Agents brace for talent war

Nancy Ko

The local property market has seen a tremendous recovery in the past year, as sales volumes and prices have shot up dramatically. This was accompanied by strong expectations that the upward momentum would continue in the near future. The scene today is vastly different from the dire situation two years ago.

Kitty Ip, executive director at Midland Holdings, says that in response to the recovery, her company will expand its sales team and create more jobs to meet increasing demands.

She stresses that market trends, that show a shortage of candidates, will not affect the company's recruitment.

'Our selection criteria will remain the same and will not be influenced by the number of candidates available in the market.'

Ip says the company is anticipating an 'all-out war' to compete for professionals among the top property agencies.

'Among other things, this means we will have to fight hard for the most dynamic property salespeople in the near future,' she says.

Midland foresees the demand for frontline sales and support staff to jump in the coming months, with sales trainees and property salespeople being some of the most sought after.

Ip says Midland will position itself as the preferred employer in order to attract, optimise and retain good people.

'Apart from offering an attractive remuneration package, Midland puts a lot of emphasis on career prospects and professional training for its top people to help them fit into the company's long-term development strategies.'

Ip adds that 'unlike companies that sell consumer products, the sales cycle of the property sector, in terms of time and documentation processes, is enormously long and tedious'. She says property salespeople have to take time to build relationships with potential clients and, with that in mind, the company requires candidates to have strong personal qualities, such as good communication skills, an outgoing personality, and a sense of mission to go the extra mile to make a difference.

Ip says her company pays close attention to talent management and career development of staff. 'Midland is a people-oriented company, hence staff development is one of our core business values. We have a comprehensive training road map for staff at all levels.'

For example, licensing preparatory courses will be offered to sales trainees. Real estate and sales skill courses are for licensed agents.

Those who are supervisors or above will be put on management and compliance courses, Ip says.

She stresses that at Midland training is a continuing process in career development for employees and that the company has extended its scope of training to benefit the entire industry.

'Different kinds of courses are offered to staff at different levels to encourage life-long learning and development,' she says.

'We are not only promoting this concept within the company; we have developed a series of courses for the Continuing Professional Development Scheme of the Estate Agents Authority to enhance professionalism within the industry.'

Ip says staff retention is a concern, and paying markedly more money is not the best solution.

Midland has strategic policies in place to prevent high staff turnover.

'We understand that to create employee loyalty, monetary benefits are only one factor. It's important to always show proper respect and make staff feel valued. Therefore, our training also covers staff personal development.

'We offer the Enneagram training, which studies personality structures, to help staff understand themselves better, and we also have stress management classes.'

In addition to allocating resources for training and personal development, Midland has a work-life balance programme and a counselling hotline for staff to seek professional advice on stress and emotional issues.