Recently, The Associated General Contractors of America teamed up with prominent industry organization FMI Corporation in presenting a highly popular webcast ‘Hiring and Retaining the Right People’. What could be a more important topic within the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (A/E/C) industry?
Randy Nemchin, a Senior Consultant & Executive Coach with FMI, presented the webinar and his primary message was that the A/E/C sector is facing tremendous challenges with human capital. It is increasingly difficult to find experienced and qualified employees, and most organizations don't know where to find them, how to attract them, and how to retain them. There is a huge talent gap in the industry due to workforce demographics and adding to this challenge is the diversity of generations. All of these issues are forcing companies to be highly strategic in how to manage their human capital - from recruitment and development of employees to retaining valuable team members.
Let's first take a look at a staggering statistic that Nemchin noted:
Where does each generation add the most value and how can organizations attract and engage them?
Baby Boomers - As many Baby Boomers are planning their exit strategies and looking forward to retirement, companies are thinking of ways to keep them on board for as long as they can because of the vast experience and knowledge that this generation has. Many A/E/C firms are retaining their Baby Boomers by giving them flexible hours and consultant roles, which provide these professionals with opportunities to make an impact on their organizations and younger professionals. This is a smart business practice simply because Baby Boomers' expertise needs to be relayed and passed down to younger professionals as quickly and efficiently as possible.
With a large demographic of the A/E/C industry being Baby Boomers, we will see a high percentage of the workforce retire within the next five to ten years. Many Generation Xers will then fill leadership roles as these retirements occur, but due to sheer numbers, it will be mostly Millennials who will need to step into executive roles during that time frame. By 2030, Millennials will outnumber Baby Boomers by 22 million.
Gen Xers – Gen X represents the smallest number of professionals in the workforce, and an even smaller percentage within the A/E/C industry. While they don’t have the breadth of experience as Baby Boomers, they certainly have expertise, and unlike Millennials, they’re not new to the professional realm. They have strong work ethics, are coachable, and open to new ideas and learning. They desire a certain amount of autonomy, and to retain them, organizations need to offer lateral and vertical opportunities.
Millennials – Nemchin had an interesting statement about Millennials, saying that the A/E/C industry, as a whole, is not set up for this generation. First and foremost, these professionals require entirely different strategies for recruitment and engagement. Nemchin hit the nail on the head when he said this is because we treat our children differently than how we did 20 or 30 years ago. As a result, this generation has different desires and motivations in their careers - and different ways of wanting to do business.
One major hurdle with Millennial employees is their need for and application of technology. While they are extremely technology-savvy and provide immense value because of that trait, the downside is that most of them think technology is the answer to everything in business. And they want to communicate through it - by texting, emails, snapchat, and whatever other platform is out there. This generation hasn't yet realized (but they will) that you can't just do business through laptops. Technology definitely has its place but there are other highly critical skills that are necessary to succeed and add value to an organization, and they will have to learn that to continue on their career paths.
What do Millennials want from their employers and roles?
For all of us who are involved in the A/E/C industry, the talent shortage is evident. And unfortunately, it will get worse before it gets better. As a result, organizations are being forced to pay increasing attention to workforce generations, and determine how to leverage diverse skills, abilities, and personalities to sustain their competitive edge. While human capital and talent development may be demanding and frustrating at times, it is also exciting and we will all grow from these challenges that we currently face - and our organizations will be stronger for it.