We need more diversity, more innovation and skills from outside the industry

The world is changing rapidly and the Covid-19 pandemic has only intensified this. The property industry has often been slow to embrace change in the past but urgently needs to address this if we are to get the best out of our built environment both now and for generations to come.

To identify where change is needed the most, The London Property Alliance have commissioned a major new piece of research into the future of Central London’s property industry and as champions of progress, Buro Four are proud to have supported this research.

The research has found that the sector urgently needs new skills to respond to the climate emergency, the growth of digital technology and use of data, and changing user needs. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the up-skilling requirements identified by the research.

Key findings of the ‘Building Skills for the Future’ report include:

  • In an industry-wide survey, 90% of respondents stated that the climate emergency will most impact the sector. Digital technology and use of data (85%) and changing user needs (74%) were identified as the second and third most important disruptive trends for London real estate.
  • 89% of respondents stated that property companies should be recruiting more people from outside of the sector. They should be hiring staff trained in the social sciences, product and service design, data sciences and AI (artificial intelligence).
  • Innovation, collaboration and influencing skills were identified as the top three ‘soft skills’ which companies should invest in developing, to enable the traditionally slow-moving property profession to respond to disruptive trends and economic ‘shocks’ such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • There is an urgent need to diversify the workforce to support cognitive diversity and make sure that a broader range of experiences and viewpoints are involved in real estate decisions. Only 9% of respondents to the industry survey were BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities) compared to over 40% of the London population.

The research provides a five-point plan to tackle these challenges, including building and mapping skill-sets within businesses; developing cognitively diverse teams by recruiting from a wider talent pool; creating work cultures that enable and encourage innovation; and working with RICS, RIBA and real estate universities to ensure the skills taught match modern industry needs.

Executive Director of the London Property Alliance, Charles Begley added: “Although the property industry has made great strides in trying to attract staff from more diverse backgrounds over recent years, it is clear it needs to accelerate and intensify these efforts if it’s not going to be left behind. Recruitment from a wider range of educational, gender and ethnic backgrounds is good for both business and society.”

The report is sponsored by Buro Four, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, HB Reavis UK, Landsec, MacDonald & Company and Waterman Group; and authored by research and innovation practice Future Places Studio.