Millennials and Technology in the Workplace
The construction industry has a reputation for being slow to adopt new technology. It’s true, the industry has seen a flat line in worker productivity for over 40 years. Meanwhile, other industries, especially manufacturing, have seen great gains by employing every advancement from computer automation, Lean Sigma and just-in-time supply delivery, to around-the-clock assembly lines with robotics run by computers. Construction lagged in part, because robotics, early computers and assembly lines were not portable to building sites. The old school way of paper plans, sticky notes, markers, 10-keys, and walky-talkies worked just fine in the 1960s and are still widely used. Computers have become much more powerful, portable, and continually shrink in size to laptops, tablets and smartphones. Devices are now mobile and wireless, connected by Wi-Fi and cell towers. Blueprints are being replaced by digital plans and construction software is increasingly used to reduce errors and costs, but construction is still behind in technology. Why in this digital age?
Age is a big factor when it comes to understanding Millennials and technology in the workplace. The average age of construction company owners in the walls and ceiling industry is 56, according to a 2016 survey. Seasoned pros in the 55 to 64 age range make up nearly 40 percent and another 20 percent are 65+. Those 35 and younger only account for 2 percent, the Millennials. They are multitaskers, computer savvy, use social media, text and tweet 24/7. Studies show Millennials work as hard as the Baby Boom generation. They are always on, emailing and texting into the evening. You don’t have to sell them on the benefits of software, the cloud, or digital plans. They use their own laptops, tablets, and smart phones, (called BYOD, bring your own device). They live and breathe digital technology and know how it eliminates waste, such as printing and storing paper plans, and the unproductive travel time and gas wasted driving back and forth to the office from the job site with rolls of revisions. Contractors could benefit greatly from recruiting some Millennials to their team to help empower legacy employees, not replace them. It strategically sets your company on a path to winning more jobs, reducing errors, and growing profits.
How do you merge Millennials and technology in the workplace with your experts?
- Place them on teams. Millennials perform best on small teams. Pair them with a seasoned pro with 30 years of experience. There will be immediate knowledge sharing.
- Listen to their ideas. They will offer their opinions on ways to work smarter, including the use of tablets and smartphones. Try not to say “We don’t do things that way around here.”
- Avoid “my way or the highway” management. Tough, top-down supervision may send Millennials looking for other jobs. One report said they think of themselves as products on EBay, and will easily jump ship to a more technically advanced company.
- Have touch-base meetings. Offer Millennials some facetime. They are competitive and are keen on doing things better. Don’t be insulted if they laugh at you for doing takeoffs from paper plans.
By Kyle Hamer Kyle Hamer, VP of Marketing at On Center Software (OCS), leads advertising, sales and marketing programs, brand and web development. Prior to OCS, Kyle worked in the coatings trade and for a GC. The last 15 years he has been a sales and marketing consultant for 40 companies.