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Contractors: Hiring, Training & Managing Millennials

11/03/2017 Andrew Donohoe

Contractors continue to face a serious shortage of skilled workers, both on the jobsite and in the office. Not only have many of these talented professionals left the construction industry recently, but many Baby Boomers are now retiring — further depleting the workforce.

For most, new hope lies in the Millennials. These prospective employees are hitting the labor market en masse right now, complete with some unique challenges in hiring and retaining their services. Here are seven tips for hiring, training and managing these young workers:

1.    Embrace technology. Millennials grew up with advanced technology. They integrate it seamlessly into their work and personal lives. Make clear that you intend to keep your construction company’s technology up to date, and that you’re willing to enlist their help in finding and implementing the best hardware and software. Because they likely know more about technology than most at your organization, make attempts to involve them in decisions and implementation in new technology.

2.    Offer flexibility. While they’re willing to work diligently, Millennials expect employers to accommodate their need for a work/life balance. To attract and retain these employees, be prepared to use incentives that are different from what you might typically offer. Money may still be the highest priority for some, but a growing number place a higher value on flexible jobsite hours or, for office positions, a telecommuting option.

3.    Foster teamwork. Unlike Baby Boomers, who were raised in an era of individualism, Millennials tend to be group-oriented. When possible, provide opportunities for new hires to work as teams to solve problems. Doing so is often fairly easy for contractors, who can assemble work crews of younger employees and let them strive toward mutual objectives.

4.    Develop a Mentor Program. Millennials crave feedback and interaction.  By assigning them a formal mentor who can help answer questions and provide guidance, as well as listening to questions and concerns, you can show the millennial that they are part of the team and that they are valued as an employee. 

Don’t give up on the idea of partnering new hires with veteran mentors. If you have managers or established employees who are open to collaboration and struggle somewhat with technology, a Millennial may be able to share his or her mastery of the Internet and social media, while the veteran shares real-world knowledge of building processes and skills.

However, you must be aware of the mentoring process as it can also have a negative effect.  If the veteran mentor is not completely bought into the process, the mentee is more likely to become disenchanted. 

5.    Provide instructions and praise. Millennials prefer to have clear directions and communicated due dates. Think of the step-by-step nature of a computer’s operating system. For example, you can provide structure by giving specific due dates for job phases and holding meetings with specific agendas. 

Generally, Millennials were also raised with constant praise and reinforcement. Giving them consistent performance feedback and offering generous praise for their successes will help you retain their services.

6.    Combat boredom. Many Millennials tend to balk when assigned tedious, repetitive tasks. Of course, on construction projects, these can come with the territory. Make sure you are monitoring their workload and attempting to break up monotonous jobs with more problem-solving tasks.

They also love data. Keep Millennials more engaged by sharing job status reports and business metrics to demonstrate how their actions affect job progress and your construction company’s bottom line.

7.    Provide career paths. Without a clear path to a desirable future, a Millennial will not stick around for the long term. Many younger workers see company loyalty as an outmoded concept and without a purpose or identity, even from the start of employment, they will not stick around long.

As previously mentioned, Millennials love to be part of a group. Make efforts so that they feel part of a vibrant, interactive team and you vastly improve your ability to retain their skills, insights and enthusiasm for years to come. If you have questions, please contact Andrew Donohoe or learn more about how we can help by visiting our Construction & Real Estate and HR Consulting pages.

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