Millennials are poised to flood the workforce in the next two decades, and the construction and glazing industries are no exception—in fact, they may be as susceptible to the trend as any.
The recession of the last decade saw many Generation-Xers (ages 34-39) leave specialty sectors of the construction industry, such as contract glazing, for greener pastures, and now that the industry is back on the way up, leaders in the industry caution a labor shortage. That element, coupled with Baby Boomers (50-68) increasingly leaving the workforce for good, as well as a larger population of young people, has paved the way for Millennials (33 and younger).
The Associated General Contractors of America recently hosted a webinar titled “Hiring and Retaining the Right People.” Andy Patron, principal at FMI, a provider of management consulting and research to the engineering and construction industry, discussed the dynamics of the aging workforce and the transition in roles among generations.
“The aging workforce is obviously one of the challenges we have in the efforts of hiring and retaining,” Patrons says.
According to FMI, the percentage of groups the average company will lose to attrition or retirement in the next five and 10 years are as follows: executives 12 and 26; senior managers 9 and 18; project managers 9 and 18, field managers 11 and 20, other 7 and 13.
“The talent shortage is intensifying,” says Patron.
By 2040, Millennials will outnumber boomers by 22 million, according to Hanson Dodge Creative. With that, Gen-Xers will make a somewhat swift and cohesive transition into the highest of management positions, paving the way for Millennials to inhabit the mid-level sector.
While the presentation touched on ways of retaining and leading members of all three generations, Patron spent the most time on Millennials. “To lead them, we have to engage them,” he says.
“Treat the Millennial as a professional colleague,” Patron advised. “Leverage the skills they bring, leverage the curiosity, leverage energy they bring … they’re the ones that are going to help us advance what we do in this industry … I want to challenge them. I want to give them opportunities to experience some struggle, so they can learn.”
Patron noted that Millennials are most comfortable with “speed, customization and interactivity.”
“They’re looking for ways to network, or to use technology to further the business, so we need to provide them with ways of doing that, if we can,” he says.
One way he advises companies to do, if possible, is rotational assignments with new hires.
“The ability for someone coming into your company to try estimating, to try being out in the field as a project engineer or an assistant superintendent [is effective],” he says. “If there’s a way to rotate through, or follow a senior executive around for a short period of time … Just to get a sense of what this business is all about, and to find out what they really like doing, so they can attach meaning, attach passion to the work that they do.”
Patron noted that generations differ not only in age but based on experiences, historical events, values economics, heroes and attitudes,” all of this comes into play.”
“I would argue that they’re just as productive and effective as the boomers and Xers, but they have a different way of approaching the workplace.”