You may have seen a recent viral Youtube clip on challenges facing Millennials and their potential employers, in the workplace. The prospect of an entire generation with radically different values, motivations, expectations and skill sets hitting the workplace has become the ‘hot topic’ of discussion.
Even if you haven’t seen the video, there is an undeniable shift occurring in workforce demographics and the construction industry is among the hardest hit. A mass of experienced industry professionals of the baby boomer generation are preparing to exit the workforce. Many of these trade veterans, like my father and father-in-law worked their entire career in a single trade, and carry a wealth of experience and knowledge with them out the door. The industry will miss a generation defined by union training, apprenticeships and years of field experience.
The incoming millennial workforce has been defined somewhat differently. Some of the less flattering descriptions (like the video I referenced) characterize millennials as entitled, impatient and technology obsessed. Even the most optimistic descriptions won’t hide the fact that millennials’ short attention spans and high expectations create hiring and retention challenges. Furthermore, high-visibility tech companies offer the promise of flexible, technology-driven and ‘meaningful’ work (not to mention the free lunches and napping rooms). These companies are taking their unfair share of the young talent.
Many construction firms, and even entire trades are being hit hard by this rapid shift. Union membership is down almost 50% in many states, over the past 40 years. Skilled labor is growing scarce, and finding qualified, experienced construction managers has grown difficult. Companies that have either failed to attract young workers, or found new millennial workers were unsuccessful and/or frustrated with traditional work flows are experiencing high turnover, lost productivity or even the prospect of closing the doors behind the baby boomer retirees. One of my favorite shows, This Old House, recently featured an entire segment in which Norm addressed this very challenge and makes a case for entering the construction profession to young viewers.
However, not all firms are suffering the same fate. There are firms that have adapted remarkably well to the transition, by leveraging the aspects of a career in construction that are attractive to millennials. Greater social media presence and even offices in trendy, metro areas are just a few trends in construction right now. However, a common element I’ve seen among firms with a strong number of millennial workers is how technology is selected and utilized.
When selecting technology that can, not only, play an impactful role in increasing efficiency now, but create an environment that welcomes the future generation, there are a few key factors that are fairly consistent:
- Is it simple?
Can the technology you’re selecting be easily understood and implemented without costly training and/or configuration? If your technology doesn’t demonstrate its benefit without complicated explanations, or requires an enormous effort to learn, it will quickly lose support from younger workers with an expectation that all technology have ‘Apple’s simplicity.’
- Is it accessible?
Can the technology be used on any number of your millennial’s multiple devices, or can data be accessed from the local coffee shop’s Wi-Fi?
- Is the data connected?
The ‘all-in-one’ solution doesn’t exist for any aspect of life. However, the ability to connect what’s important among multiple applications is becoming an expectation. For instance – a photo taken on a phone can be stored, sent via text, emailed or posted on social media seamlessly. Likewise, construction technology should seek to connect data among the many individual point products.
- Is it Flexible?
Does the technology leave users the room to bend it to their will? The term ‘hacker’ is thrown around a lot among millennials, loosely defining sophisticated users that can ‘get more’ out of a solution than was originally intended by the developer. Every company is unique, so finding technology with the flexibility to be ‘hacked’ to meet those unique, specific requirements will not only bring more efficiency, but it will keep young workers challenged in the process.
Brent Ramos is an experienced Estimator, Project Manager and Licensed Contractor. Over the past 5 years Brent worked with design manufacturing, infrastructure and building companies to successfully implement CAD and BIM technologies. Currently, Brent is broadening the democratization of BIM data at Assemble Systems. Brent and his wife Tamara live in Folsom, California with their four children.
If you enjoyed this post, please help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or LinkedIn.