In a stronger position

Small talk
Marta Sybilska, the owner of recruitment Prime Hunters, tells us about the real estate recruitment market in the peculiar economic and geo+political situation we now find ourselves in

What is the HR situation on the Polish real estate market currently like?

Marta Sybilska, the owner of Prime Hunters: Well, that depends on the sector, but probably the best and most general answer would be that it is dynamic – and that has been the case since the pandemic. At that time, all sectors in practice stopped hiring, which was quite painful for HR agencies. This was particularly clear in the warehousing sector, as it very much outsources these services. But after a few months, warehousing got the wind back in its sails again, as e-commerce rapidly took off and needed infrastructure.

From which sectors have you had the most enquiries in recent months?

Warehousing and PRS are active as well as renewable energy and, lately, retail again. Existing shopping centres that suffered during the pandemic are being modernised and enlarged, so there’s a lot of demand for construction workers (site managers and project managers, since my agency is involved with finding such people), and also people who specialise in leasing, because the leasing is underway at the same time as the construction. For a number of years, there has been a constant rotation of leasing department personnel, including both agents and top management.

The sector has been moaning en masse about the financing conditions for projects. Is this situation being reflected in the job market?

Quite definitely, yes, because financial specialists are in high demand, such as accountants, junior accountants, financial controllers and those responsible for securing and servicing financing. Interestingly, even for positions that are not strictly involved in financing, such experience is becoming more important, and this even includes positions related to real estate operational management, such as property and asset managers. They should now have the knowledge required to secure financing to support their employers in optimising their portfolios.

Sorry to ask you this, but what about the quality of the job applicants? Is our sector also now dominated by the highly demanding Generation Z?

I wouldn’t say that they dominate, but you can definitely see their presence. This generation is certainly more focused on their work-life balance and has from the start had high expectations of their work. The hardest to fill are traditionally low-paid positions that require creativity and flexibility. I’m talking about receptionists and office managers. On the other hand, this generation is usually better educated, with the standard being two foreign languages and fluent English as an essential minimum.

Could we say that we now have an employee’s market on our hands and therefore that it’s a good time to change jobs?

I try to avoid such generalisations, because it always depends on the specific field, which is often extremely narrow, as well as on the predisposition and situation of the job applicant. It’s worth asking yourself this question occasionally, to give yourself the opportunity to develop in your current position, or to get a promotion or a pay rise. Or maybe you prefer stability with a lower income? Or you’re prepared to take on a major life risk to secure better conditions? What I like about the current situation is that the real estate market is relatively stable – a lot is being built. So, a lot is being leased out and people are hiring.

Among the job applicants, are there many specialists from Ukraine and Belarus?

We are seeing such applicants in a few sectors, but one obstacle to entering them is their lack of Polish and often very weak English. I have received many applications from Ukrainian project managers, but the problem is that they don’t know Polish law and don’t understand the conditions here. They don’t know how to talk to government bodies – and this is essential for such positions. But I’ve had quite a bit of success matching up employers with architects from the East. These are generally people who speak foreign languages and also have a lot of experience of digital environments, such as BIM. They are highly sought-after and they’re doing very well here in Poland.

In a nutshell, what advice would you give to a real estate employer in the current situation?

This might sound odd coming from the mouth of someone who makes a living from recruitment, but I would definitely recommend that they take care of the employees that they’ve got. You have to appreciate them, take an interest in their problems and support their development. This is much easier and more beneficial than looking for someone else. My agency mainly works with candidates with active careers, so when we make them an offer, their first reaction is normally to go to their employer to ask them: “Well, what do you say about that?” And then it turns out that they actually always had lots of opportunities for further development in the company they were with and can negotiate pay rises of even up to 70 pct. In our agency, we often joke that we would make a fortune if we took a commission from such pay rises. And this wouldn’t be completely without justification, because this kind of situation usually ends up with that person changing their mind about finding a new job, and so our agency earns nothing out of it.

So far we’ve talked about your work, but have you yourself had the chance to take a break this summer?

I’ve only been able to take short weekend breaks so far – and always with my laptop tucked under my arm. Over the last long weekend, I had the chance to catch some sun in Cyprus, but now I’m waiting for next spring to take a real holiday. I’ll be going to go to Seoul for two weeks of sightseeing.

Interview: Tomasz Cudowski