Today’s Workforce – Meet the Millennials


I had the opportunity to sit in on a recent webinar we presented with FMI. The webinar, “Understanding Today’s Workforce,” discussed some of the emerging trends and best practices with the ever-changing labor force in the construction industry. Jeremy Brown, the presenter and a longtime consultant with FMI, noted there was an underlying theme for the future of the construction industry workforce—millennials are moving in and that the construction industry had better be ready to meet their needs.

It made me reflect on my own experiences when I was trying to enter the working world. I feel that I have a unique view to the ever-expanding discussion about millennials. After all, I am one.

When I hear or see the buzzword “millennial,” it seems to arrive with a negative connotation. I can understand why. In some ways, we’ve had it a lot easier than our older, more experienced counterparts. We grew up in a time where technology was, and still is, exploding. Our lives during our formative years were made less difficult in many ways, and adversity was not such a common occurrence. Generation X and the baby boomers were not blessed (or cursed) with many of the advancements with which we grew up. While many tasks and activities were done by hand or made from scratch by our generational neighbors, we were indulging in the “there’s an app for that” movement.

The coexisting generations speak different languages, to paraphrase FMI’s Brown. A great point he noted in the webinar was that the different generational groups respond differently to different rewards, perks and styles of leadership. Millennials are willing and able to get the job done, but we don’t always respond to tactics conceived in the “old school,” Brown noted. I agree—I think some business owners and managers can get stuck, set in their ways, if you will, doing things the same as they always have. We are a different group. We don’t want the same things. We aren’t just chasing a paycheck, we are chasing a purpose—a place where we can make our mark.

When Brown focused on recruiting trends, I noticed that the best methods for attracting and retaining the best employees are those that take a proactive approach. They visit their old schools and colleges to look for rising stars, or work within the office to find recommendations. To those businesses following suit, I say bravo! Often times, hiring businesses are content to conduct all interviewing and assessments on their home turf. It’s a very one-sided exchange, and can make the interviewing process more intimidating than it needs to be. Plus, seeing someone come forward looking for new talent can be very uplifting for those looking to break into the field. It’s a clear signal to prospects that the business truly is hiring. It’s a refreshing approach, especially when employers can post a job with only the intent of doing a survey of the skills landscape.

This made me think back to when I was first applying to jobs, and the irony of the situations I encountered. One of the biggest knocks on this generation is that we are lazy. Yet, there are a lot of businesses that are being lazy as well. I can still think back to my first interviews fresh out of college. Job listing phrases like “rock star team member “ or “highly-motivated person” were, at times, met with anything but rock star interviewers or highly-motivated recruiters or interviewers. The exchange, at least from my perspective, was not equitable. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it.

But I digress. I think the biggest takeaway from FMI’s presentation is that, while millennials are quite different from the baby boomers and generation X, these differences should be embraced. We have unique experiences to pull from, and we have the ability to apply them to new situations. And in the construction industry, where finding skilled labor of late is proving to be a significant challenge, perhaps it is even more important for companies to adapt to new ideas, new approaches and new people.

Speaking as a millennial, if we get the opportunity to join a business, we will respect what has made your business successful while also thinking of ways to make it better. At times, that can mean we want to do things a little differently than they were done in the past. We’re open to all ideas, whether they come from our own generation or another. Our intent is not to reinvent the wheel, but to make it spin a little faster.

How do you feel your company has approached the different generational workforces and is it ready for the millennial boom?

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