With all the media coverage on how Millennials think of work compared to Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, it may seem counter intuitive to suggest you hire a few to ramp up your business growth and productivity. Stay with me on this.
The construction industry has seen a flat line in worker productivity for over 40 years. Meanwhile, other industries, like manufacturing, have seen great gains by leveraging technological advancements such as computer automation, Lean Sigma, just-in-time supply delivery, 24/7 assembly lines with more robots than people, run by computers. Technology transformed and saved North America’s manufacturing production, keeping it competitive on a global playing field.
Construction today looks a lot like manufacturing did in the late ’70s through the early ’90s, because robotics, early computers and assembly lines have not been portable to building sites. Old school systems of paper plans, three-ring binders, sticky notes, markers, 10 keys, and clipboards worked just fine back then and are still widely used. But, will they soon be obsolete with a retiring senior workforce coupled with a labor shortage?
Age isn’t Just a Number
Age is a big factor in technology efficiency and adoption. 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 plus. Millennials—those 35 and younger—only account for 2 percent.
Here is the huge challenge—construction companies will sooner rather than later, go digital. Converting years of project data from bound ledgers, day planners, and file boxes, to digital data basis will be painful without help from Millennials. They are multitaskers and computer savvy. Millennials leverage technology for speed and efficiency. 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. Many 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, marking up, and storing paper plans, and the unproductive travel time and gas wasted driving back and forth to the office from the job site with revisions.
Today, 98 percent of construction workers have smartphones on the job site. Millennials are in constant communication with friends and family. They keep track of their favorite sports teams on smartphones. Apply that instant communication knowhow to the job. At the job site, a photo can be snapped and emailed or sent with a text to the office with a description of an issue. Cameras in tablets and smartphones can save a day by getting an answer in minutes. Eliminate delays from change orders using paper plans, which cause reworks and cost overruns that slice into your profit. Millennials are looking for jobs where they feel they can contribute. Technology is in their wheelhouse, while construction is yours. They understand the benefits of cloud computing. Do you?
Learning a Thing or Two
Collaboration is easy in the cloud. Millennials know this. The ability to save and access various files through the cloud enables employees in the office and on the building site to work on the same plans. Cloud collaboration tools, such as Google Drive, allow team members to upload, edit and comment on documents, which makes for fast, accurate collaboration. With cloud computing, you can access project files and plan revisions from any device, smartphone, laptop or tablet. No longer are files stuck on a single server back at the office.
Did I say they are quick studies? Construction estimating and project management jobs automated with software are a near-perfect fit. They can help empower your trusted employees, not replace them. Both generations can learn a lot from each other and your entire business will benefit.
Merge Millennials with your experts:
Place them on teams. Millennials perform best on small teams. Pair them with your seasoned pro with 25 years of experience. There will be quick tips and hacks to be shared between them.
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.
Adding fresh team members strategically sets your company on a path to winning more jobs, reducing errors, growing profits, and tips on “Minecraft.”