How to manage the new generation of construction workers

Monica Gameng   |   December 2, 2015

Just as previous generations have contributed to the industry, the current generations have and will too. In fact, millennials will soon overtake the baby boomers as the largest portion of the workforce. So just who are the millennials? And how are they different from preceding generations of construction professionals? 

Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort of those born between the years 1980 and 2000. In fifteen years, 75 percent of the global workforce will be made up of employees from this generation. 

Millennials have come of age during a time of major technological change and globalisation, and are often tech savvy workers seeking a fast-paced working environment. 

For baby boomers and Generation X, managing millennials can appear different and challenging. In a 2013 Ernst & Young survey, 75 percent of managers said that managing multi-generational tems in a challenge; 77 percent said that different work expectations among generations is a leading challenge they face. 

But it's important to remember that your employees recognise that they each have distinct sets of skills and different things they bring to the table. 

The following five recommendations will help you take steps to understanding the expectations of and working cooperatively with millennials. 

1. Set up mentorshipsshutterstock_124386907.jpg

Millennials have mastered the use of the internet and social media, and can share that knowledge with older employees in exchange for knowledge on processes, techniques and other factors that are imporant to succeed in a company. 

Millennials want to gain as much experience and training as possible. Give them mentoring sessions with older employees so they will be able to gain the right knowledge for their trade.

This exchange of knowledge, and skill via one-on-one coaching can be mututally beneficial. 

Letting them attend different training sessions outside work will also help them broaden their know-hows about the industry.

2. Focus communications, incentives and recognition to the right audience

shutterstock_244314523.jpgEvery generation has its own favoured method of communications. Baby boomers generally prefer a face-to-face meeting, while a Generation X or millennial may prefer an email. 

Focus incentives the right people - some may prefer monetary rewards, while others may prefer time off work. This flexibility makes the incentive more personal and effective. 

Millennials were raised with constant praise and reinforcement, more so than previous generations. A few words of praise may be more motivatig to them than an older worker. 

3. Provide structureshutterstock_128296259.jpg

Millennials want a variety of tasks and the expectation that they will accomplish them. Giving them challenges, without overwhelming, creates a stimulating workplace. 

Goals and tasks need to be clearly detailed and progress assessed. Define assignments and success factors that have observable evidence of accomplishment). 

Challenge the millennials to be creative in the way they work and encourage them to find new ways to streamline processes.

4. Clarify growth potential and then help them get there

They also need to see where their career is heading, and exactly what they need to do to get there. While baby boomers accept that hard work leads to career progression, millennials want more clarity and direction (so asking to accept growth with good faith may not work as well). 

So properly explain from the outset what you are willing to put on the table for them and, at the same time, explain what you expect to get in return when you hire them.shutterstock_215539510_resize.jpg

As previously mentioned, millennials like being challenged, so get them involved in teams - they're generally confident with their opnions and want to be engaged in improving the company. They will eagerly seek new ways to apply their ideas. They'll like social interactoin that teams provide, as well as the opportunity to share opinion. 

Milennials often want to look up to their leader, and learn as much as possible. They'll expect one-on-one guidance and value your feedback. Capitalise on their 'can do' attitude by coaching their performance and providing regular feedback from their superiods. Corrective criqitue is just as important as having their confidence reinfroced. 

5. Don't expect them to stay forever

shutterstock_233298943.jpgMillennials have a level of "self-awareness" that may cause many to not develop the degree of loyalty that previous generations have. For some, by the time they retire, they would already have worked for more than 5 companies. Above all, millennials want exciting work, flexibility and control. If advancement does not come at a rate they feel is right, or the work doesn't interest them, they may elsewhere. 

Millennials like a good challenge, so giving them opportunities to show off their talents and knowledge about the industry will boost their initiative and will further motivate them in the long run. Giving them room to “spread their wings” will make them happier with their work and the company they are working for, and happy people are always motivated to do a good job.

Whether you're managing a large team or just a group of less than 10 employees with mixed generations (millennials and older generations together), it is important to understand how effectively each team member thinks and works. To help you better manage your team, we have the free downloadable eBook below that highlights 4 tips for managing your constrcution team.


Monica Gameng
As Felix's Marketing Assistant since 2015, Monica is responsible for researching and sharing new and progressing projects within the construction and mining sectors in Australia. It's no surprise that Monica has her finger on the pulse of Australian major projects given she has produced more than 1,000 posts. She truly is an industry expert.
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