Due to the ongoing labor shortage, companies are launching initiatives with the hope of attracting workers from previously unconventional talent pools. One group that the industry is hoping to attract is younger construction workers by including programs that teach high schoolers about the industry and trades. But, as these young workers start to enter the workforce, have companies thought about how to recruit, engage and retain them?
In fact, it’s time to stop trying to figure out how to communicate with millennials in the workplace. Where once it seemed as if every company was trying to resolve how to reach millennials, they are now well entrenched in the workforce and are moving up into management positions. It’s time to let go of the notion there’s a “millennial problem” in the workforce and focus on the next generation; Gen Z.
Who is Gen Z?
Generation Z, the generation born after millennials, are the kids that grew up post-9/11 and through the height of the recession. They are becoming significant because the oldest members are beginning to graduate from high school and college and move into the workforce. As they migrate to the labor pool, it’s important to understand who they are and how they differ from other generations.
Definitions of Gen Z vary slightly, but they are mostly defined as people born between 1995 and the present. There are many aspects that make this group unique, such as being the first generation to be fully raised in the era of smartphones and social media. Because technology is so innate to them and is their main form of communication and gathering information, it’s said that their attention span is about eight seconds. However, instant access to information has benefitted them by training them to process information at fast speeds.
Second, during the recession they witnessed their parents out of work and go through tight times. Lastly, according to the Census Bureau, they are also the most diverse generation with almost half of them identifying as non-white.
What else makes Gen Z unique?
- They are tech innate, where millennials are just tech savvy
- They are determined to plan ahead, where millennials were criticized for lack of focus
- They are more financially aware and crave financial security
- They are self-reliant and independent
- They are dedicated to work and want job security
- They are outspoken
- They are risk adverse
- They are pragmatic and more mature than previous generations
How to prepare for Gen Z
So, how does the AEC industry prepare itself for this new, incoming group? What are the steps to take to not only hire, but retain these young workers? First and foremost, make sure your team has the latest and best industry technology. Remember, while Gen Z is dedicated to working, they have always used technology and expect it to be part of their work life. Whether you are using construction management software, BIM or virtual reality, use your technology as a recruiting tool. Also, show them upcoming technology (autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, etc.), so they know technology will become an even bigger part of their job and the industry.
In addition to technology, because Gen Z is looking for dependability and job security, show them a career path. Look at different options to tap into their expertise. Consider having them help your current, less tech savvy workers learn how to navigate apps and use shortcuts. Depending on the technologies you currently use, now may be the time to create a Manager of Technology position that could eventually be filled by someone from Gen Z.
This generation also wants to learn and know they are making a difference. Keep them engaged by showing them the big picture of a project and how it will be used when complete. Explain how their contribution fits into the whole. Remember, Gen Z wants to learn and taking a little extra time to explain and educate will go a long way to retaining them.
As Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, it helps to understand who they are and how they differ from previous generations. Despite a short attention span, this tech innate group is willing to work and wants to make a difference. With so much new technology being introduced into the AEC industry, it seems like perfect timing for them to join and have an impact.