Increase retention by increasing engagement – focus on stretch, mobility and feedback

Key takeaways from the Talent Management Meeting

March 1, 2022


Today’s highly competitive job market has every real estate investment management firm on edge, not only with recruitment but also retention. One potential strategy for retention though is to increase employee engagement.


During NAREIM’s Talent Management meeting this week, members dived into retention strategies within their own organization, highlighting tactics that were working on the ground for them – and which were not. One key theme that emerged from the 60-min virtual connection was to find ways of increasing employee engagement.


Among the ideas shared by members are below. Members also conducted a live poll on return and retention strategies.


The poll - which revealed 54% of firms will not consider returning to the office full-time in 2022 - can be accessed here. The meeting attendee list can also be accessed here.


Increase mobility and involvement

  • One member said they were focusing on internal mobility in 2022, providing not just stretch assignments and additional projects but also asking people on the verge of resigning what they wanted to do. The member said:

  • For junior professionals, responses included working within different functional areas or moving to different offices.

  • For senior professionals, helping people get involved with the social mission of the firm had helped, with more people getting involved in DEI, ESG, health and wellness. On the DEI front, the member said they were creating DEI sub-committees to report back to the DEI Committee and help drive more action on the issue.

  • “It’s about more opportunities for employee engagement,” the member said.


Increase the feedback

  • Multiple members highlighted the need for managers to provide greater levels of feedback to their direct report employees, with one member saying they had implemented quarterly check-ins in additional to two annual performance reviews.

  • The key, all members agreed, was to get managers to perform regular 1:1 conversations with their team throughout the year.


Mentoring: Formal and informal

  • Whether formal or informal, mentoring was a key strategy for helping retain employees and helping them feel more engaged with the leadership – and therefore the firm.

  • Many members were currently starting mentoring pilot schemes, with one saying they were restricting the initial program to six employees to understand how to execute and then scale the program. Personality tests were often performed to help match mentee to mentor, with one member also getting mentees together once a month to share feedback. Cross-functional matches were highly recommended.

  • Key advice was to make sure the mentor program felt like an honor to be a part of to avoid lack of participation on the part of the mentee.

  • Even if formal mentor programs are beyond the scale or resources available to the firm, many members said there were benefits in helping an informal mentor program emerge.


360-degree reviews. Good or not so good?

Irrespective of firm size, the HR tools we use are critical to ensuring employees get the training, development and feedback they need, and want. 

  • Members dived into the core issues of 360-degree reviews and the systems used to track engagement and potential. Systems discussed included: Workday – something often suited better for larger organizations, Cornerstone, Ceridian, Clear Company, among others.


Other key HRIS highlights included:

  • 360-degree reviews can be difficult to implement so make sure managers know how to incorporate 360-degree reviews into employee feedback, otherwise there is a risk the tool will not be used. One member said, 360-degree reviews were great but could also “totally sink the [HR] ship”.

  • An alternative is to think about peer reviews instead. The key was not to allow managers to feel overwhelmed when they get 20 requests for peer reviews all at once.

  • Peer reviews or 360-degree reviews need an element of anonymity to work

  • Training and development for smaller managers. One member recommended LinkedIn Learning, which provided a vast array of career and training content.

  • The need for executive coaching and training for managers. One member said it was important to understand the versatility of managers with a leadership versatility index.


Members also conducted a live poll on return and retention strategies.

The poll - which revealed 54% of firms will not consider returning to the office full-time in 2022 - can be accessed here. The meeting attendee list can also be accessed here.