The future of PropTech: Diversity of Thought?
By Lucy Wright
Quite rightly there is a lot of information out there about how to attract and hire diverse candidates. It’s something that I have written about previously and it continues to be a driving passion of mine. I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss diversity from a different perspective, diversity of thought.
Often, we talk about diversity of thought being the socio-economic background or gender of individuals, but what I would like to discuss is the potential application of diversity of thought within PropTech. Specifically, how we can look outside of traditional talent pools to find candidates with unique perspectives and experience.
Currently, a major focus for PropTech organisations is on attracting talent from direct competitors, as well as from the traditional real estate sector. This will always be a key talent pool for the industry, however, is there an opportunity to enrich these teams with the experience and perspectives from other industries such as the wider technology landscape? Does focusing on just these two pools in fact lead to a potential skills gap for the future, and act as a barrier to scale? PropTech, by definition, is a mix of real estate and technology, and we can go further when it comes to hiring from within the technology sector.
There have been huge sums of VC investment into PropTech, $10.6 billion year to date. With a substantial proportion of this going into job creation, the demand for talent is unprecedented and finding sufficient talent has become a blocker for many high growth start-ups trying to scale. I recently sat down with a successful Series A CEO & Founder who came from a background in consulting, and we discussed at length his views on hiring, and where he likes to look for future senior hires. The common theme was that, as he originally came from outside of the industry, he sees value in what different experience and perspectives can bring to an organisation, and with the majority of his future hires, he will be looking at scale up experience, and not necessarily industry-based knowledge. This is quite a thought-provoking outlook, and to quote him, ‘If we are building a business that wishes to innovate this industry, our hiring needs to reflect that’.
The conversation has been playing on my mind recently because, as a sector that holds innovation as a central value, are we innovating enough within the hiring process? If we are all pulling in the same direction and trying to advance the digitalisation of Real Estate, could diversity of thought play a more important role in the hiring process? This is something within our search process that we advise our clients, we hypothesise different profiles and source individuals with different backgrounds, as well as traditional recruiting profiles, to challenge the thinking of teams and avoid ‘groupthink’.
That’s not to say that traditional industry know-how isn’t essential for PropTech businesses. There are, of course, certain roles that will simply require real estate experience. However, by exploring wider sectors to hire from, PropTech businesses will be able to highlight candidates with transferrable skillsets that can bring fresh perspectives to the wider team and support the company’s growth. The roles we’ve seen this work particularly well have been functional roles – Strategy, Finance and Marketing to name a few. As the industry grows, taking a more holistic approach to hiring is key. Looking at the team to date, seeing where there are skill gaps, and building a case for wider industries that might offer unique candidates with strong potential to make the jump to PropTech. Individuals with functional expertise in, say Finance and Marketing, frequently move between different industry verticals, it stands to reason that they could move into PropTech too. As the PropTech industry expands, and the skills gap continues to widen, it’s essential that the sector starts to actively look for recruitment solutions.