Key Commercial Real Estate Roles in 2025
By: Christopher Lee, president and CEO of CEL & Associates, Inc.
Winter 2016 2017
Many existing jobs will disappear and new roles will emerge within CRE companies over the next decade.
A PERFECT STORM of technology advancements, consolidation, leadership transitions, new organizational architecture, globalization and the internet of everything is reshaping skills, capabilities, titles and organizational/operational reporting relationships throughout the real estate industry. Rapid demographic, financial, societal, market, competitor, product and service changes are reshaping how real estate companies are organized, led, staffed and governed.
Over the next decade, many transformative changes will create new roles, responsibilities, business practices and processes. The icons of the past are phasing out, retiring or already gone. They are being replaced by new entrepreneurs who view and interact with real estate in far different ways. While the values and role of real estate in society have not changed, key roles, responsibilities and titles within the industry are shifting and will continue to undergo dramatic changes.
By 2025, 25 to 30 percent of all real estate firms in existence today will be gone via merger, acquisition, bankruptcy, retirement or inability to compete. Despite this massive consolidation, however, the number of individuals in C-suite positions will likely increase. Leaders in talent management (formerly known as human resource directors), brand management (formerly marketing directors) and enterprise or business directors (formerly property managers) will assume greater leadership roles within real estate organizations. The role of the office manager will be restructured as the cultural officer or business colony manager.
Every real estate firm will likely have a cyber security director and an innovations director. Leasing agents in apartment buildings will become lifestyle consultants. It will not be unusual to see some firms with a director of sponsorship or an alternative currency banker. The roles and responsibilities of the individuals in these positions — as well as the abilities and expertise they bring to their jobs — must reflect tomorrow’s realities. In other words, a title change without the skill set to fulfill the title expectations will not work.
New performance metrics will emerge: return on talent (ROT), talent productivity (TP), balanced scorecards, return on training (ROTR) and talent-to-profitability ratio. Over the next several years, performance measurement will shift from semiannual or annual reviews to immediate reviews upon completion of an assignment or project.
Office buildings in 2025 will function like a full-service hotel, operate like a timeshare property and, at times, look and work like an airport’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint. Office buildings will shift from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to 24/7 activity centers. The rise of “any time/any place” office space will place new demands on commercial operating platforms.
Robotics will transform the warehouse/distribution sector. Tenants will, within a decade, demand service clauses and service standards in their lease agreements, necessitating the addition of a workplace environment specialist to the real estate team. The workplace environment specialist will monitor and ensure optimal noise, temperature and air quality conditions, as well as additional factors such as common area maintenance, safety, security, amenities and use of materials that are environmentally safe and nonallergenic.
By 2025, over 75 percent of employees at every real estate service company will have at least one certification or designation. The need to have and build valued tenant relationships may necessitate a position called the “voice of the customer” director. This person will work closely with each tenant to create a workplace environment that reflects the needs and opinions of the workers occupying the building, rather than just the individual signing the lease.
By 2025, up to 25 percent of the U.S. energy supply will come from renewable energy sources. Most best-in-class real estate firms will employ a director of sustainability. The unfolding “game of gigabits” will place new demands on technology teams and their leaders as well as cloud computing and big data specialists within every real estate firm.
Perhaps the biggest role change over the next decade will be within the brokerage industry. The title of broker will slowly disappear and be replaced by an advisor or business advisor, whose role will shift from transactional to a strategic advisory function. By 2025, there will likely be certified underwriters, and it is very likely that up to half of today’s commission-first brokers will be gone, replaced by technology-savvy, financially astute relationship advisors/advocates.
Virtual space, holography and other internet-based technologies will render many of today’s meetings outdated and ineffective. Expect anthropomorphic human-machine interfaces like the already available telepresence robots to replace the traditional face-to-face meeting format much of the time. The internet’s increasing role in the workplace will create the new positions of digital manager and digital leasing representative. Urban indoor farming will necessitate specialists in crop and plant management. By 2025, you won’t be surprised to see a commercial farm REIT. Within a decade, there will likely be an energy Airbnb-like grid necessitating specialists in environmental management and alternative energy resource management.
Within the next decade, approximately 40 to 45 percent of the U.S. workforce will consist of freelancers, temps and independent contractors; what all of these solo entrepreneurs will be called has yet to be determined. By 2025, many real estate practitioners will need to be bilingual, particularly those working throughout the Southwest and Southeast — and especially in California and Texas — where Spanish will be spoken by significant portions of the population.
The uberization of the U.S. economy will result in shifting titles and responsibilities. As singer-songwriter Bob Dylan wrote, “The times, they are a-changin’.” So, too, are roles within the real estate industry. What is most exciting about this transformation? An incredible number of new job opportunities and opportunities to learn new skills are likely to emerge. The future for all within the real estate industry could not be brighter. Onward to 2025!