Diversity in
Jurassic Park

Imogen Shingler and Rebecca Milne

We often hear that Corporate real estate is overwhelmingly populated by dinosaurs, not the T-Rex or the Diplodocus but the slower moving corporate company, modern equivalents. Whilst harsh, particularly considering many of our clients are diverse, dynamic leaders, this raises key questions in an increasingly diverse and fast-moving world; is this still suitable? Does it matter? Do we need to do something? Are asteroids coming to wipe out those whose approach remains Jurassic?

That are a lot of questions to answer but, spoiler alert – the story didn’t end well for the T-Rex or the Diplodocus when the asteroid finally hit. They couldn’t adapt to the new environment and they eventually became extinct.

The Incendium team presented at Corenet EMEA where there was a lively discussion and the general consensus was that the remaining CRE dinosaurs may not become fully extinct, however in order to survive these asteroids and thrive in ever changing markets, they need to adapt and embrace diversity. This can be done by:

  • Playing the ‘Generation Game’ by embracing the different views and perspectives of all generations, and understanding the impact of generational shifts in the workplace
  • Accepting new approaches, being open to being challenged
  • Increasing the talent pool and recruiting more diverse teams from backgrounds that aren’t solely from vocational Real Estate degrees

What do we mean by diversity?

Diversity is certainly more than chromosomes. Gender equality is one aspect of diversity, where frankly we are still woefully imbalanced, but diversity also includes; ethnicity, age, disability, class, education, sexuality, thought, and so much more.

The Generation Game

Currently there are 5 generations in the workplace who have diverse needs/problems that require different solutions. CRE companies need to adapt their workforce and approach to meet the changing needs of the market as it evolves.

CRE companies need to pay close attention to generational shifts and understand the drivers of each generation. These shifts bring about challenges but also equally attractive opportunities. However, the first step of capturing any opportunity is being open to it and this is where the challenge can lie.

The newest generation hitting the workforce is Gen Z. They have been exposed to the internet, social media platforms and mobile phones from as early as they can remember. This environment in itself has produced a generation that thinks, behaves and consumes in a very different way to previous generations. Gen Z are ethically driven and increasingly mindful about the wider impact of their consumption habits. For example, over the last year a quarter of 18-24 year olds have become vegan and 79% have stated that they’re eager to go meatless a few times a week. Source.

Without wanting to generalise, and from feedback from our younger team members, for Gen Z to successfully integrate, we need employers and managers to be more open to changing their attitudes, perceptions and processes – be more inclusive, understanding and ultimately more collaborative. Gen Z have come through an education system founded on collaboration – the workplace can seem like a very lonely place in comparison to school and university.

Embrace New Approaches

There is a common belief that “tried and tested trumps all” and this must change. Age and experience go hand in hand but in an ever-changing world, age bias is misplaced. Our younger project teams have received push back when challenging their peers along the lines of “we’ve been doing this process for 10 years” – this does not mean it’s necessarily the best way of doing something, and challenging established operations is exactly why clients hire external consultants.

The Recruitment Challenge

We need to start asking ourselves, is it necessary to recruit only employees with Real Estate degrees and backgrounds? Recruiting employees with degrees in other subjects and varied background brings different skills, knowledge, allowing companies to analyse problems from multiple angles which is a huge benefit.

One of the issues here is that students studying other degrees e.g. History or Economics – with equally transferable skills – are simply unaware of the opportunities available in Real Estate. From our experience of recruitment into CRE, we note that many of those in the sector who have not taken a degree in Real Estate, Construction or similar, have entered the market because of recommendations from a family-member or friend in the sector.

As an industry we need to educate, get to the universities and speak to graduates about Real Estate as a career. Only then can we broaden the market, which will ultimately improve the talent pool and the performance of the sector.

The Solution to Survival – Rapid Evolution

We need to be bold as a sector putting aside narrow preconceptions and back people who don’t necessarily fit the norm or play by the current rules.

Diversity in the workforce needs to be seen as an opportunity to innovate and improve our services and teams, not as a tick-box exercise. We need to build diverse and adaptable teams so that CRE can evolve and survive in the new environment when the asteroids hit.