The Millennials. Sat in front of their phones, tablets or on-demand TV, more worried about the latest reality TV star’s next Instagram post than they are about embarking on a career or, to start with, just finding themselves a job of any kind.
A fair assessment, you might say – but is our stereotyping of a whole generation one of the reasons that all of us are struggling to find the future workforce that will ensure our businesses and industries continue to run for many more years to come?
I was inspired to write this column when I saw a presentation by David Perkins of Hilti at the CSDA Convention in Maui and then, again, at IACDS Tokyo Conference by Erin O’Brien of the CSDA. It really got me thinking and got me doing a bit of research when I returned back to the UK.
Whatever is a Millennial some will be asking? In the UK, it’s basically anyone who was born between 1980 and 2000 and, in 2016, they accounted for 16.8 million people – a quarter of the whole population and the largest proportion of the workforce compared to other generations.
We can be confident that these figures are reflected, if not completely mirrored, around the world.
The USA uses a slightly different measure – anyone born between 1982 and 2004 – and they make up around 75 million of the population but, still, the stereotype remains the same.
Perhaps, we as an industry, should be the first to look beyond the Millennial label. After all, construction and all of its specialisms is probably one of the most typecast industries on the planet.
Some will tell you it’s for the unskilled or the unintelligent – for the ones who didn’t do very well at school – and, like you, I find that our assessment of what we do laughable and bordering on the offensive.
The sector we work in requires intelligence and skill and yet we are labelled with the opposite stereotype. How, then, can we be willing to label a whole generation in one way?
We can’t and, actually, research shows that this generation is not the selfish, self-absorbed group that the stereotype suggests.
Surveys have found that Millennials are looking for substance and meaning in their work and not just the biggest pay packet. They care about a company’s brand and reputation and want to feel what they are doing is contributing to something worthwhile.
And, they are willing to work – with a large proportion working in excess of 40 hours a week and many undertaking two jobs in order to generate the income they need.
Of course, technology plays a big part in their life as 91 per cent are regular internet users – but is that something employers should fear or is it something we need to embrace?
“But they just quit when the going gets tough,” I hear you say. Maybe some do but the biggest reasons given for leaving a job is there are no opportunities to advance, little growth in pay, excessive hours, lack of teamwork and a lack of flexibility.
So, we have a stereotype of a generation and a stereotype of an industry but neither match what’s happening in reality.
Therefore, if we are to find new blood for our businesses there is no question that we are going to have to dip into the pool of talent from the Millennial generation and look beyond the stereotyping.
In order to do so, we have to sell our industry better and, maybe, look at some of those factor that are important to those surveyed – such as flexibility and the opportunity to progress.
Also, we have to be willing to bestow the importance of construction on society and the economy. Without us, there are no roads, no schools, no homes, no hospitals – I could go on.
If a young worker is looking for meaning in what they do, what could offer that in greater abundance than being part of an industry that is creating the future for generations that are yet to be named and yet to be stereotyped?
So, tell me, what are your experiences of Millennials and has this made you think about your recruitment policy for the future. It’s a subject that is going to come up again and again and will definitely be revisited by the IACDS at future conventions.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know your thoughts.