The Power of Retail and Hospitality in Property

By James Gregory

Since my first experience recruiting into Student Accommodation 8 years ago, it has become increasingly evident that a commercial and operational skillset is something that can be transferable across sectors. There are limitations to this when it comes to the slightly more technical roles, but on the whole it has given the commercial operators a lucrative opportunity to branch out into alternative investment asset classes, sourcing candidates that are hungry for progression and widening their skill sets.

Candidates from retail and hospitality might need to be briefed on the similarities between the job roles and alternative sector, but rarely do they turn down the opportunity to move in the current climate. The high street operators are struggling greatly with rising rents and the spike in online purchasing, and with this in mind, senior managers and directors are looking for opportunities outside of their comfort zones.

A client once asked me what I thought the boundaries were to hiring people from different sectors, and in my opinion, the key barrier is a lack of training and a solid on boarding structure. These simple yet effective measures are vital in order to ensure a smooth sector crossover into Student Accommodation. At a senior level, Retail/Hospitality is often far more financially technical and demanding, and often the accountability for larger teams is higher. An individual at this level could be more than capable of operating in Student Accommodation. Not to mention, some of the new ideas that candidates from a different sector can bring, ultimately turn out to be the ones that transform service levels and talent plans for whole businesses.

From Starbucks to Costa Coffee, from Virgin Active to Nuffield Health, from EE to Vodafone, I have successfully placed a number of mid-senior roles into Student Accommodation, Build to Rent and Serviced Offices where there was a lack of available candidates of the right calibre in the sector. The common denominator in these roles has been a customer centric approach, and levels of commerciality which transfer well into an alternative sector.

This way of recruiting requires a leap of faith from alternative investment asset classes. But among the most forward thinking Directors in this industry, it is well known that they have the ability to recruit individuals based on the personality traits, values and character that matches their business, rather than poaching individuals from a limited pool of their competitors. We use a number of personality profiling tools by Thomas International to assess individuals’ personality traits and coaching styles in order to create effective teams and boost employee engagement with strong leadership. I have had the pleasure of witnessing candidates such as these progressing through businesses, often providing a new perspective and a fresh way of thinking, whilst helping to diversify the working environment for their teams.

In a sector that is screaming out for a more diverse and inclusive workforce and fresh, “outside the box” thinking, I strongly believe that candidates from alternative sectors with different backgrounds are the key to achieving this.

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