Gen Ys (people born after 1980) and millennials (people born in the run up to 2000) do not view a career as something that necessarily goes upwards and or as a continuous path. Half of Gen Ys have spent less than three years with any one company. Whereas in our industry, it’s often been the case that people stay with one contractor for their entire career.
Gen Y people love flexibility and freedom, so the conventions of a traditional workplace are alien to them. They expect to have multiple and flexible opportunities, they don’t like or understand hierarchy, and they are digital natives, at ease with and intuitive about technology. Gen Y’s attitudes are very open-minded.
These younger generations of employees also have no hesitation in stating their opinion and in making an example of those they believe to have acted in an unjust way. If we get something wrong, including our image, and our approach to diversity and inclusion, they will spot it and they will let us (and anyone else who might listen) know about it.
With demand for workers vastly outstripping supply, what is the industry going to offer these generations to make a construction career attractive to them?
The industry still has a poor image when it comes to diversity and inclusion. How can we change the way we work to improve it and to attract the younger generations of employees? For example, do we really want an industry where it’s commonplace for meetings to be held at 7am? Do we really want trainee site managers to feel that they have to beat the project manager on to site every morning to prove their commitment? Do we want to be an industry that manages time or one that manages people?
Technology can help us address these issues and to make the way we work in construction more flexible. Web conferencing is already reducing the need to travel to every meeting. How will advances like building information modelling and 3D printing impact on how we communicate with people, the skills we need, our ability to be flexible in our working practices, for example?
And it’s important to recognise other valuable gains that can be achieved from changing our culture: greater diversity and inclusion improves business performance and the bottom line by stimulating innovation, breaking down groupthink and generally making workplaces happier, more engaged and more motivated environments for everyone.