If you think mentoring is an aspect of real estate employee management that can be postponed until the economy picks up—or not addressed at all—you may want to reconsider that viewpoint.
Dorothy Alpert, vice chairman and national sector leader-Real Estate of the Real Estate Practice at Deloitte, says there are "not enough" of such relationships, whether formally imposed by the company or spontaneously created by the participants themselves, at real estate companies today.
Mentoring ultimately helps retain employees, says Alpert. "Mentoring is one way to establish a strong connection with employees. And studies show that employees' sense of connection to the organization makes them more likely to stay at the organization."
Last year, Deloitte released a report entitled "Closing the Talent Gap in the Real Estate Industry." The report noted that the real estate industry, already perennially beset by high turnover rates, would be facing an increasing crisis as the Baby Boomers retire in greater numbers.
Because the population that succeeds the Boomers, Generation X, is much smaller, real estate companies should have to concentrate on attracting and retaining, in particular, Generation Y employees. Also, the report pointed out that Generation Y needs to be developed for leadership positions while they still have the benefit of Baby Boomers in leadership positions.
One of the steps that Deloitte recommends, under what it terms a "Develop-Deploy-Connect" talent management model, is to provide availability and access to mentors as a way to groom Generation Y employees.
Deloitte's report was completed last year before the financial crisis, but Alpert argues that employee retention is still a pertinent issue despite the hard economic times. In fact, it may be even more important to work on keeping workers today, as other companies may take the opportunity to search for better employees during the economic downturn. "The retention of the best becomes even more important," she argues.
Mentoring can be a peer-to-peer relationship or a peer-to-senior relationship, in which the individual can identify with a role model, explains Alpert. Peer-to-peer mentoring, in which the employee seeks the advice of a peer, can work extraordinarily well. "You do not have to have mentoring relationships only with your supervisor or someone more senior," says Alpert. "You can have as robust a mentoring relationship with a peer with whom you feel you have things in common and by whom you feel less judged."
Companies can also have different ways to implement such relationships. "Some organizations feel very strongly that mentoring cannot be forced, but both parties have to enter into it willingly, while others feel that to jumpstart the relationship, the organization can start it," says Alpert. "I have seen both [methods] work. More often than not, the best mentoring relationships are ones that find themselves." Mentoring also has to be a two-way street, advises Alpert. "The individual being mentored has to get something out of it" and vice versa.
What can be gained by a mentoring relationship? Alpert says that it is in the nature of Generation Y to desire strong social infrastructures in the workplace, as well as social and professional networking. A relationship with a peer or senior staff member can "be instrumental in introducing that individual to a personal, as well as a professional, network in the organization," she notes.
The mentor can provide career advice and "expose individuals to career opportunities they would not normally seereal estate and that could be inside or outside the organization," says Alpert. The mentor can also provide informal feedback more directly or honestly than can be obtained through the normal channels, she says.
In terms of formal implementation of mentoring relationships, Alpert says she has seen organizations enforce these relationships in a number of ways. They can ask the members of the senior leadership to make sure they are mentoring some specific number of individuals, say, five or 10, and the organization goes about building that objective into the goal of the leader.
The task can also be cascaded down: each leader mentors, say, five individuals, each of whom in turn mentors another five. The individuals receiving the mentoring can also be assigned. The assignments can also be "bottom up," in that the most junior member is selected, and so on.
Under an informal system, the mentoring is "allowed to happen more naturally, but the organization is still building into people's goals that they are actively mentoring others in the organization," says Alpert. The ease of installing a mentoring system depends on the culture of the organization. "Some organizations have robust goal-setting in place, or some cultures are so collaborative that they lend themselves to it," she says. In other companies, "it may be difficult to have mentoring in place if there is no way to build that into [employees'] goals."
According to Alpert, establishing mentoring relationships may be even more pertinent in real estate companiesreal estate homebuilding or apartment managementreal estate where people work on-site. "By their nature, these jobs make people feel more disconnected from their organization," she says. And having mentors elsewhere in the organization is a way for these personnel to be pulled into the organization.
— Nielsen Business Media