Redundancies – and why we must fight another brain drain from the industry

Redundancies are almost always a shock and very sad for the people concerned.

At the same time redundancies do create new and positive opportunities for both job-seekers and prospective employers.

Only months ago, I was writing about skill shortages throughout the estate agency and letting agency sector.

It was increasingly difficult for employers to entice talented and experienced new people to join them.

How things have changed!

With redundancies being made – most notably, although not exclusively, by Countrywide – we now have highly experienced and capable agents in the marketplace.

My own agency has been approached by a good many, and I am glad to say we have swiftly managed to place the majority.

But make no mistake about it: there is trouble at the top of some of the UK’s biggest brands.

September is the traditional month when companies need to get their recruitment strategy in place for the next six months, driving growth into 2017, so a good look at the new candidates will pay dividends for those agents with the right game plan.

Closing offices and making senior personnel redundant is never an easy choice, even for a large chain.

But corporate losses will surely be an enterprising smaller agent’s gain.

As a property industry recruitment specialist, my view is that cuts have their place, but too many at area or regional management level inevitably weaken a company if redundancy removes expertise.

To me, that is exactly what is happening at Countrywide.

Coupled with the introduction of a “retail” strategy that no one seems to believe in, I anticipate seeing more ex-Countrywide staff on the jobs market.

It is easy for big businesses to forget what the independents know: their people are their greatest assets.

There will of course be some independents also worried about their bottom lines.

I would urge them to hold their nerve – and, perhaps oddly for a recruiter to say, hold on to their people wherever possible.

The customer is always king and what they demand is experience and authority when making what the most significant financial investment of their lives – a home.

Experienced personnel are what make the difference in building client confidence – and they are the foundation for any business.

There is no suggestion that there will be a property downturn of the likes of 2008, but there is a lesson to be learned: many good people were let go by their employers, some leaving the industry forever.

A second danger I have detected is a collapse in confidence for those staff who remain after redundancies and there is now a clear trend for those personnel to look for new opportunities too.

I, and other property industry recruiters, are seeing exactly this at Countrywide.

In my opinion, they are right to look at their options sooner rather than later.

Other chains, independents and online agencies are all recruiting, provided they can find the right people.

A word or warning, though: job seekers from the corporate world need to be ready for a cultural shift away from delegation to doing.

Those who act now – even with a three-month notice period – can begin the new year with a fresh challenge.

Many of these candidates will have already weathered two tough recessions to emerge stronger and smarter.

This kind of resilience is a real bonus for an ambitious business.

But this battlefield experience comes at a price for some of those who have been, or will be made, redundant.

The harsh reality is there are fewer and fewer area and senior manager positions available for these premier personnel. This is because there are so few openings for those who have managed, say 20-plus branches.

No wonder the top performers are looking outside the industry for a career where they can bank £120,000 plus.

My advice to companies is learn from  the past, to fight the brain drain and take the opportunity to really exploit that priceless experience.

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