Many experts in the career field would say that developing and nurturing talent in an organisation leads to the creation of a desired work culture and retention of staff, particularly the retention of the best of the best, who feel challenged and connected to the organisation.
But how do you do that when each staff member is his own agent, working off 100 per cent commission rather than being an actual employee? "By growing our own talent," says Mark Grant, national director of marketing for commercial property expert Jones Lang LaSalle.
The story of 27-year-old Nick Theyers, who has just been to Singapore as the only New Zealand representative in the company's Step Up programme, illustrates how they do it. When Theyers left school he went into the hospitality industry and worked as a DJ in his spare time. "At the time a few of my friends completed a Bachelor of Property degree and they were doing well - I liked the diverse nature of the degree and the job opportunities that seemed to come from it ... being in management, agency work, property development and more."
So Theyers enrolled in the Bachelor of Property through the University of Auckland and graduated in 2011.
Grant says Jones Lang LaSalle is always on the lookout for talented graduates and has a good relationship with the university. "We like to get graduates and coach them in our culture and values. We prefer to develop people rather than recruit," Grant says. "This works for us, as is shown in our retention rate,
"When we bring in new people we make sure we bring in the right people. We invest personal time and effort into people as we want them to succeed,"
Theyers started at Jones Lang LaSalle in a lease support role, doing administration work for senior agents and was paid while learning. "I learned a lot by doing that. Once I finished the degree I had to do one paper to be licensed."
He was then set up with a team who were given Newmarket and Grafton as their area. "We received guidance from senior brokers and started making connections. It was all about building my own business and creating my own targets."
He and his business partner now work on the city fringe, the horseshoe from Parnell to Ponsonby.
Theyers says his hospitality background helped as he already knew how to read people and make connections. Last year Theyers won the best new recruit award from the company. "I felt privileged to be recognised. As far as Singapore is concerned, that came slightly later. You have to be under 30 and have worked for the firm for two years. "
Theyers was the only New Zealand candidate. "We like to show our graduates how important they are for us," says Grant.
The Step Up programme in Singapore, which is now it in its fourth year, is a three-day course which brings together 40 of the brightest, most ambitious young talents from Jones Lang LaSalle's Asia-Pacific region. It is an opportunity for them to learn about the intricacies of the firm, develop personal skills, gain a deeper understanding of their personal working style and discuss their future as senior leaders of the firm.
Theyers says that to go into commercial property you need to be disciplined and have strong people skills. "It's a huge advantage to have the ability to read people and situations in day-to-day negotiations. You need to be ambitious, hardworking and resilient - not every deal is going to work out and you have to be able to take the knocks."
Grant says now that Theyers and his partner have grown their business, he will become a mentor to someone coming in - continuing the way the company focuses on its recruits.
And what about dejaying for Theyers. "Yes, I still do it - it's just something on the side though, something completely different to what I do during the day."