What the Nomad Economy Means for Hiring and Careers

Careers aren’t linear anymore in the new nomad economy. Instead, this new paradigm means employees and professionals can be expected to change jobs more frequently and employers view their responsibilities differently.

This has huge ramifications for businesses and professionals considering career prospects. What does career advancement mean now? How can employers remain competitive to shifting talent pools or retain the talent they already have?

The Rise of the Nomad Economy

Thirty years ago, an employee in the commercial real estate sector or in just about any industry could expect to work for the same company fifteen or more years. The expectation of a lifetime loyalty to the same company culminating in a fat retirement and a gold watch was a very real one.

Then the ladder of career advancement was straight and narrow. Hiring almost implied ownership. To get somewhere in your professional life meant company loyalty and moving up the ladder to bigger titles and pay raises.

But in the past decade or so, that has all changed. Even the past few years have seen this shift grow. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the average tenure of employees is just 4.2 years. Just a few years ago, it was 4.6. Removing the public sector, the average becomes 3.8 years. And it is expected this average will continue to plummet.

Leading talent strategy institute, Korn Ferry, recently named this phenomenon the nomad economy. Whereas leaving a job every few years was considered a sign of poor commitment or ineptitude, it has now become not only normal but expected. Professionals are expected to learn, gain from their experiences, and move into bigger and better roles – sometimes going into different career fields entirely.

Career advancement is no longer a ladder but a labyrinth. The path to success now requires lateral moves, occasional small steps down, and perhaps even jumping ship to leverage previous experiences for a new challenge. Companies are struggling to hang onto their best and brightest and find it difficult to justify investing in employees who are only going to move on in a few years.

What This Means for the Commercial Real Estate Businesses

2018 was a hugely successful year for the commercial real estate industry. Many businesses report a difficulty hiring or holding onto key talent. No doubt, the rise of the nomad economy is partly facilitated by the current strength of the US economy.

So how do commercial real estate businesses retain and attract top talent in a highly competitive market with professionals now viewing themselves more as free agents?

  • Allow Versatility In House Nimble and capable professionals prefer to change lanes often and work their way up. Give your people several roles to compete for or increase their responsibilities outside of traditional department boundaries. Allow them more opportunity for advancement within your organization to scratch that itch and keep them interested and committed.
  • Invest in Skills Development It may seem counter-intuitive to provide employee development programs in a nomad economy, but investing in your team is more important now than ever. Cross train and mentor talent to keep them invested and loyal.
  • Offer Competitive Pay Scales and Benefits It is crucial to be realistic about the value of top professionals. The commercial real estate industry is booming. Top talent is worth more now than ever. If you don’t incentivize ambitious professionals with top salaries and benefits, someone else will.
  • Remain Open to Candidates with a Non-Traditional Career Path

While it may not seem intuitive to consider new hires from alternative industries or departments,

hard skills and industry-specific skills can be taught. Soft skills and personality are inherent or

formed through various life experiences. Therefore, it makes sense to keep an open mind to folks

who, while they might require more training, align with your culture and may bring a new perspective.

What This Means for Commercial Real Estate Professionals

Brokers, builders, property managers, and other key players in the commercial real estate space have more options available then ever before. Professionals have the ability to explore curiosities, grow, learn, and make a more meaningful impact. Settling for 2-3% annual raises is no longer the norm when a smart career change every few years can bring about a sudden 10-25% hike.

So how do you stand out in the nomad economy as an exciting person to work with and entrust with key responsibilities? Some have boiled down the key ingredients to the acronym, PARLAY:

  • Purpose: Understand your personal motivations and keep your goals in mind.
  • Attitude: Be positive and giving in your interactions.
  • Relationships: Think of co-workers, bosses, and direct reports as part of an ever-expanding network that transcends your current work arrangement. Pay it forward.
  • Learning: Seek out and choose mentors and opportunities to advance your skills.
  • Awareness: Understand who you are, your strengths, and where you fit best.
  • You: Take charge. No one else is responsible for your career path except you.

For help navigating the nomad economy for yourself or your business, seek out the advice or help of a proven talent search firm who specializes in your space.


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