By Kevin Redman, Property Recruitment Company
The British Property Federation has estimated that there are 148,046 Build to Rent units either completed or planned across the UK – 34,840 completed, 35,760 under construction and 77,446 in planning. This is a substantial addition to the UK’s housing stock, but unlike BTS or traditional PRS models, Build to Rent needs a completely different operational infrastructure.
Based on comprehensive experience in the market, the Property Recruitment Company has a formula of one employee for every 60 units. Working with this figure, we estimate that there will be a need for over 2500 hires in building operations alone – on the basis of every organisation having a 100% retention rate. To this ends, attraction and retention are going to be of crucial focus for the sector.
The operations of a Build to Rent development are crucial to its success and engaged, motivated staff are paramount to those operations. There’s little point creating fantastic, enticing offerings if they’re ultimately poorly staffed by people who are unmotivated. Build to Rent customers increasingly expect greater levels of service, and the optimal running of these services are one of the key factors that is critical in keeping block retention high.
To get an insight into their employment journey so far, the Property Recruitment Company surveyed candidates who entered the Build to Rent sector at an operational level within the last two years. Below are some of the key findings:
- 86% of employees see themselves working in the Build to Rent sector for at least the next two years.
- 81% were satisfied by their company’s induction and onboarding.
- 75% agreed that the role was what they expected.
- 53% of respondents do not have a clear progression plan.
The research suggests that – at the moment – adequate resources are being put in place to onboard staff, but transparency around career progression needs serious improvement. They also looked at similar sectors to understand why career progression plans are important, and in a survey conducted with operational employees within the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector, the biggest reason employees left their current employer was because of a lack of career progression.
So, what advice would we give to anyone who is operating assets within this sector?
Protect your brand
It’s surprising how much employers invest in their brand to appeal to customers, but don’t connect that job applicants are also their customers. Be clear on your attraction strategy, values and vision, as outside the conference venue the wider employment market is still unaware of the potential career that Build to Rent can provide. Also, for every person who’s offered employment, there are many more who applied but didn’t make the shortlist or were successful through the interview process but were not offered the position.
Every step in the process should be a positive one. The old adage is still the same: bad experiences tend to be spoken about more than good ones – and in an online world of reviews, this cannot be taken lightly. Lastly, ensure you educate and trust your supply chain – they are some of your most important brand ambassadors and managers.
Never underestimate the power of a structured onboarding programme. As a sector, Build to Rent is experiencing record numbers of candidates entering with non-property related backgrounds. And with this it comes with new ideas and innovation, but also a responsibility to educate and alleviate the fear of the unknown.
Onboarding shouldn’t be perceived as what happens on the first day of employment alone, but instead, from the moment you’ve found your new employee, it should be a continuous journey. Ensure there is constant engagement throughout the time from offer to start. Simple things such as site days, team interactions and company educational documents will reap huge reward, comfort and satisfaction.
Previous surveys across property classes suggest organisations struggle to present operational staff with career progression routes. Even though the route may initially seem unclear, not everything has to be fixed around the next job title. Feedback received from candidates show they’re happy to be patient – providing their skills can be recognised. Ensure you’re constantly reviewing your employees, providing training, benefits, work-life balance, corporate social responsibility and internal/external award recognition.
In conclusion, the next few years will see unprecedented levels of employment within the Build to Rent sector – and with that comes unique challenges. But many of these can be mitigated through preparation and understanding of your attraction and retention policies. If you get your staffing right, the rewards will follow. Looking after your staff – who look after your residents – is the easiest way to protect your asset and is therefore integral to the success of every Build to Rent development.