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Embracing a Culture of Professional Development

July 31, 2017 | John Salustri

Here’s a challenge for you: “Companies need to make sure they are cultivating a culture where no barriers exist for professional development.” This from Lori Flaska, vice president of human resources for The Habitat Company LLC, AMO in Chicago. “Instituting talent management plans will have little or no value if employees fear asking questions about their jobs or fear sharing their future aspirations.”

Notice the word culture in that quote. It appears as well in the headline of the Journal of Property Management article in which it appears: “Cultivate Talent by Cultivating Culture.” If you haven’t noticed, the industry—in fact business in general, far beyond the industry—has left in the dust age-old practices of simply hiring the best and brightest. In its place is a new-age approach that actually puts the major emphasis on retention and links the preservation and growth of that talent with the overall mission and branding of the company in question.

As writer Kristin Gunderson Hunt points out, the new approach to talent is sweeping business generally and the industry in particular. In fact, she reports, nearly 60 percent of real estate firms surveyed by NAIOP in 2015 are developing formal talent management programs.

The corporate culture that supports talent management can embrace such developmental perks as formal and informal education and mentorship initiatives. In terms of education, professionals she interviewed for the piece “tout employee-driven education committees that assess, brainstorm, promote and even develop learning opportunities for their colleagues.” The formats for these opportunities are as diverse as the subject matter, suited to the needs of the student.

The mentorship programs they advocate for, “typically exist to pair up employees and fulfill a certain objective, whether it’s to acquaint new employees to the company faster, grow an employee’s career in a particular direction or help them find other like-employees if they are in a minority group.” Think of it as on-the-job training, she writes, “giving mentees the freedom—once they’re ‘ready’—to make decisions and even mistakes without fearing for their jobs.”

However, career development programs are not the sole province of the employing organization. The employee must take a role and advocate for such initiatives, Hunt says, and should take advantage of performance-review time to express their goals and interests. One hand clearly washes the other, and it is assumed that, in a supportive culture, the employee would feel naturally comfortable raising those issues.

“If we can keep our staff here,” says Ann Crawley, human resources EVP at Ogden & Company, AMO in Milwaukee, “it’s a win/win for everyone.” And everyone wins in an environment, a culture, of “open communication that is supportive of our employees.”

Read the full story in the July/August 2017 issue of JPM.

About the Author
John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM’s website. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of, the industry’s premier real estate news website, where he managed the daily output of 25 international reporters, and prior to that, he was editor of Real Estate Forum Magazine. John is a four-time winner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Award for Excellence in Journalism.

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