Asia Pacific’s real estate and construction sectors are set to take a hard hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Across Australia’s state and territory capitals, for example, property value fell by 0.5% in May — the first instance since June 2019. With a sharp drop in demand and incomes, experts predict that it could fall by as much as 7–10% by year end. Singapore, too, is feeling the pinch on the construction front, with a projected 10.3% contraction this year according to a report by Fitch Solutions. And while China claims to have regained its pre-COVID level of GDP and a projected growth rate of 2.7%, its construction sector is not quite out of the woods just yet. In a recent interview, Joe Chan, Head of Cost and Commercial Management in China at Arcadis, said that the main issue for China’s property and construction sectors now is that of reduced investment across the market due to ‘blocked cash flow of developers’. Fluctuations in the global economy, too, will likely have an adverse reaction in China as well. 

With that said, Mckinsey maintains an optimistic outlook. Using 2008’s Global Financial Crisis as a reference, the management consulting firm believes that companies that came out ahead after the 2008 crisis ‘typically moved fast and hard on productivity, rapidly reallocated resources and made bold moves to prepare for the future’. The best advice? To ‘think through the moves they can make today to come out ahead later’, and one of the best ways to do that is to put together a team that’s ready for business recovery. Here are the key property and construction skill sets to hire for in the rest of 2020. 

1. Stakeholder management

This is important at all levels of the property, construction, facilities management, and social housing sectors. As client expectations grow, the ability to effectively build and manage these relationships becomes ever more important. Getting buy-in from senior stakeholders will determine whether a deal moves forward, so commercial awareness will play a big part in this. From an external perspective, consumers within every market are much savvier, and when it comes to the services that they are paying for, demand more than a simple solution. Effective stakeholder management skills will always serve professionals well.

2. Project management

Effective project management is the bedrock of success in this sector, particularly for longer-term projects. A skilled project manager must be able to multi-task, ensuring that each phase of a project runs to time and budget. This, in turn, requires excellent interpersonal abilities in terms of liaising with key stakeholders at the right time and ensuring that customers are kept in the loop on progress. Project managers must also have an appreciation of risk and proactively assess any potential pitfalls. Although project management can be studied, ultimately there is no substitute for well-worn experience in this area.

3. Team development

Managing a large team is difficult in any sector, and in property and facilities management, teams can be spread across various sites and are not always in contact with their managers. Despite these hurdles, it is still important to be constantly focusing on developing the skills sets of your teams, to drive efficiency and innovation. The level of service that customers receive can make or break a business. This is why team performance management is now more important than ever in ensuring consistent and high-level delivery of service, and that everyone is adhering to their agreed contracts.          

4. Business development

In uncertain times, competition has never been fiercer for new business. However, landing a project or contract is one thing, but it is another to successfully deliver and drive repeat business. For this reason, the ability to build strong and lasting business relationships is highly admired in the sector and something that professionals at all levels should be striving to do. Skilled business development managers are highly valuable in the property sector, as competition continues to grow and the expectations of the level of service delivered increases.          

5. Financial acumen

Many could be mistaken for believing that it is only professionals who spend their days working with spreadsheets who need to possess financial acumen. However, a keen appreciation of commerciality is important at all levels of an operation. Those with a comprehensive understanding of market changes, upcoming challenges, opportunities, and legislation will be in a better position to adapt quickly when required. Ultimately, the ability to increase revenue and effectively manage a deal are key skill sets that businesses are looking for. 

6. Chartered credentials

While new technologies and market forces are undoubtedly transforming the sector, some fundamentals remain unchanged. For example, the skills of a chartered surveyor will vary according to the specific sector that they choose to qualify within, whether this is residential, planning and development or facilities management. However, if the quality of training and the level of their competencies are in line with the highest available qualification standards, these professionals will remain highly employable and sought after. 

7. Asset management 

Uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has meant that there is a real need for businesses to make better-informed investment choices. In order to prepare for potential challenges in the market, we expect there to be an increase in the need for businesses to bring in talented professionals with experience in asset management, including development appraisals. To help plan for the challenges of 2020 and beyond, it is important that businesses are not overvaluing sites which are at risk of potentially negative market impacts. This is particularly prevalent in the residential market. 

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