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STAFFING, WHICH IS IT?

Maybe talk of an industry hardwired for optimism is a bit overstated. More than 280 people took our Quick Poll last week–asking for a staffing outlook–and 35% said Are You Joking? I’m Lucky If I’ll be Working. An equal number predicted their firms Will Be Flat. No Better. No Worse. Whistling in the dark, maybe, but a brave 30% stated that We’ll Add By December. JLL human resources EVP Beth Hayden makes a return trip to Commentary this week, carrying a full basket of optimism. In the course of our talk, she quoted another recent Commentator who noted that there is optimism in chaos. Go, Beth:

“The chaos comment is a good one. Speaking from our perspective and the strength of our diversification, we are growing in outsourcing, and in a downturn, corporates look to us as the expert to manage what’s not their core capability–real estate. We’re adding people significantly–to the tune of several hundred–based just on the business we have already won.

“And this hasn’t tempered at all, despite the economy. In fact, we’re finding that corporates are relying on us more because they want to manage their costs and they know we can help them do that.

“The one thing I love about real estate is that it’s populated with optimists and they’re highly entrepreneurial. So I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw that level of optimism in your poll results. We’re pretty resilient as an industry. Especially the folks who have been around for a while and have seen the cycles. They’ve learned. It’s never the same cycle, of course, but they do learn and they can apply that learning to the next cycle.

“In terms of finding the right people, we’ve been fortunate and have had a regular flow of candidates. But we know the work force is aging, and we have to start figuring out what the long-term planning and phasing is so we can make sure that, when our senior-most people want to exit the workforce, we can transfer that knowledge or even keep them around on some sort of contingency basis, to maintain that institutional knowledge and leadership.

“We also have a program to recruit people on campus. And we’re constantly thinking of ways we can be more contemporary in the ways we attract new entrants into the workforce. We know that things like sustainability are very important to the younger workforce so we make sure we include communication about our sustainability program.

“Those are the things that a lot of executive committees are talking about now. And there’s recognition in the marketplace that this is an inevitable issue and something we can’t delay. We have to start now and we have to have a sense of urgency about it.”

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