Career Planning Key to Employee Retention

By Nunn, John | Journal of Property Management, September/October 2000 | Go to article overview

Career Planning Key to Employee Retention


Nunn, John, Journal of Property Management


Within the context of low unemployment, rapid wage growth and demand by other industries for top talent, the real estate business has been forced to adapt rapidly to recruit and retain personnel. The real estate industry traditionally has been a second choice option for many, particularly in the multifamily sector, and must compete at the entry level employment spectrum. Competition is fierce because talented new employees have an array of options from which to choose, including training and education for their new careers.

With evolving technology fueling job and wage growth, the multifamily industry is forced to compete for top talent in new and non-traditional ways. BRE Properties, Inc. through the use of its formal Career Planning process, developed a new approach to retain and develop talent. Through an associate review that looks forward rather than backward, Career Planning helps the associate understand all the opportunities available within the firm.

Breakdown of fundamentals

BRE is a multifamily REIT based in the West, employing more than 1,200 associates to manage its 35,000 apartment units directly owned or managed through its fee management subsidiary, Alliance Residential. With operations in eight states and 12 major metropolitan areas, the company is constantly seeking and developing talent to manage and build its growing apartment portfolio. Compounding this task is the location of the corporate office in San Francisco, home to hundreds of hi-tech firms employing thousands of bright, entry-level employees. As the company pursued talent in the recruitment process and lost some highly regarded talent to other firms, both inside and outside the real estate arena, it became apparent that a new dynamic was needed in such a competitive market. As part of BRE's ongoing commitment to innovation, a comprehensive Career Planning program was created within the Asset Management wing of the company in 1999. The program spread throughout BRE to the corporate office and other affiliates of the company.

Career Planning begins with the premise that all associates should map out a career track that they understand, appreciate and view positively. Traditional employment reviews focus on past job performance. Typically, a supervisor meets with an associate at year-end to discuss past performance and planned compensation for the coming period. Career Planning seeks to understand the associate's goals for the future and to develop a track toward his or her ideal job of the future, including a discussion of how to get there, job requirements and financial rewards.

Creating a career planning process

The process began with the development of a Career Planning schedule and resource list. The company uses a task force which is charged with developing the program's tools and resources from a real world, operational perspective. In order to enhance a spirit of looking forward rather than reviewing past performance, the task force recommended that the Career Planning function be moved from year-end to mid-year. While BRE still conducts a year-end review of an associate's past performance, it also implements a mid-year Career Planning review process which focuses exclusively on career planning issues for the associate.

To bolster support for the program, executive management suggested that the task force be led by a highly respected senior manager known throughout the company. The manager was able to draw on resources in the operational area of the company to develop the planning resource packet which was used universally throughout the company.

The task force drafted a standard letter of invitation to all associates explaining the process and establishing a procedure to schedule the meetings. The goal was to make these meetings as convenient as possible for the associate. The resource list rapidly developed into a complete package with a wide variety of information applicable to all levels of the company, including a reading list, a summary of educational opportunities within the company, job descriptions of the most common jobs in the company, and a discussion guide form to structure the meetings. …

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