Phil Harris tackles the challenges of a diminishing workforce and how to get the best out of younger practitioners.
We all know the Australian housing sector is still recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis and while there has been much talk around affordability, interest rates and building issues there hasn’t been enough emphasis placed on the massive decline of quality younger practitioners in our industry.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a mass exodus of experienced agents around the country and we urgently need a new generation of real estate professionals to fill that void. Personally, I believe this all starts with education.
The question I often ask myself is why younger Australians don’t appear to be encouraged to consider real estate as a viable career option, at an early stage in their schooling? We seem hell bent on promoting jobs that need tertiary qualifications but what about those youngsters who don’t want to keep studying for years, or take up an apprenticeship?
Real estate can offer younger workers a huge variety of roles and challenges, coupled with long-term security and attractive remuneration straight out of high school. I firmly believe that educational programs really need to be developed to increase their vision to acknowledge the opportunities that real estate can provide.
A significant “gap” is starting to emerge between Baby Boomers and Gen X and Y practitioners. While older and more established industry representatives operate well in the current environment, times are changing and potential sellers and buyers are looking to new and innovative methods of selling and engaging players in the market … and who better to understand that need than young, tech-savvy practitioners?
Real estate has historically had an older “skew”, and younger workers have often found it hard to command the respect of their older counterparts. But there’s much to be said for youthful enthusiasm and a workforce willing to learn!
The critical path to developing and retaining great young practitioners is effective training and mentoring. Senior and middle management obviously can’t expect immediate results out from younger workers – they are a work in progress, but from my experience they’re also well worth the investment.
Utilising real estate trainers from local and interstate markets is crucial to ensure young practitioners get a chance to learn from the very best in the business and see the world of real estate from as many experienced eyes as possible.
Three years ago, I attended the South Australian “High School Auction Idol” competition and was blown away by the quality of the entrants. I approached the eventual winner and offered him a job on the spot. He is now one of my top salespeople and auctioneers and he’s only 20!
Three years ago, I attended the South Australian “High School Auction Idol” competition and was blown away by the quality of the entrants. I approached the eventual winner and offered him a job on the spot. He is now one of my top salespeople and auctioneers and he’s only 20.
Age doesn’t need to be a barrier by any stretch of the imagination. I also believe that if you give younger people an opportunity along with the necessary resources they need to get results, you be rewarded by great outcomes and unquestionable loyalty…not all those rumours about fickle Gen Y are true!
I’ve built my company around youth and I’m extremely comfortable with that decision. I have specifically handpicked some more mature agents who all understand that a significant part of their role is to mentor younger troops. This system works well in my organisation, with both parties finding it extremely rewarding to exchange years of heard earned wisdom with a thirst for knowledge.
We all need to work together to ensure this industry becomes more accessible and attractive to the next generation otherwise we will continue to struggle. New innovative ways of selling are required and what better resource than a young mind to tap into to achieve this.
We need to work with schools, Government to ensure the industry is better promoted and represented, and we all need to be active ambassadors for what can be a fabulously rewarding career choice.
Phil Harris is one of the most well-known, awarded real estate professionals in Australia. As Managing Director of Harris Real Estate, Phil saw a real opportunity to do things differently in South Australia and from this Harris Real Estate began. In just over a year Harris Real Estate has grown to over 50 staff and sold over $200 million worth of property.