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The Minds of Millennials

What the younger generation is looking for in an employer

BY LAUREN BROOKES

Anyone who is familiar with the world of construction knows about the limited supply of construction talent that industry leaders are grappling to manage.

It’s estimated that around 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of retirement every day. That number is jarring enough, but it’s especially disconcerting for the construction industry, as baby boomers make up a substantial amount of the industry’s workforce.

“Construction executives appear to remain confident about their market prospects for 2019 and plan to add headcount to cope with the added workload, Even as they are optimistic about growing demand, contractors are concerned about finding qualified workers to execute projects.” ~ Stephen Sandherr, Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer, AGC of America.
 
AGC of America conducted a survey earlier this year on the business and hiring outlook of the construction industry. The findings are detailed in Contractors Remain Confident About Demand, Worried About Labor Supply: The 2019 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report.

This leaves construction employers in a trying predicament. The bulk of their workforce is leaving, the demand for construction projects has been growing, and the younger generation simply isn’t entering the workforce.

In order to attract more millennials — as well as the following generations — into the field, employers would benefit from analyzing which major career factors the younger demographic values, and then work to transform the industry to better harmonize with these values.

To help with that goal, here are a few of the main factors millennials take into account when deciding on career paths:

JOB STABILITY AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT

According to a survey highlighting what millennials want out of their career paths and job opportunities, 90 percent of survey participants stated that they want job security more than anything. The same majority stated that they would be loyal to a company if annual raises and upward mobility were possible.

Millennials are often touted as being flaky job hoppers, but the truth is that they are naturally concerned about their futures. During the great recession, millions of people were laid off, and many millennials witnessed their parents experience the heavy turmoil that job instability can cause.

While the economy isn’t doing as poorly as it was 10 years ago, mass layoffs still happen, and student debt is at an all-time high, both of which aggravate the concern for fiscal well-being. Because the construction industry was hit especially hard in the recession, construction leaders will need to work hard to reshape the industry’s image for the younger demographic.

This desire and hard focus for financial security is further illustrated by millennials’ dedication to sculpting a sturdy career trajectory by seeking out careers where growth is probable. The study above mentions that retaining millennials is far more effective when an employer invests in the worker within the first 90 days on the job, helping to show them early on which avenues will lead to career advancement.

According to the 2019 Sage Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey conducted by AGC of America earlier this year, 63 percent of respondents plan on increasing their investment in training and development and 59 percent report they increased base pay rates.

Construction companies can use these factors to change the way they recruit and hire the younger demographic. By emphasizing opportunities for advancement during the recruitment phase, showcasing the strong economic backdrop of the industry, and developing stronger employee career growth strategies, millennials may feel more at ease about joining the field.

WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY

Workplace flexibility is one of the most important things millennials consider when looking for career options. They tend to place a significant emphasis on personal development as well as family time, which requires a healthy work-life balance.

While remote working and loose schedules are certainly becoming more prominent, flexible work-life can be harder to achieve in construction, though it’s not impossible.

Allowing employees to help in creating their own schedules, offering personal/mental health days, providing opportunities for remote work (when possible), or creating video conferencing instead of requiring in-person meetings are all ways that employers can begin to shape a more flexible work environment.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY

Millennials encompass the generation where the technological revolution truly took off. They’ve grown up with it, and they’ve become so dependent and accustomed to its advantages that they deeply value career paths where modern technology is accessible.

The construction industry has been known for being behind the times when it comes to utilizing digital tools, but those times are changing. According to the 2019 Sage Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey, 42 percent of respondents report their firms will increase IT investment in 2019. In a report noted by CompTIA, the majority of millennials said that the extent to which an organization embraces technology influences where they choose to work.

While practical reasons may not allow construction companies to immediately begin integrating the latest trends and developments, it helps to start somewhere. One of the largest construction trends predicted for 2019  is the increased adoption of technology, including cloud-based project management software, drone use, wearable technology, and augmented/virtual reality.

As more companies commit to embracing the digital world, it will only help younger workers consider the industry as a possible career path.

PURPOSE AND ETHICS

When it comes to developing their professional lives, millennials prefer that they work for companies that align with their values rather than ones that cut ethical corners simply to make a profit.

This includes evaluating how a company treats its employees. When a company is dedicated to investing in their employees’ wellbeing by providing adequate benefits, promoting healthy work-life balance and creating avenues for satisfying pay and career growth, these actions appeal much more to the younger demographic than a company that fails to see employees as its greatest asset.

Similarly, millennials also are interested in companies that adopt policies that look out for greater societal causes, such as by promoting equality and diversity as well as looking out after environmental health.

AGC of America’s report, The Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion in the Construction Industry, outlines six reasons why diversity and inclusion are strategically valuable in generating corporate/industry innovation, increasing profitability and ensuring a positive and sustaining legacy of progress for firms.

Construction employers can better cater to these concerns by emphasizing employee appreciation, taking measures to make industry practices more sustainable and eco-friendly, and encouraging a more diverse workplace. Some companies have found success by offering paid time off for employees who choose to volunteer their time to an honorable cause.

Millennials currently represent a significant portion of the nation’s overall workforce, but only a disconcerting few of them have any intention of joining the construction industry.

By taking the time to consider what the younger generations value in careers, the construction industry will be able to reshape its image under a more modern light. This will help younger workers find the appeal in these important jobs, and it will also allow the industry itself to survive and thrive in the contemporary world.

Lauren Brookes is a Colorado-based writer who centers on the construction industry, primarily topics relating to workforce solutions and developments. 

For more stories about the work AGC of America members are doing to attract more candidates to the construction industry:
Contractors Roll Up Their Sleeves for Workforce Development
Reaching Tomorrow’s Workforce
Michigan Program Introduces Women to Construction Opportunities