Tackling Diversity with Andie Edmonds

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(Photo above | Pixabay)

Towards the end of 2017 Andie Edmonds, a principal with NAI Cascade, was asked by 2018 CCIM Institute President Dave P. Wilson, CCIM to chair a Presidential Advisory Group (PAG) on diversity in the commercial real estate industry. The advisory committee is tasked with considering age, gender and race demographics of the commercial real estate industry and what the primary drivers or obstacles might be that affect a more diverse group of people from working in the CRE industry, or other similar industries. One goal of the advisory group is to evaluate what role the CCIM Institute can take as an organization and at the chapter level, to promote diversity within CCIM organization and more broadly, to the CRE industry as a whole. Wilson is an Executive Vice President with Lockard Companies in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

“The concept of diversity for diversity’s sake is not accomplishing anything for our industry. I think (hope) everyone agrees that hiring practices should be blind to age, gender, race, etc. and instead focus on qualified candidates. However, we have to take the concept from 30,000 feet and get it to ground level, with actionable steps that address perceived challenges and murky scenarios in the workplace. There are plenty of studies that indicate that businesses are more innovative, culturally healthier, and by extension more profitable when they have a diverse workforce,” say Edmonds.

“This is one of the more important issues affecting workplaces throughout America today. At some point you have to get out there and make things happen, so this is our shot at moving the needle on the diversity issue. And because CCIM is structured with a base of local chapters at the core of its operations, we think we can effect change locally. Further, we think it’s important to have as many oars in the water rowing in the same direction. CREW has certainly been in the forefront on this issue (CREW’s 2017 white paper, Diversity: The Business Advantage) is excellent. And ULI has done some work on the topic,” Edmonds said.

“Our goal with this task force is for our work and recommendations to be impactful. We want to add to the body of work that exists, and more. Diverse companies are more innovative, creative, collaborative, strategic and profitable. Why wouldn’t everyone want that? I also suspect that we will discover elements to workforce practices that we are already experiencing at different levels, which is that we increasingly see each other as contributors and collaborators, regardless of gender, age and race. We plan on submitting the final report at CCIM’s October Governance meeting at the Global Conference in Chicago,” she said.

There are plenty of challenges facing the commercial real estate industry and particularly brokerage services in terms of attracting Millennials, continued Edmonds.

“It’s not new, generationally speaking, to hesitate about going into a straight-commission job, even with a modest “runner’s wage or stipend” for half a year or full year. What’s changed is that many of these young graduates have substantial student-loan debt. Combining low or no wages with student debt obligations makes brokerage work unattractive. The old school learning structure of doing research and cold-calling for someone else until their eyes and ears bleed doesn’t appeal to Millennials either; their preference is to work in a collaborative environment, be part of a company culture and have purposeful work. In general, however, I think there are many fields within the commercial real estate industry that will appeal to Millennials if they give our industry a chance.”

Andie Edmonds is a principal with NAI Cascade, based in Bend. Her firm is part of NAI Global, one of the world’s largest providers of commercial real estate services with more than 400 offices strategically located throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific. She recently wrote an article on diversity that is scheduled to run in a national trade publication in February. The following are excerpts from that article.

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Gary Marsh

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