Tackling emerging business challenges

Emerging Trends in Real Estate® 2020

“If you’re not the learner, you’re the lesson.”

Looking inward

As much as the industry faces pressure to embrace digital transformation and adapt to changing policies and customer expectations, companies also need to look inward to shift how they operate so they can succeed in the future.

If they’re going to be more innovative, make full use of proptech and get ahead of customer trends, they’ll have to make sure they have the right capabilities. That means addressing rising business challenges like shortages of labour and talent and the growing cybersecurity threat.

“We’re a family-owned business with very senior people who have been with us forever. We also have new young people, but we don’t have anyone in the middle.”

The construction industry’s missing middle

Qualified labour availability is one of the top economic and financial issues cited by survey respondents for 2020, ranking just below jobs and income growth and regulations. Data from Employment and Social Development Canada predicts that while construction GDP growth is expected to stay relatively constant, employment growth will stagnate, decreasing to 0.9% from 2017-26 from 2.6% over the period spanning 2007-16. As the most experienced workers start to leave the industry at an average rate of 58,000 per year, a significant labour gap is expected. 

To resolve the shortages, some companies are setting up their own trade schools with guaranteed jobs for those who complete their courses. Others are turning to automation and modularization to begin addressing the labour and cost issues. While prefabricated components aren’t necessarily cheaper, technology solutions can at least tackle the labour gap.

Securing key skills and talent

Besides the growing concern about labour shortages, the industry is also seeing a rising gap around talent and skills. Interviewees noted that while the industry is achieving some success in attracting new talent, many organizations are struggling to retain employees, develop their skills and manage intergenerational differences.

Many companies are exploring the solutions available to them to attract and retain workers. When it comes to younger employees, interviewees emphasized the need to give regular feedback and recognition. “Constant feedback is everything, especially in a small family business,” said one interviewee.

Others cited the importance of workplace flexibility policies, attractive workspaces and having modern tools and technology. Younger workers also crave inclusion and responsibility.

Canadian business leaders have a tendency to think they can hire their way out of a skills shortage, but there’s also a need to upskill the workforce to address the missing middle.

“The decision makers are becoming younger, partly because of technology and partly because of inclusive policies. In order to attract and retain staff, you need to include them in meetings, mentor and give them responsibilities earlier or you will lose them.”

Cybersecurity isn’t only a technology issue; it’s a broader business concern. To support strategic goals, organizations need to reframe the roles of their cybersecurity professionals by embedding their teams within the business.

The urgent issue of cybersecurity

A separate but equally urgent issue for many interviewees is the challenge of cybersecurity. Digitization, including the rising use of IoT-enabled sensors in buildings, creates added vulnerability for many real estate players. 

One interviewee suggested the real estate industry is behind on addressing the issue and needs to step up its game. “The real estate industry is behind in learning about cyber crime and taking it seriously enough to either train or hire staff to combat it,” said the interviewee.

For organizations that haven’t been focusing on cyber crime, hiring more people is one way to start. But adding staff can only go so far in protecting new digital initiatives from emerging risks. 

A PwC study of hundreds of incidents of cyber and operational failures cited a common root cause in most cases: the dependence on a highly siloed and reactive approach to digital resilience. Businesses can’t count on an inconsistent web of solutions, policies and procedures in a crisis, certainly not when attacks are becoming more sophisticated and the window for enacting the right response is getting shorter.

Those who look to build digital trust by equipping their people with the right skills and awareness, engage the necessary business processes across their organization and put proper controls in place for safer adoption of new technologies will be more resilient to attacks.

Follow PwC Canada