AFR – Property Industry Fights War for Talented Staff to Meet Growing Demands in Boom Time

The following article was published in The Australian Financial Review on  12 February 2015 by Michael Bleby.

The principal of Vincent Young, Brett Vincent, offered his insight into the trends of the construction and property industry hiring boom.


The property industry is going through a hiring boom as demand surges for construction- and property-related services.

Jobs ads for property lawyers jumped 80 per cent, ads for contract management staff rose 67 per cent, and engineering drafting ads rose by 47 per cent last year, figures from recruitment company Seek show.

Demand for accountants with experience in construction, such as project accountants, grew midway though last year and remains strong, says Susan Drew, recruiter Hays’ regional director of accountancy and finance.

The shortage is felt strongest perhaps in real estate.

“I’ve been in this market for 27 years and I’ve never seen a market so short of quality people to bring into a business,” says CBRE chief executive Tom Southern. “[Given] the sort of money that was being put down as key money to secure people upfront – with no guarantees from the person coming in – and the amount of poaching, you could almost say it’s reached the stage where in some cases it’s a merry-go-round.”

CBRE’s hiring is focused on sales and leasing across the retail, industrial, office and hotels sectors, Southern says.

Life is returning to commercial property and companies are seeking staff to help fuel that growth. JLL Australia recently said leasing revenues jumped 28 per cent last year from 2013 and CBRE cited”notable strength” in the Australian market as one driver behind its 26 per cent rise in global revenue.

How long the current boom in hiring will last is uncertain. Brett Vincent, the principal of Sydney construction law firm Vincent Young, says pent-up demand will mean a full year of work this year, but beyond that the outlook is uncertain.

“We haven’t hired, but we’ve taken on a senior consultant [lawyer],” Vincent says. “This thing’s got a year to run, and after that year, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I need flexibility in the year after that.”

Others remain bullish. Master Builders Australia predicts that jobs for high skilled managers and para-professionals in the building industry, such as project managers, site managers, safety supervisors and estimators, will grow at an average 3.7 per cent over the next decade –faster than jobs in skilled trades and in lower- and semi-skilled roles.

Colliers has boosted revenue more than 25 per cent each year for the past five years and the firm intends to stick to that pace of growth this year, Colliers International chief executive John Kenny says.

The strongest sub-sectors of the market are transactions for large institutional investor clients, workplace advisory and tenant representation, Kenny says.

Employees jump between companies in any industry. JLL in January said it had hired eight new staff, four of them from Colliers.

“It shows confidence in our business and in our direction for people to jump ship and we welcome them,” says chief executive Stephen Conry. “We employed an extra 300 people over the last five years and 170 of those have come from competitors.”

Conry says the busiest areas are project management, valuations, investment sales and leasing.

Kenny, meanwhile, says the degree of poaching is the same as always.

“It’s not abnormal,” he says. “You’d probably find it’s more in our favour than anybody’s favour.”

By Michael Bleby