEO of Houston-based commercial real estate services company Transwestern, believes that shining a light on Transwestern’s mission is critical to recruiting and retaining Millennials.

“We go to great lengths to make sure that any new employee—which would include the Millennial workers—has a very clear understanding of our mission and our vision as a firm, so they can personally buy into that,” he says. “That’s an important aspect of the decision-making tree that the Millennials go through when they’re discerning the best company to work for.”

Once they’re working for Transwestern, Millennials are encouraged to get involved in young professionals groups at the company’s major offices. That and other efforts are designed to cultivate personal empowerment, innovation and teamwork.

In trying to entice Millennial workers, Transwestern also hosts holiday parties, year-round social events, wellness activities, one-on-one mentoring and training and skill development courses.

Every Millennial is unique, however, so workers in this age group can’t be lumped together and treated exactly the same. One may appreciate social activities in the workplace, while another may gravitate toward personal development opportunities.

“It’s hard to paint all of the Millennials with a single brush stroke, so I would not fall into some of the misnomers that are out there that may exist about a Millennial worker,” Heard says.

Recruiting tactics that were prevalent, say, 20 years ago won’t necessarily work with Millennials, he notes.

When trying to hire Millennials, “I do believe that the things you stand for as a firm do need to be fully appreciated and [need to] check a lot of the boxes that they have when they’re going through the process of determining where they want to work,” Heard says.

Concord Hospitality Enterprises

Fortune ranking: 81

Raleigh, N.C.-based Concord, a hotel developer, owner and operator, treats each employee—not just Millennials—like a customer, says Debra Punke, senior vice president of human capital.

“The experience from hire to retire is essential to Millennials, and if you are thoughtful about each interaction, they will join your team and stick around,” Punke says.

Millennials want to stick around at Concord because they’re energized by the company’s purpose-driven nature, she says. These workers are drawn to employers that have crafted a well-articulated mission that resonates inside and outside the workplace, according to Punke.

“Millennials want to be affiliated with an employer who cares about giving back to the communities where they live and work,” she says. “They want to be part of a company who has a greater purpose and impact.”

From what Punke has observed, some employers in commercial real estate are failing to attract Millennial workers “because they are all about the business.”

“It’s high-pressure and only the results matter. They are not purpose-driven,” she adds.

Punke says Concord fosters a work environment that appeals to Millennials in four key areas:

Charity—Concord enables employees to engage in fundraisers, volunteer projects and other charitable endeavors. Over the past decade, employees have raised $750,000, served more than 2 million meals, refurbished a dozen homes and donated 17,000 volunteer hours, Punke says.

Fun—Concord employees recognize and support each other in a variety of ways, according to Punke. She says Concord wants its workers to have fun “in all that they do.”

"Not only do we place a strong emphasis on learning, opportunities for growth and recognition, but we also insist on having fun--who doesn't love that?" she notes.

Sustainability—Among other things, Concord builds green hotels, repurposes soap and shampoo into bars of soap for vulnerable kids around the world and diverts tons of waste from landfills.

Wellness—On-site fitness centers and virtual competitions are among the tools that Concord uses to promote mental, physical and emotional wellness in the workforce.

“We believe if you take care of them, they will take care of the customers and the profit will flow,” Punke notes.

Walker & Dunlop

Fortune ranking: 83

Millennials who join Walker & Dunlop, a Bethesda, Md.-based provider of commercial real estate financing, find a number of opportunities to flourish professionally.

For instance, Walker & Dunlop sponsors a “high potential” program for employees who have been with the company for a few years and have established a track record of success, according to Paula Pryor, senior vice president of human resources.

In that program, a manager identifies someone who’s got the potential to rise through the ranks over the next five years and nominates that person to participate, Pryor says. Every year, executives pick 10 “high potential” employees for the program. Over the course of a year, each participant learns how to polish presentation, leadership and teambuilding skills; shadows a member of the management team; and collaborates on a corporate initiative.

Additionally, Pryor says, the company strives to help Millennials carve out a career path, which includes consideration for in-house promotions.

She notes that more than 40 percent of Walker & Dunlop’s workforce consists of Millennials.


Correction: July 09, 2017
Editor's note: The original version of this article misattributed a quote by a Concord employee to employee from another company. The article has since been updated.
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