Tristan Alden, Head of Sales EMEA at Evotix, a leader in EHS software solutions, offers insight to businesses on how to manage the millennial workforce in the construction industry.

As labour shortages continue to plague the construction industry, thousands of jobs lay vacant across the UK. With firms finding it increasingly difficult to fill these roles, most companies are comprised of Generation X and baby boomer workers, creating an environment that appeals to an older demographic. 

But with millennials accounting for 50% of the workforce, construction companies need to prioritise attracting and retaining a dynamic, young and new workforce.

This presents a unique challenge: how do businesses attract more talent, and appeal to millennial workers? 

To avoid turnover, construction companies need to take a deep dive into the things that matter to this generation, such as community, company culture and long term engagement. 

Here are five areas to focus on when it comes to managing the millennial workforce in construction. 

Use technology to your advantage

Millennials are the digital generation for a reason - they are comfortable with technology and enjoy using it. According to a study conducted by CompTIA, two-thirds of millennials consider an organisation’s embrace of technology and innovation an important factor when choosing an employer, so it’s important to harness this. 

Not only will your company's use of technology draw in young talent, but it will also benefit your business by bringing in new processes and systems, driving faster digital technology adoption. 

Using technology is also an integral part of managing and communicating with millennials who have little patience for slow processes. For example, millennials would rather collaborate on a work doc on a shared online version (e.g. Google suite), Slack or Microsoft Teams, rather than emailing back and forth. 

The key is to use technology to communicate in a way that millennials resonate with, so make sure everything is bite-sized, easy to digest and understandable. And finally, go the extra mile to keep the working environment innovative and interesting – utilise things such as drones, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

Providing a safe working environment 

The safety stakes are significantly higher than most other sectors due to hazards related to working at height, unguarded machinery, proximity to heavy construction equipment or power lines and occupational disease related to silica dust and asbestos.

Organisations often encounter problems encouraging millennial staff to engage in Environment, Health & Safety due to red tape and overly complicated processes. Using a specialist EHS app with an intuitive user interface and attractive graphics can encourage ownership and empower all employees to get on board with the safety journey. Afterall, they do love their technology.

EHS apps can present millennial workers with relevant information and functionality, such as real-time hazard alerts, information on nearby reported incidents or exposure to environmental phenomena like noise or vibration.

Millennials easily adopt digital processes and EHS apps can help them fully digitise this process and facilitate a move from a ‘reactive’ to a ‘proactive’ safety culture.

Provide opportunities for personal development

Compared to previous generations, millennials want fair pay and personal satisfaction more than ever before (Forbes Millennial Report). Within this, personal development is an incredibly important pillar of a good workplace. Thus, one of the keys to avoiding high turnover, and constant staff shortages, is to make sure your company is the one offering those opportunities.

Companies that give their employees space for growth satiate this millennial urge, while supporting the development of stronger and more talented teams — a critical asset to any successful business. To expedite this, offer your employees discounted online courses and the chance to attend training workshops. Providing opportunities for growth through mentorship programmes can also be a great way for millennials to learn from older, more experienced employees, and vice versa. 

A critical part of personal development is also providing regular constructive feedback. To do this, make sure you are offering frequent evaluations after a project is completed and reward based on the performance, rather than waiting for something like tenure. 

Focus on community and culture 

While millennials have a reputation for high turnover rates, it’s much less likely they will leave a company if you offer a strong sense of community and culture. Subsequently, it’s vital to provide an environment that focuses on building community and engaging employees long-term across all generations. 

More than ever, this generation values teamwork, collaboration, and social opportunities within the workplace, so good company culture is crucial. While cutting-edge technology and interactive happy hours are a part of this, it’s important to not think these things alone will keep your employees engaged and satisfied. Sure, they are contributing factors, but millennials also want to feel like they are able to share new ideas, provide solutions and be heard at work. Therefore, it should be a pinnacle part of company culture to encourage workers to tap into their connectivity and engage at a high level. 

Understanding what millennials really want

Overall, it’s critical to understand what millennials really want and expect from their employer. While we’ve touched on personal development and company culture, there are severely overarching things to keep in mind. 

For one, allow for ample career progression. For millennials to stay interested, they need to have a pathway and framework for advancement, and they will employ the personal development opportunities you provide them with to do this. 

Secondly, offer flexibility. Yes, having perks at the workplace is great, but millennials value work-life balance increasingly more, so working somewhere that allows them to have flexibility will be a big part of retaining staff. 

Lastly, provide your workers with opportunities to give back. Millennials want a sense of purpose in their career and often look for companies that prioritise and value giving back to their communities. Having the chance to do this through an employer is a major plus, and will deeply benefit your organisation.