Contributed by Nick Carrillo
(Editor's Note: October is Careers in Construction Month. Please feel free to delve into our previous posts, "Don't Just Look for Employees, Attract Them" and "Changing the Public's Perception")
We’ve done it, we’ve written enough articles to know that the construction industry is facing a workforce shortage, and that shortage isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The problem is very clearly identified.
If you ask older generations, the reason for our workforce shortage is the lack of desire to work in the trades from the younger generation(s). Or, to put it bluntly, the millennials don’t want to work hard and get dirty.
I can hear it now, “millennials are the ‘everybody gets a trophy’ generation and are entitled!” Those type of casual statements are broadly painting an entire generation as lazy and entitled based on the few. Does that mean that everyone born in the 60’s is a pot-smoking hippie? Or everyone in the 70’s is a disco party maniac? No, it doesn’t.
A quick Google search will show a list of the largest companies in the world run, or founded by, millennials. Facebook, The Honest Company, AirBnB, Lyft and many more companies that we all rely on and that undoubtedly take a lot of hard work to maintain.
Baby boomers may not be outright saying these younger generations are worthless and hopeless when they said, ‘lazy and entitled’. However, I’ve often heard the phrase, “How do we change the mindset of an entire generation?” Hearing it enough, without back story or explanation, it leads the audience to believe that the people being referenced are wrong, and the person saying it is right.
I know, after working so many years alongside baby boomers, the comments are not malicious. I know that when a frustrated owner, manager or supervisor makes these statements, they simply are trying to express the desired change in the way we communicate; a change in the way we perceive the information that one generation has to offer the other.
So, how do we change the mindset of an entire generation? YOU DON’T
As a millennial committed to closing the generation gap in construction, hearing the comment enough has led me to ask myself:
Just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong.
I am a firm believer that focusing on ONE THING will bring the best results. If there is one thing we can identify, that I believe can start to affect change, it is work “style”.
Baby boomers (generally speaking) are saying, “Work hard and you will be rewarded over time,” and millennials (generally speaking) are saying “I’ll work hard, and want to work hard, but show me why.” When these two mindsets collide, they stand firm in their beliefs hoping the other will acquiesce.
The best way to break that barrier is to communicate more and be open to feedback.
Be mindful of the interactions we have daily and work to improve our immediate relationships.
Baby boomers: a quick and easy change is listen to understand and appreciate that the next generations may have access to information that can improve a situation, future processes, or productivity. We are an app dominant, tech-savvy generation that is led by change. We haven’t had enough time to truly enjoy something, because it was made better the next year.
Millennials: the boomers aren’t the only ones that need to work! We all need to respect and understand that baby boomers’ years of experience, trials and errors, failures and successes are a major factor in why you have opportunities. They have been in your industry for decades. What they may ‘lack’ in technological knowledge, they make up for in human interaction and relationship building, a task that is vitally more important than anything else.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that everyone needs to learn how to work with millennials. We get it, we have a different mindset, and we demand more than generation’s past. Here’s the thing, the millennials are equally as responsible for learning how to communicate with the older generations. We aren’t going to be handed the corner office, and we aren’t going to be given three weeks paid vacation (not right away). It takes time; it takes hard work. We must earn the respect of the veterans, show that we will work hard, show that we won’t step over their hard work and decades of relationships.
Fellow millennials, we don’t know everything. But that’s ok, because we don’t need to. We have access to thousands and thousands of professionals in the industry that are set to retire over the next 15-20 years. Once they are gone, the information leaves with them. We need to tap that resource. Sit down with someone and ask their story. Tell them what you are interested in. Tell them what you want to do with your career. Ask them how they got to where they are.
So, you might ask, what can I do in my company today? I’m going to save everyone from a long list that you will forget tomorrow (I’ll write more posts). For today, remember one thing: EXPLAIN WHY
Boomers communicating to younger generations – although you want to simply give a command and have the young professionals perform the work, take the time to explain why. Here are a couple good examples:
“David, I need the crew to finish this floor today, because I’m bringing a bigger crew tomorrow to finish the next two floors. If we are on this floor tomorrow, it’s likely we can’t get it done.”
“Olivia, we can’t implement Slack or Yammer into the company this week. I understand the value of the program, but I need everyone’s attention on the 64-story project bid due on Friday. We miss our shot if we miss that deadline. Bring this up again on Monday, and we can look at it.”
Millennials (and younger) communicating to older generations – you want to challenge everything you hear from the "veterans" because you’ve seen something, or assume you have a better way and just because it’s ‘how they’ve always done it’, you get a sense that there must be a better way. Here’s an example of how to relay the message:
“Ms. Danger, I’ve seen a few ways that I think we can get more accomplished by doing less work. I’m not sure it’s the right answer, and I’d like to hear your thoughts. If it doesn’t work right now, can we look at it again on another project?”
“Mr. Bond, I have been doing some research on productivity improvement due to implementation of social networks inside the office. I believe that our team can get more accomplished and become more unified if we implement this program before our next big project is due. May I take the lead on this and get it rolling?”
When communicating, be genuine. People can sense when you are pandering, or have that, “I’m doing this because I have to,” attitude. Don’t, do that; be sincere.
The assumptions about generations are killing us. The communication needs to go both ways. Don’t set out to change an entire generation – it will never happen. We can’t change a generation, and we shouldn’t. We should seek to understand each other and change how we interact with each other. Over time, we’ll change the perception. If our industry (construction) can collectively change its perception, if our industry shows that the next generations can thrive in a welcomed environment where their voices will be heard, we may not see severe work shortages again.
Go out and explain to everyone WHY you do what you do.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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