“PropTech Innovations can Continue to Have a Positive Effect on the Industry’s Future and that of its Workforce.”

This is a guest article written by Jo Tasker and first appeared in our collaborative e-book “The Future of Property,” which features 17 thought leadership articles covering PropTech, property investment and housing. You can download your free copy here.

Jo Tasker is a consultant working across property, construction and technology - helping clients develop their business strategically, to find growth opportunities in new or existing sectors. Jo’s professional network, built up over the past 20 years, spans a variety of industries enabling effective connections and exciting collaborations. Also working in education, she is passionate about the development of the Next Generations of industry professionals. Engaging young people & promoting opportunities available to them in the world of industry is a top priority & personal driver. Jo is working group lead for Tech London Advocates (TLA) Education and Co-lead TLA PropTech Group; Ambassador for Education TLA Women in Tech Group; Member of Founders4Schools Advisory Committee for Diversity.


“PropTech innovations can continue to have a positive effect on the industry’s future and that of its workforce.”

The fusion of property and technology (#PropTech) is driving the renovation of all aspects of the Built Environment lifecycle; investing, designing, constructing, controlling, managing, developing, leasing and selling. What will this digital transformation of the industry mean for the workforce, and subsequently, the business leaders and employers of the future?

We are seeing various industry sectors embrace new technologies to capitalise on efficiencies. As we know, property consultancy is advancing rapidly and major disruptions are already visible - primarily within real estate agencies with the analysis of big data and the application of AI to create platforms for investing, leasing, selling and buying. At the other end of the spectrum, construction is slower on the uptake of technology, including BIM, and so is lagging behind, but it is also on the cusp of change and disruption.

“Productivity has doubled in manufacturing whilst in construction it has remained flat.”

The manufacturing industry adopted Industry 4.0, to improve the quality, speed, productivity and flexibility of that sector. Productivity has doubled in manufacturing whilst in construction it has remained flat, and so this sector is now exploring Industry 4.0 principles and technologies to identify those which can be adapted for or applied to construction, including the growth of automation in services and new construction delivery methods, such as off-site and design for manufacture. The adoption of technologies such as robotics, 3D printing, mixed reality applications (AR/VR), drones and sensors to support the growth in urban connectivity and the Internet of Things (IOT) are becoming known to the industry and are pushing slowly through the adoption barriers.

As the transformation continues, autonomous transportation, material innovations and sustainable engineering solutions, including programmable cement, solar harvesting road surfaces, power generating textiles and forest towers and cities are all destined to disrupt and shape the future of the built environment and those who work within it.

“Currently, the industry suffers from both an image and a productivity problem. It is a slow moving beast, stuck in its ways and resistant to change.”

The adoptions of these new game-changing innovations and processes will see traditional roles blur and blend, with new ones requiring different sets of skills in this fast redeveloping world. We know that many future jobs haven’t been invented yet – as a quote taken from The Economist recently, states, “Over the next decade, more than one billion young people will enter the global labour market – and only 40% will be in jobs that currently exist”

Currently, the industry suffers from both an image and a productivity problem. It is a slow moving beast, stuck in its ways and resistant to change. The slow uptake of technology and the existing skills gap are already a danger to the continuity and growth of the property and construction sectors. However, just like in the three previous industrial revolutions, the fourth will see the obsolescence of some traditional roles making way for new ones to support industry’s transformation providing an exciting and productive future for the next generations.

We’re experiencing a mix of five generations in the workplace, for the first time* and within the next four years the two youngest generations, Millennials (50%) and Generation Z (20%) will together compose nearly 70 percent of global employees.

For organisations to survive over the next transformative years, business leaders therefore need to:

a) understand and embrace new technology

b) have an evolving digital strategy

c) respect the needs and wants of the next generational workforce

“We need to both allow and help them to shape the future and drive the uptake and development of new PropTech innovations which are set to transform the industry.”

Millennials and the following Generation Z are different in many ways, but they do share a number of features which will provide a future-proofing solution for employers if they listen and are willing to adapt current practise to attract new talent.

