CHU Strata Community Awards 2018; PICA Group winner of Excellent in Innovation

Winner of Excellence in Innovation Award, PICA Group with Rachel Lynn, SCA (NSW) General Manager

The never-ending search for skilled strata managers continues to impact the industry and needs strategic approaches to challenge conventional thinking on staff recruitment and retention.

This year’s winner of the Excellence In Innovation Award at the 2018 CHU Strata Community Awards may have the answer.

Late last year PICA Group launched an intensive onboarding initiative called Project Owl, and the leading property company is already reaping the rewards – attracting good quality candidates from other industries and reducing employee turnover, especially in workers with less than 12 months of experience.

PICA Group’s Executive General Manager of People & Culture Kirsten Terry says something different was needed because the demand for experienced strata managers outstrips supply.

“This is a challenge that every agency is facing, not just PICA Group,” Kirsten says.

“The common response from agencies has been to offer higher and higher salaries to lure strata managers from competitors. This is not good for the industry and it’s not sustainable,” she says.

“A few years ago, PICA Group made the decision to invest more heavily in ‘growing our own’ rather than pushing up salaries to unrealistic levels.”

The company’s traditional resourcing model was to recruit junior staff into assistant positions and place them directly into a branch for on-the-job mentoring by experienced colleagues.

“Once they completed their Certificate of Registration, the new entrant would work as an assistant for the next 2-3 years before promotion to the role of strata manager,” she says.

“The extreme shortage of experienced strata managers in NSW meant this model was no longer working for us. We need new employees to reach greater levels of competency more quickly.”

Project Owl features an intensive two-week classroom-based training program, followed by a 10 week in-branch mentoring program. Program participants are equipped to assist with the management of strata schemes as soon as they complete the classroom training, and gradually work up to managing a small-sized portfolio under the direction of a team leader by the end of 12 weeks.

The commitment to excellence is just what the industry needs to attract, develop and retain talent.

Angela Capri is one of PICA Group’s most experienced branch managers. The Senior Leader, Strata Learning & Development played a key role in the successful roll-out of the program.

“We approached SCA NSW with the idea of combining their A100: Introduction to Strata course with the Certificate of Registration course, so that within five days, attendees gained a thorough understanding of strata management and the role of a strata manager,” Angela says.

“Already we’re attracting more mature candidates from other industries, as they get training from the ground up which gives them the best chance of succeeding,” she says.

“We’re proud of the initiative because even if our Project Owl graduates eventually decide to move on from PICA, we are populating the industry with educated professionals.”

And the question on everybody’s lips: Why call it Project Owl?

“Owls are traditionally used as a symbol for knowledge – and our new strata managers are full of knowledge after they go through our program,” Kirsten quips.