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Melissa Barker, Kristine De Santis, How to develop winning talent in property management

One of the challenges facing the real estate industry is the shortage of dynamic people coming into property management. It is imperative that agencies develop winning talent. But it’s not just a case of finding the right person: agencies have to do the hard yards and plan and scaffold if they want to develop outstanding talent. Property managers are not born, they are made.

Melissa Barker has an eye for talent. A talent specialist and HR consultant, Melissa can spot leadership potential from ten paces. Armed with a Bachelor of Human Resource Management; plus a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, Melissa consults on Learning and Development, developing the capabilities of clients to perform and ultimately achieve an organisation’s mission and vision.

Melissa knows that identifying talent is crucial in developing successful managers. She says, “A lot of people just end up in management positions; they just think it’s a natural progression.” But Melissa believes that to be a successful Manager, a person needs to have a really strong desire to manage people to deliver on business results, strategies and outcomes.

She says, “It’s totally fine if someone doesn’t have the desire to do it. They might just want to be a specialist within their field, which is more than okay. But to be a great people manager, you have to have the desire to not only manage yourself and deliver on your own goals, but manage the employment experience of your team and empower your team to deliver on your business plan, and then ultimately the overall organisation strategy.”

Melissa is of the firm view that managers are made and that once you have found the right person, the real work of onboarding starts. Melissa defines onboarding as, “the processes and structures that effectively introduce and welcome a new team member on board into the organisation and its inner workings, the culture, the values, the behaviours, and then their specific requirements of their role”.

Kristine De Santis from Sydney’s Jackson & Rowe knows how to develop top gun property managers and how much effort and work it requires. Kristine is the Licensee in Charge of Jackson & Rowe with more than 960 properties under her tutelage. When she started as a receptionist many years ago, Kristine had no idea she would ever end up in charge. She says, “I’ve never actually ventured into sales. I guess I’ve always preferred property management and enjoyed it.”

Kristine and her team have spent hours developing all the resources and tools needed to develop outstanding property managers. In her office, there are five Property Managers. She explains, “One is the Senior Property Manager, three are Property Managers and one is a Trainee, and she’s got a small portfolio, and I’m overseeing her training. Each manager has between 220 and 280 properties each.”

A number of years ago, the group made a decision to no longer employ experienced Property Managers. Kristine explains, “We like to train them our way, and it’s very hard. I’ve had instances before where we’ve employed staff who have worked in real estate, and it’s very hard to get them to think our way and train into our way. We’re looking for somebody that’s willing to learn so that we can train them.”

Kristine picks her receptionists very carefully because she sees that critical position as a route to property management. She says, ”It gives us time to see how they go, and look at their attitude, how willing they are to learn. If they make a mistake, it doesn’t matter.”

They advertise for positions as property managers but the successful candidate starts in reception. But a receptionist at Jackson and Rowe doesn’t just take calls, pop them through and wait for the next call. A Jackson and Rowe receptionist says Kristine, “is responsible for receipting and banking. They have to understand the compliance around the trust account and banking. They take all the rental enquiries; they sign up all the leases. They take log maintenance for the Property Managers. They follow up any strata maintenance with strata companies. They update our rental window. They do the open packs for the Saturday. They do notes for our weekly meeting that we have once a week, and they give out keys to tradesmen.”

Kristine believes it takes about two years of detailed scaffolding and modelling to learn the role. Jackson & Rowe have a rigorous onboarding program, so the organisation specifically trains the employee in the skills and abilities needed to do the job at the highest level. It’s a lot of work but it produces the best outcome for the business.

As Kristine and Melissa know, and have shown, developing outstanding talent takes time and commitment. The question agencies have to ask is, are they ready as organisations or prepared to lay the ground work, to develop outstanding property managers?

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Melissa Barker, Kristine De Santis, How to develop winning talent in property management