THE HIRING SQUAD: How Talent Can Help Create an Enduring National Real Estate Company

In this executive Q&A, Jana Turner, principal at RETS Associates, a leading national real estate recruiting firm, and Melissa Labor, Director of Human Resources and Culture at Granite Properties, a privately held real estate investment and management company, discuss the process of unifying a firm of five offices through its people. Labor shares details on the importance of internal company culture as it is carried through to assets and customers with the purpose of creating a lasting local-national presence.

 Jana Turner (JT): Please describe Granite’s current activity on the West Coast.

Melissa Labor (ML): There are so many exciting things going on – it’s a wonderful place to be in terms of commercial real estate, and Granite Properties, because we are acquiring, developing and hiring. We have our largest presence in Dallas because that is where our corporate office is, but we’ve made a commitment to focus on the West Coast, specifically California and Colorado because there is so much opportunity there. We own and develop our own properties, and we believe that if we also operate those properties, we can add more value and deliver the highest quality real estate to our customers. Over the last few years, we have grown our development, construction and property management teams in those core West Coast real estate communities.

JT: Please describe your company culture and the importance of aligning new hires with your values.

ML: We support our team members holistically and believe this is much more than just a place to work. We are like a family and place great importance on our relationships and supporting each other. With approximately 165 employees between Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Los Angeles, we place a heavy value on growth, collaboration, transparency, giving back and building relationships. A major part of our culture is focused on fostering growth within each employee. We provide opportunities and challenges to our people that help them flourish. For example if we have a new initiative in Los Angeles, we will incorporate teams from Atlanta, Houston and more, to share ideas and give new perspectives. From this, the participants can feel the impact they make because of our collaborative nature and nimble size.

These values translate across our team and through our assets with the intention of inspiring people to flourish in the places that we create. By uniting our culture nationwide, we are adding value to the experience and are executing a seamless, parallel process that sets us up to be an enduring national real estate company that is connected nationwide. Because our internal culture has such an impact on our external success, we believe hiring to align with our values is one of the most important moves we can make in business.

JT: What is your perception of the current hiring market in your core cities and what are you doing to secure top talent?

ML: The commercial real estate industry is in a frenzy at the moment. There is great talent out there, but it’s highly competitive which gives candidates the ability to dictate where and how they want to grow their career. They’re being thorough in their decision making and asking the right questions about growth opportunities. Because of how competitive the market is right now, we are moving quickly in our recruitment efforts, but being sure to not lose the integrity of our process. It’s a balancing act and we do have a few efforts in place to fast-track candidates through interviews. For example, we will set up back-to-back meetings with a candidate in one day instead of spreading it out over a week or two. We’re busy, and they’re busy, and this commitment makes it easier and more efficient for all involved.

This talent war also has an impact on our retention strategies. We are being creative and trying to understand our team’s motivators and what they want from their career with us. Our partnership with a recruiter has led to advice on providing a complete compensation package at the top of market rates because we want our people to feel their worth. We also provide our employees with the ability to add value to the greater community through 40 hours of paid time to volunteer during work hours. We sponsor community events and make sure we give our team the opportunity to join industry networking associations and attend conferences to gain knowledge. This weaves them into the fabric of our culture and the surrounding community.

Furthermore, in an effort to connect our culture and activity across our five offices, we hold quarterly meetings with our President or CEO in each office to involve all teams in the ongoing business. This transparency and unity allows all our employees to feel included, valued, see a clear path of growth and have their voice heard, demonstrating a genuine respect for their career and long-term retention.

Our people are our future. They are an investment in our success and we have built a partnership with RETS to navigate these waters accurately and successfully for the future of our firm.

JT: Please describe your interview process and how you leverage a recruiter.

ML: We have a committed and thorough process when hiring for any position because we believe making an up-front investment will lay the foundation for a happy, successful, long-term employee. It begins with a deep dive into identifying characteristics, experiences and more that would align with our culture and the market for which we’re hiring. Once the recruiter sources the candidates based on these characteristics, each answers a series questions customized to the position and to our culture. One of the most important questions on that sheet is “what is the best experience you have ever had with culture and what does it look like to you.” It’s important to not only see that someone has taken the time to answer these questions meaningfully, but that they parallel our beliefs as well.

Next, interviews with managers and directors will be centered on the topic of culture as it relates to the questionnaire, followed by meetings with the team they would be working with but not necessarily reporting to. One of the key pieces to our process is putting the candidate in different real-life situations and scenarios. By doing so, we get a snapshot of what that person is like in their everyday work and personal life. We want to see their authentic selves. From here, it gets narrowed down to the best fit for both parties.

This process is very much a partnership with RETS in a way that is greater than just recruitment. The recruiter is an extension of our team that advises us on the state of the market, how to secure top talent, how to retain our current employees and what is an appropriate compensation package. Each candidate that has been presented is top talent and spot-on with what we’re looking for.