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Attract and Develop the Best Talent Across Generations

Workforce Development

By Chris Lennon, Construction Executive

There are currently a full four generations in the workforce, but the percentage of Baby Boomers will continue to decline as they retire, meaning that Millennials and the newest generation, Generation Z, will continue to grow in the workforce. It’s important for contractors to prepare for a rapidly evolving workforce that craves belonging, productivity and purpose and expects their employer to meet those expectations.

The good news is this: Millennials are already a massive portion of the current workforce, making up a healthy 33 percent. If a company does not have a problem retaining Millennials, it’s probably doing a great job with them. Still it’s important to understand how to adopt a dynamic approach that attracts and develops the best talent across generations and to care for the people who possess it. Identify the unique attributes each group brings to the table and leverage them to boost productivity, reduce accidents and improve your bottom line.

UNDERSTAND YOUR WORKFORCE

Every generation has its strengths and is beneficial to the workforce. Baby Boomers, or the oldest generation in the workforce today, are great trainers with decades of industry knowledge to pass on to the rest of the workforce. Managers should be using them as leaders in company training initiatives to prevent brain drain as the Baby Boomers continue to retire in waves. Members of Generation X tend to be most comfortable as mid-level managers and are effective with individual tasks and teamwork. Again, it would be wise to partner these individuals with Baby Boomers.

It’s time to stop thinking that Millennials have yet to join the workforce. Stop preparing for Millennials because they’re already here. They excel with technology and like to be challenged with different projects and it would be wise for companies to have them spearhead new technology initiatives. Generation Z are the new kids on the block and they already have a reputation for being incredible multitaskers who can rapidly process high volumes of information. While most of them are still in school, they are great candidates for apprenticeships and this is the audience that employers will be talking to in school outreach.

Instead of being frustrated by generational differences, celebrate what makes each generation in the workforce unique and use their strengths to complete projects in record time and improve the bottom line. Remember: no generation is inherently good or bad, just different. Embrace and develop the strengths of the workforce to fit the current needs of the company and have the foresight to support the company as needs evolve.

HIRING SHOULD WORK FOR EVERYONE

It is never advised (or legal) to seek only employees of a certain age. Develop job ad distribution strategies to ensure that jobs are visible to everyone in the nearby area. Attracting a multi-generational pool of candidates can help a company find the best possible hire for the open position, as well as have a pool of qualified individuals to pick from in the future.

Distribute jobs on college and tech school job boards, industry sites and other relevant places. Also consider reaching out to local employment agencies and nonprofits that connect people with jobs. The trick here is to invest in a job board aggregator that can distribute openings to hundreds of job websites with a single click. Also, if an employer is not already posting jobs online, they’re definitely missing out on a huge population of job seekers and one of them might be a dream hire. LinkedIn is another great place to attract individuals to an employer brand across all generations.

Most companies already have an employer brand, but might not be aware of what the employer brand is communicating to employees. Think of employer branding as what employees think is important for applicants and new hires to know about the company, as well as what the company promises to its employees. It gives new employees a peek into what a day in the life of the company looks like, and when a new employee has their first day, it’s time for the employer to deliver on those promises.

Communicate a strong sense of mission, vision and values. It keeps employees engaged because they know why they are working and what the company’s big-picture goals are. It also engages different generations in different ways, as they all tend to have different priorities when it comes to their workplace.

  • Generation Z is looking to be loyal to a company and companies will have more success if their mission and vision are clearly communicated from the beginning.
  • Millennials would like to contribute to the greater good of their communities and organizations and often their work is passion- and values-driven.
  • Baby Boomers and Gen X are starting to follow Millennials in their search for greater balance between their personal and professional lives.

While none of these are true for every single member of a given generation, they can give companies a quick guide to get the most of their employer branding and recruiting efforts.

CREATE A CULTURE OF PERSONALIZED LEARNING PATHS

By this point, training is universally recognized as a pillar of a successful construction career. The trick now is to provide a variety of learning options to appeal to the generational differences in a workforce. Since each generation will have different wants and needs, it’s important to approach learning plans with flexibility and the willingness to work with employees to find a learning method that works best for them.

With the right tools, anything can be training. Seminars, conferences, books and classroom modules can all be recorded as training time via a learning management system. Offer mobile and online options for all members of the team. This helps them work remotely so they’re not losing valuable time and money during sick days or weather delays. This accessible style of learning also helps develop a workforce in real time. All of these options can lead to more engaged and satisfied employees.

ENGAGEMENT COUNTS

Even though employees know they are in a labor-intensive industry, it’s important for managers to go the extra mile to reward their hard work and dedication to the company. Employee engagement and performance are closely linked so pay attention to both of them and invest in one to boost the other.

Engaged employees are much more likely to stick around for the long term and their companies reap the benefits of low hiring, onboarding and training costs due to low turnover. With high engagement leading to high performance, employees create many opportunities to prevent brain drain as Baby Boomers retirements continue. Mentorship programs are a great way to leverage high performance and improve team relations as well.

Set goals with employees during performance reviews. This accomplishes two objectives. It helps the manager understand individual employees’ strengths but also communicates to employees that their employer values their professional development and hard work. Increased engagement will quickly follow and engaged, high-performing employees make succession planning a breeze.

Generational shift isn’t anything to be worried about. With the right planning and employee development efforts, companies have the power to attract, retain and engage superstar employees for years to come.

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