As the PBSA sector grows and evolves so must the skill set of those working in it

If you have read any property related news outlet, or if like me every student accommodation news source you can find, you will struggle to come across anything other than glowing reports of the sectors growth prospects. Cushman & Wakefield’s 2016 Student Report confirmed this growth, reporting that purpose built student accommodation had reached 568,000 in the UK in 2016, a 5.4% uplift on the previous year.

Having met with many providers in the sector over the last few weeks, it’s clear that investment remains high, with numerous reports of strong pipelines for additional bed space. However, with all this good news, one key challenge stands out. This significant growth of the sector has given greater choice to students, though this also brings a need for new additional resident services, which is an area that there is a large employee skills gap.

The sector can no longer assume “the room will sell itself”, it’s imperative that prospective students get the best impression of their buildings, and more importantly the exceptional customer service they will receive. Student Experience is a key element of student recruitment decisions and student accommodation is a pivotal part of this experience. Staff need to understand what makes their accommodation unique in the market place and must be able to sell the benefits to ensure that potential customers leave excited with the intention of signing up to a room. Once they have filled the building, attention switches to giving students the best possible experience. Whether this is sorting a leaky tap (or more likely reduced WiFi speed) or simply being friendly and approachable, it is no longer acceptable to just provide a room to stay in. Students rightfully deserve more.

That is not to say this is not currently happening. There are many highly talented individuals working in this sector and we should know! To recognise this talent, we organise the Student Housing Leadership Awards (SHLAs). A first of its kind, the awards purpose is to acknowledge those individuals who maintain extremely high standards day in day out. Last year’s event was a great success but it also set the bar very high in what we can expect from student accommodation providers. 

The massive growth of the student accommodation sector means that there is an ever-increasing need to attract candidates from outside the current workforce. We are finding more providers considering candidates from retail, supermarkets, hotel, and gym backgrounds to meet the skill set and geographic hiring demands. As the recruitment market leader in this sector we have had to adapt and drive new strategies to meet this head on, building localised candidate pools with “out of sector” skills is just one of the initiatives that we are carrying out to support the sectors recruitment needs.

Many providers still voice concerns of taking a “risk” on someone who has not previously worked in the sector. We understand these concerns and have put a number of steps in place to mitigate the risks involved in cross sector recruitment. The clear challenge is to gain the positives from other sector experience whilst de-risking the elements of the unknown. At The Property Recruitment Company we have developed our own in-house technology platform to overcome this challenge and provide the highest quality cross sector candidates.

Our PRC360 platform is a way of showcasing and profiling prospective candidates in a way that a CV can never do. It highlights other key skill areas, taking the focus away from a simple “who they’ve worked for” approach to provide a more committed and relevant interview shortlist.

PRC360 brings together a wide range of features to take the guesswork out of the hiring process for cross sector candidates. Candidates create and upload their own content so they can highlight the elements of their skills and experience they feel are most important. Video introductions and interview-style Q&As video technology allows employers to “meet” the candidates remotely. Online messaging means that employers can ask the recruitment consultant questions and discuss options with their colleagues using the private messaging system. Lastly, the abilities and expected salaries of the shortlisted candidates can be easily compared, facilitating faster and more accurate decision-making on your final candidate choice.

2017 will bring with it even more growth and change than previous years and traditional recruitment methods will need to keep pace if it’s going to adequately serve this diverse sector. If you would like to discuss our PRC360 platform or simply discuss any of your potential talent management challenges, then we would love to hear from you.