Think of today’s hiring landscape as a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Sure, finding the puzzle’s edges may be easy if you’re anchored by the Baby Boomers who run many construction sites and the Generation Xers who are rising into the mid-management positions. But mastering the rest of the puzzle—adding Millennials and Generation Z—can be challenging.
Bringing together as many as five generations on the job site involves not only making sure you can attract and retain the right balance of workers, but also that you’re utilizing their skill sets in the best way possible.
Sizing Up the Situation
Why is it important to recruit and retain a wide age-range of workers? For starters, the construction industry is suffering a critical skilled labor shortage. In fact, some 150,000 construction jobs went unfilled last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Couple this with a graying workforce—40% are baby boomers edging closer and closer to retirement—and you’ve got the potential to lose critical intellectual capital.
Specifically, here’s how today’s workforce breaks down by age, according to the Society for Human Resource Management:
- Pre-boomers (those born through 1945) make up less than 1% of the workforce
- Baby Boomers (born between 1946 to 1964) account for 27%
- Gen X-ers (1965 to 1980) represent 35%
- Millennials (1981 to 1998) are 37%
- Gen Z-ers (born after 1999) make up between 1% to 2% of the workforce
Hopefully, you are already seeing a wide range of age groups on your construction sites. It is important to recognize what each group brings to the table. For example, while your Baby Boomers may be comfortable in leadership positions, your Generation Xers, who grew up with technology, are eager to embrace new tech like digital takeoff and estimating tools. While your Millennials are definitely tech-focused, they also have a strong interest in renewable energy and recycling. Generation Zers are also tech-savvy and very entrepreneurial having been raised in the gig economy.
Ask the Tough Questions
For some contractors, it is easy to be top-heavy with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers with lots of gaps in the diversity of your hires. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What are the age ranges within your firm?
- How well do you balance the diversity between the oldest and youngest generations?
- Are you dealing with gaping holes in skillsets?
Clearly, contractors must walk a tightrope to strike the right balance of younger and older workers and ensure all of these age groups can work together smoothly. One way to get started is by recognizing that each group can have a positive influence on the other. While Boomers are confident and self-reliant, Generation Xers can be tech-savvy and flexible, acting as a good buffer between older and younger workers. Millennials often share some of the same values as the Boomers, who tend to be very goal-oriented. The Generation Z workers may challenge older generations to think outside-the-box.
Sending the Right Message
Need to recalibrate your workforce diversity? Get started by adjusting how you recruit and integrate a multi-generational workforce. For example, do your job postings and descriptions really appeal to the broadest audience possible? Are you using words that are sending the wrong message like “digital native?” At the same time, you should highlight if your construction firm uses the latest technology to appeal to a broad range of candidates. This also includes making sure all imagery in your job postings reflect a diverse workforce.
Sending the right message is essential if you want to recruit the Millennial generation. Expected to be half of the global workforce by 2020, their sheer number and perceived lack of interest in construction is causing recruiters more than a few gray hairs. A 2017 study by MRINetwork focused on Millennial Hiring trends provided some great findings as to what is important to Millennials:
- Compensation ranked as their top priority when considering a new job, followed by advancement and mentorship opportunities
- Opportunities not only to move up the corporate ladder, but the chance to take ownership of their work
- A supportive company culture that values community and philanthropic initiatives is also important
- An employer’s market reputation, both internally and externally, was also ranked very high
Managing Different Generations
An age-diverse workforce is a great way to boost morale and innovation—not to mention ensure a diverse workforce so you’re not too dependent on any one generation. Here are some key tips to keep in mind as you manage different generations on construction projects:
- Try reverse mentoring where younger employees train older employees and then reverse the process
- Try to mix office and field assignments with a balance of generations
- Provide technology training at different paces, depending on the skill level of that generation
- Try using different methods of communication—not only using text messages or emails
Ready to plot a new hiring course? On Center Software’s easy-to-follow, 7-step guide provides great tips that you can apply to hiring any generation. Check out How to Hire a Great Estimator guide now.