As the construction industry sheds its low-tech past, and embraces the value that technology can bring, it opens the doors to a younger workforce that has been brought up with an expectation that technology will play a key role in their career. Construction has had a bad reputation for being slow and backwards when it comes to technology, so has not been a target for a generation of talented people evaluating their career options. It’s hard enough to find people in the Gen-X cohort that haven’t been brought up sitting in front of a computer – millennials and Gen-Z have had a device tethered to themselves practically from birth. For them, considering a position in construction where they’ll be stuck in old-school methods, processes, spreadsheets and paper, is simply a no-go.
As Brian Poage points out in a recent article in Construction Executive, “Younger people often decline to pursue lucrative training or job opportunities in this industry because they assume construction companies aren’t modern or forward-thinking. They don’t want to learn new, complex skill sets to work in a business built on outdated tools and infrastructures. Old-fashioned processes like pen and paper reporting or paper time cards, both of which are still widely used in construction, discourage many potential applicants.”
It’s About Attitude
It’s widely accepted that anyone between the age of 18 and 40 is looking for much more than just a salary and benefits as part of their overall compensation package. They’re looking for culture, career growth, and to be positively challenged in their job. The idea of spending a significant amount of their working hours fighting with spreadsheets and doing low-value work that should be done by a computer will cause workers in that age range to flee to other sectors. This is a significant problem for construction companies that refuse to upgrade their systems and processes. Their inability to attract quality talent will significantly compromise their ability to do quality work and stay relevant. Again, Poage asserts, “Tedious, manual pen and paper documentation is no longer acceptable for many young workers. Written reports that must be transcribed are too time-consuming and leave too much room for error or miscommunication to be effective.”
Out with the Old, in with the New
The other reality is that baby boomers are retiring and leaving the workforce. This has the potential of leaving critical gaps in skilled labor. Conley Smith articulates this fact in his ConstructionConnect article, “With baby boomers representing more than 40% of today’s construction workforce, it’s no surprise that the current shortage can be linked directly to the high number of boomers retiring daily. At this rate, the construction industry could lose between 14% and 20% of specific employee groups, including executives, senior managers, field managers, and project managers, over the next five years.”
Construction’s Digital Transformation
The construction industry is experiencing a monumental shift in its attitude towards the place technology has in the organization. And that is the good news in this story. The digital transformation is really revolutionizing the industry from top to bottom, and hopefully this will translate into an updated image that will attract a new generation of skilled workers.