Hiring with Purpose

Lessons learned from an inclusive search within an already diverse community Rob Johnston Aug 01, 2023

The world of Real Estate, in line with much of society, has changed dramatically in the past decade. Shifts in perception on social issues relating to EDI have been in full effect and created an impact in hiring and retention.

A major force in this has been the rise of organisations such as Real Estate Balance and Freehold LGBTQ+. Over the past two years, our Real Estate team worked with both these organisations to support pro bono on developing and strengthening their Boards.


These two searches and others that we conducted on behalf of clients is showing how powerful the role of purpose is in today’s complex hiring market.

With people seeking roles that they feel expands their own purpose and values, there are some key lessons we have been learning in how companies can attract key players and expand shortlists with exciting new talent.

In this Q&A, Rob Johnston, Principal in our Real Estate team, looks at what they learned specifically about hiring for diversity and how this has informed some of our wider purpose-led business thinking.

Q: Tell us a bit about the brief and why it was so different?

RJO: We had several pretty topline conversations with Freehold through our own knowledge of the network and this led to us being able to support pro bono. There was value in this as it is a unique network in the real estate industry and has a significant reach and influence.

The next stage of its development was specific to the strategic growth of the organisation’s leadership, which is clearly our specialist area. This was particularly interesting, however, because the brief was not just focused on finding LGBTQ+ candidates, but also finding diversity of thought, lived experience and people who represented the intersectional nature of the whole community.

Hiring LGBTQ+ Candidates in Real Estate

Q: What did this search teach you about hiring within diverse communities through the lens of a purpose driven role?

RJO: Despite having seen major moves forward in understanding and visibility for LGBTQ+ in the real estate sector, we were aware there was still not a huge level of representation and that we may have quite an investigation on our hands. But, we were able to use our own experiences within Granger Reis also to reach out into the network and it became clear quite early on that the opportunity to support Freehold in this new chapter was a major pull.

The organisation has positioned itself well and people were clear on its mission and purpose – and with the added dimensions of widening the diversity and inclusion angle, this became even more interesting to the people we were speaking with.

The board positions were purely volunteering roles, so it was heartening to see so many senior people want to get involved and help shape the future for the LGBTQ+ workforce.

Q: How has this insight translated to other parts of the Granger Reis approach?

RJO: We are lucky to have a diverse workforce ourselves at Granger Reis, people who are passionate about the things we need to change to make a more equal and harmonious society.

This has come through in our recent rebranding to fulfil the promise of influential change – but this is also true in the market. Leaders now want to leave a positive legacy and businesses are changing to become more of a corporate citizen, dealing with social issues. Altogether the purpose and social focus of a business is a fundamental part of our conversation and a big piece of work on our journey to B Corp.

It is an exciting time in executive search and working with organisations like Freehold, Real Estate Balance, Women in Mining, sponsoring BisNow’s RISE Initiative, and many other such networks helps shift our own thinking in how we support clients and candidates alike.

Inclusive Hiring and Green Initiatives

Q: What impact do you think hiring with purpose will have as we continue to grapple with EDI, ESG and bigger sustainability issues?

RJO: While there is a lot of conversation around this and lots of great things are being achieved in the right direction, there is no question that we have a long way to go to reach the goals that have been set.

Defining an organisational – and even individual – purpose is a gateway to ensuring that people are on the same page and that, while we may have lots of differing ideas about how to get there, we have a shared vision for the future.

One thing is for sure, the change has to come from the top, which is why we are so dedicated to using our own influence in these spheres to help ensure the right people are in the right jobs.

Barriers to Inclusive Hiring

Q: What barriers do you think remain that are slowing the EDI progression down and what tips based on your recent experience would you give Boards looking to diversify?

RJO: First, accept that every organisation is different, with wide-ranging problems to solve and there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

Freehold taught us that diversification must be done with a clear idea of what this means for the entire organisation, with a long-term strategy and clear backing of everyone involved.

In other places we have learned when businesses make changes because they think they have to be seen to be doing something, rather than genuinely trying to affect change, then things get tricky. Education and insight into your existing team, understanding what you want to achieve and why may sound simple, but change can be hard.

My main takeaway is that Freehold’s vision is one full of hope, that it is possible to cross divides and create positive progress when people come together with different mindsets. I think that’s a great place to start.

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