Their key drivers include:

  • Personal development: This stands as more important in the eyes of Millennials and Gen Z than a salary. It is no longer “What can an employee do for you?” – it is about “What an employer can do for me?” The offer of continuous improvement and support in the development of their ‘personal destiny’ is key to attracting the younger generations.
  • Use of technology: We know that most Millennials have grown up with the onslaught of the internet and an easy adaptation to new technologies; Gen Z will have been born into a digital world and will be familiar with gathering information and communicating using up to five devices, so a digitally-led workplace which uses technology to attract, train and retain new talent will come out on top.
  • Flexibility: The next generation who are constantly online and for whom working 9 to 5 and from Monday to Friday is now obsolete, requires flexible and agile working to mean more than just working from home on a Friday. They will look to blend work and life in a way that is currently anathema to the older generation and current business leaders.
  • Creativity: A chance to be creative and take part in company R&D processes, supporting their quest for innovation and development, will be an important factor for their retention in a company.
  • Corporate social responsibility: This new socially aware generation, advocators of the sharing economy, CSR will be an important factor in the choice of workplace for these altruistic youngsters. They will be looking for companies who share their same values.

It will be this next cohort which will comprise future leaders of industry. We need to both allow and help them to shape the future and drive the uptake and development of new PropTech innovations which are set to transform the industry. So taking what we know about their expectations we can look to adapt current ways of working and employer requirements to attract the necessary talent and skills the industry needs.

Luckily, both of the following generations, Millennials and Generation Z, are digitally literate with the latter - otherwise described as Digital Natives, having never lived in a world without a smartphone. As such, these generations will have the ability to take on and easily adapt to new ways of working and will acquire new digitally-led skills which will become transferrable across different industry sectors. It will be these specific attributes which employers will look for in future employees. Transferrable digital abilities including coding and programming, data literacy and analytics, digital design and robotics engineering will become the norm, as some existing traditional skills are lost. These will be underpinned by the requirement for emotional intelligence, problem solving and interpersonal skills.

This provides an opportunity for a skills-share approach to the workplace, as this young, digitally savvy cohort teach the older generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) new skills, and the previous generations can ensure that some traditional skills as well as the life skills, which are notoriously lacking within the Millennnials skillset, are learned and engaged by the industry’s future leaders and workforce.

“After all, we are talking PropTech – a blend of two industries. For it to succeed, we would do well to understand current practice in tech: share knowledge and embrace the different mind-sets and principles of entrepreneurship.”

We are currently seeing co-creation initiatives bringing businesses and technology innovators together to find the next tech solution for current operational issues or efficiencies, with some organisations taking it further and creating their own tech accelerators to future proof their organisations and steal a march on the competition. However, the future will require employees to be digitally skilled from the outset.

The time has come to also look at the existing workforce and the opportunities to reskill and up-skill as well as attract new skills. We are already seeing the use of immersive technologies in schooling and training and so it can easily be adapted to attract, retain, teach and train the future workforce.

To support the behavioural change in property and construction lessons can be applied from the technology sector. After all, we are talking PropTech – a blend of two industries. For it to succeed, we would do well to understand current practice in tech: share knowledge and embrace the different mind-sets and principles of entrepreneurship to attract the digital talent available elsewhere. In this way, the proliferation of new PropTech innovations can continue to have a positive effect on the industry’s future and that of its workforce.

- Written by Jo Tasker

Notes*:

  • The Silent Generation (born 1900-1945) currently makes up only about 3 percent of the global work force
  • Millennials (1981-2000) are now the most prevalent generation in the workplace (25 percent), surpassing the number of Baby Boomers (1946-1964) in 2014, and Generation X (1965-1980) in 2015
  • Millennials are on track to comprise 50 percent of the workforce worldwide by 2020.
  • “Nexters” or Generation Z (born after 2000) composed another 3 percent of the global workforce, but they make up more of the global population (25 percent) than any other generation. By 2020, they will be out of school, making up 20 percent of the global workforce right behind Millennials
  • (http://www.navexglobal.com/blog/formal-introduction-five-generations-employees-your-workforce)
hbspt.cta.load(2646356, 'adf3edbe-f3da-468f-afdf-168f2aecc896', {}); // ]]>

Capital at risk