While many employees were working from home over the past two-plus years, property managers and their teams, deemed essential workers, were on site. They were sanitizing buildings, managing access, enhancing indoor air quality, facilitating COVID-19 screenings, communicating with owners and tenants on active cases, all while managing their own health and that of their families. Taking advantage of reduced occupancy, many found themselves with increased workloads, as they completed deferred maintenance and renovation projects and developed virtual programs and activities to support their absentee tenants. To encourage tenant re-entry, many sought health and safety ratings and developed robust wellness programs.
Credentials Growing in Value
In conjunction with these health and wellness activities, a current hot topic is ESG (environmental, social and governance), covering so much more than the basic sustainability requirements of the past. ENERGY STAR, a program led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and recycling programs are excellent places to start, but there is even more to do. Property managers now also have credentials such as LEED, the U.S. Green Business Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, the International WELL Building Institute’s WELL Building Standard and even BOMA International’s BOMA 360 Performance Program. Both provide the knowledge and skills needed to attain and maintain client-mandated building certifications. In addition to environmental impact and stewardship, ESG also includes community impact and human capital management (social), as well as management practices and policies (governance). Not only do property owners and management companies have ESG goals, but tenants do, as well. A property manager is called upon to understand all of these and is expected to be able to deliver on all fronts, including tracking and reporting on a myriad of metrics.
Turning Spaces Into Places
Measuring tenant satisfaction has always been important as well, but today’s world requires active engagement with each tenant’s organizational culture and their employee experience objectives. It’s not unusual for human resources executives to participate in leasing tours to ensure a building will provide the necessary amenities and health benefits to attract talent and retain employees. The battle for tenants today also means property managers must play a role in embracing innovative amenities, hospitality-level customer service and curated experiences such as rooftop beehives, cooking classes and yoga sessions. By creating communities and turning spaces into places, the property manager is integral in implementing back-to-the-office strategies, all facilitated by tenant-facing apps that allow for engagement and convenience.
These evolving handheld apps provide an integrated tenant experience that enables building access; opportunities to easily reserve conference facilities and event spaces; and immediate access to amenities, food options, building communications and important documents.
Modern Buildings Require Tech-Savvy Management Teams
All these smart building features require active management by the property manager. Unlike the old days, when proptech was limited to accounting and work order software, modern buildings are fully automated, requiring tech-savvy management teams. Along with understanding technological advancements, including IoT, robotics, digital platforms, building infrastructure, monetization of rooftops, AI and cyber security, managers must deal with massive amounts of associated data, requiring today’s “always on” property manager to assess, report and deliver data-driven solutions to solve problems, support ESG and enhance property operations. These added responsibilities generate the demand for highly adept teams. Once again, industry associations like BOMA have stepped in to deliver training programs and learning opportunities that meet the evolving needs of the industry and to facilitate career advancement opportunities.
But training programs aren’t enough. Our post-pandemic world requires a property manager to have a heightened focus on attracting and retaining talent. Finding qualified candidates, offering competitive compensation packages, presenting attractive career development plans and creating hybrid work opportunities present new challenges. Just as tenants’ employee experience is important, so too is the property team’s experience, which is critical to retaining talent. Today we’re seeing a tight employment market, which is highly competitive, impacted by rising wages and challenged by a limited pool of qualified candidates. To navigate this obstacle course, today’s property manager must be an active networker and salesperson for their organization.
Opportunities Await Those Who Embrace Change
What does the future hold? We can anticipate higher expectations from asset managers as they navigate through the inflationary impact and occupancy challenges of this post-pandemic world. Health and wellness will continue to be a priority, as will lifestyle-enhancing services and experiences. “Live, work, play” is the name of the game, and the asset class of the future is mixed-use, with unique requirements that integrate multiple property types—sometimes within a complex financial or operational framework. The commercial property management industry is looking to the multi-housing and hospitality sectors to fill employment gaps and to support new cross-functional roles. Savvy managers are beefing up their skillset to take on these opportunities and reap the rewards of this “new normal.” Opportunity abounds for those who embrace the changing industry and adapt well to clients’ evolving strategies and needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connie O’Murray, RPA, LEED AP, is managing director for JLL’s Houston’s Property Management service line. She oversees JLL’s operations for office, industrial and healthcare clients in that region and leads JLL’s national medical office building property management platform.