RECRUITING, DEVELOPING and retaining top talent is a priority for any successful business enterprise. For global commercial real estate industry firm Colliers International, the path a new hire takes to becoming a trusted advisor — the title Colliers gives all its associates —is not left to chance. Company leaders believe that professionalism, technical skills, industry knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit are attributes of great advisors, and that they can be learned.
Colliers is committed to mentoring its advisors. Company leaders know they need to hire the best candidates and develop them into great advisors, which is exactly what the Advisor Development Program aims to do. The program is an in-house training initiative for new and junior advisors. Participants train and work in the middle of the action. All new brokerage hires enter the program and commit time and energy toward developing strong technical skills and business acumen.
The program’s rapid expansion speaks to its success. After piloting in two Canadian markets in 2015, the program launched across Canada in 2016 and now runs in 30 markets across North America, with more than 100 participants in 2017. Local, seasoned advisors and managing directors mentor participants, using standard program curriculum and content. This ensures consistency in what Colliers teaches its new advisors, and allows the company to objectively and fairly evaluate their skills.
Advisor Development Program members are required to attend weekly group sessions focusing on technical and business development training, such as facilitating conversations with clients and handling difficult questions. They also must complete practical assignments that relate directly to the company’s business. These assignments give participants a chance to test their skills and try new solutions away from the pressures of an actual real estate lease or investment sale transaction. The company draws from a wide range of internal information, including an extensive supply of case studies from advisors who experienced the situations first-hand, which ensures that the curriculum is rich and relevant.
In addition to group training, participants have one-on-one access to expert coaches. Who better to teach the intricacies of forging client relationships, delivering stellar service and matching people and businesses with their ideal spaces, than those who have built their success on these exact principles? The coaches work individually with participants to enhance their skills.
The success of the program is due in no small part to the support it receives from Colliers’ internal advocates. These include senior leaders in Canada and the U.S., all of whom champion the initiative, aligned in their commitment to invest in talent.
One of the program’s strongest advocates is David Bowden, CEO of Colliers International Canada. “Service excellence is at the heart of Colliers’ values and strategy, and proven expertise and reliable advice are integral to delivering an exceptional client experience,” he says. “Our Advisor Development Program equips new professionals with the practical insights and know-how they need to provide standout service and, in turn, greatly succeed in their work. Designed to produce high-
performing advisors, the program helps make Colliers a destination for top talent and a truly great place to work.”
At a local level, managing directors are instrumental in implementing the program and guiding participants in fulfilling its requirements. Senior advisors are also onboard; they recognize the enhanced skill level it offers the junior brokers working alongside them, and many actively participate as expert panelists for the program.
“The Advisor Development Program allowed me to develop a solid foundation of knowledge and skills in a safe environment, in order to become the best possible advisor I could be. Through the program, I was able to discover my passion for retail and office leasing, and gain confidence in my ability,” says Jackie Whitaker, an associate with Colliers’ Vancouver brokerage.
The program’s training modules have become so popular that Colliers is now recording them, so the firm can share lessons and best practices more broadly, even with more tenured advisors who are also keen to continue honing their skills.
Another byproduct of the program’s success and growth has been its contribution to establishing camaraderie and friendly competition among participants while accelerating their understanding and embodiment of Colliers’ culture and values. The Advisor Development Program has also strengthened the ties that bind the company’s vast, multimarket network. Although this wasn’t one of the program’s original goals, it certainly benefits participants, helping them build connections in other markets.