Commercial real estate (CRE) is a 200-year-old industry still clinging to the aged and inefficient apprenticeship model of developing employees, whereby an experienced executive hands down his or her knowledge and experience through some vague, vicarious methods. It’s expensive, outdated and leaves employees ill-equipped to innovate in a fast-changing world since the knowledge and training is all based on the distant past.
We need people ready to rise to Allegiancy’s expectation of developing solutions-oriented workers who are tech-savvy, inventive and forward-thinking innovators.
So we developed a solution: a technology enabled training system that equips new Allegiancy hires to quickly become productive members of the team while capturing and conferring institutional knowledge and developing dynamic and proactive employees.
Here’s how it works:
Lucas Crocker is one of the new breed of Allegiancy analysts after just five months of employment (as of case study development time, October 2015).
A company on a steep growth curve that has seen the number of employees triple in the past year, Allegiancy has been on a hiring binge of analysts. Motivated and driven, the analysts are quickly equipped for their work and assimilated into the Allegiancy team through the company’s wide-ranging and thorough training system – a system that bucks the real estate trend of learning as you go and replaces it with intensive, technology-rich educational content and live fire drills.
Among the goals of the training system is giving the analysts a fundamental understanding of the varied Allegiancy departments, functions and experts and showing how they tie together to form an industry-leading firm with a reputation for innovation and results.
Drawing on decades of experience of its ownership and executive team in business, finance and real estate, Allegiancy formulated a technology-based training system. It entails a number of steps:
—In hiring an analyst, Allegiancy looks for young workers who possess motivation, desire, critical thinking skills and abilities that include communicating, writing and public speaking. This may be students who had a broad liberal arts education in college as opposed to attaining a degree in a specific course of study, or maybe someone with no college education at all;
—Training that includes the new employees taking Building Owners and Management Institute International online courses and tests to give them insights and skills into property and facility management;
—Shadowing experienced managers to see first hand the Allegiancy method of asset management. They learn from experts the proactive, practical steps of asset management that distinguishes Allegiancy in the commercial real estate asset management industry;
—Learning how to compile and analyze troves of data from each property under management, how to run algorithms designed by the business intelligence department and how to utilize the proprietary predictive analytics — all with the goal being helping the leadership team see what’s happening in real time. Pushing the data to managers allows the experienced leadership team to execute decisive measures that lead to profit-making actions.
—Seeing the performance of the assets through the management process to understand how all the disparate parts at Allegiancy fit cohesively together to fuel an innovative, tech-enabled industry leader.
Now, back to Crocker, an illustration of the value of the Allegiancy apprenticeship program.
Crocker is learning the industry in a company whose executives have a combined 100 plus years of experience in commercial real estate. With backgrounds in regional, national and international businesses that have flourished through boom and bust times, the Sadlers understand industry fundamentals, but incorporate fresh, visionary tactics centered around a technology-enabled platform that systemizes processes.
He describes the team of Allegiancy analysts, including his co-workers James Sneed, 22, and Gray Bryant, 25, as the ‘lifters’ of the office.
“We do all of the necessary and perpetual heavy lifting so Allegiancy can build muscle,” Crocker said. “Basically, the function of an analyst is to analyze the small things — renewal rates, the cost of running HVAC, what is the minimal energy usage of a building — that occur on a property level in order for the asset managers to make informed tactical and strategic decisions, thereby increasing the value of Allegiancy’s portfolio for our investors and building owners.”
It starts with expectations. “They want you to work hard, be thorough and put your best foot forward,” Crocker said. “These guys prefer that you make decisions quickly, even wrong ones and that you keep learning and improving.”
The training is multi-layered. Crocker describes the BOMI online courses and shadowing, for example, as learning through books followed by an immediate practical application.
“We’ll read a chapter on leasing, and then we’ll go work with the leasing team,” Crocker said.
Sneed, a 2015 graduate of Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania, arrived at Allegiancy after a summer of sales at a Richmond car dealership. In college, Sneed took several real estate courses, and his father works for a major commercial real estate firm, so he had some general familiarity with the industry.
“I like that you have to go through each department, and they teach you what they do and how they do it,” Sneed said.
The analysts describe a system-based training platform in which one day they may shadow a property manager who teaches them everything about that aspect of the business while the next day they will be working with the accounting department.
They read leases.
“Everything comes out of the lease,” Crocker said. “It’s like the Bible.”
Leases allow them to get to know tenants through personal interviews, with each of them overseeing their own portfolio of assets that stretch from Pennsylvania to Florida.
“I knew Allegiancy dealt with investors and property managers,” Sneed said. “I didn’t know how detailed they get into it. It’s a lot more detailed and a lot more hands-on than I expected.”
These details often arise out of the “boots on the ground” mentality espoused by the Sadlers. Last year, for example, Allegiancy employees traveled 130,000 miles to visit properties around the country to meet with investors, tenants, vendors, contractors and others as part of its hands-on management process that drives the company’s success.
“I learn a ton every day,” said Bryant, another 25-year-old Hampden-Sydney College graduate, who had previously worked in the accounting department of a regional bank. “You’re handling property, doing a little bit of leasing stuff, and learning hands on.”
In his sixth week of employment, Bryant passed his first BOMI course.
While he was thrilled with the course success, he said, it’s the training experience at Allegiancy that has been great.
“They are so much more hands-on than what you get in school,” he said. “You learn something and the next day you’re putting it to use. It feels like you’re having a real impact. It feels like you’re doing something that makes a real difference.”
Crocker describes a work environment that’s demanding, but fun. Training includes conveying a strategic decision-making process that goes into managing each process that centers around no detail being too small or seemingly inconsequential.
“It’s the small things no one else talks about that make a difference here,” Crocker said.
Case Study: Revolutionizing the CRE Industry’s Traditional Method of Employee Training.