Last week, my family and I attended the opening night of Lion King. It warmed our hearts to be reminded of the Lion King film, which was released as our children were growing up.  The famous “circle of life” was manifest to us as we looked over at our children, now young adults learning to navigate their lives and careers in a rapidly changing world.

We don’t hear as much lately regarding the generational differences between employees in the Construction industry. The advancements in our industry over time have required all the generations from Baby Boomers to Generation Z (sometimes known as iGen or Centennials) to master new technology and better understand the business of construction “beyond the build”. Nearly everyone now understands that proficiency in new technology is a prerequisite for securing one’s own place in the Construction Management workplace.

The Traditionalists or Silent Generation, born 1945 and before, may still be working in our industry, but most likely not in a 50 hour per week project-based management role.

However, personal differences obviously still exist between employees, and so employers would be wise to ensure that they thoroughly understand the employees being hired, and that new employees are willing to fulfill that which is asked of them.

In particular, it is crucial for a hiring manager to find out what prospective employees are willing to do with respect to the following:

Driving or Flying to where you need them to be.

Do not merely assume that your office staff or project team members will commute to projects in a sixty-mile radius while also working a full workweek.  If you anticipate that you will need them to travel out of the area for a project, you should address this prior to hiring them.  Take the time to ask them additional questions to verify they can and will travel without affecting your company and project budget and schedule.  Some may tell you during an interview that they will do “whatever”, even though they have not thought-through what this “whatever” entails or spoken to others in their lives who may overrule their employer.  Over the years, we have seen everything from an insecure spouse, to commitments with family, to court obligations.  Carefully vet statements such as, “If I can come in late on Mondays and leave early on Fridays, I can travel”.

Documentation and Communication

This article started with noting how advanced technology has become.  Because of these changes, it would be wise to discuss with new employees how your company records information, both electronically and physically.  You should discuss in detail how your preferred method of communication is handled, and clarify in- particular, the following questions:

  • Are they required to include others on correspondence?
  • Does your company allow text messages?
  • Are they required to pick up the phone before sending an email?
  • What is required daily, weekly to be captured in your selected software programs?

The more they know about how your company operates, the more accurately you can both determine if the candidate would be a good fit.  Together, you can mutually determine if the individual can work in your structure (or lack of structure), depending on what they are used to.

As an employer, you will want to determine if they will have the ability to “ramp up” quickly at your company and to grow with your vision.  For instance, if they are exiting a workplace that only uses just the Microsoft suite, will they be able to learn a more sophisticated program such Viewpoint, Sage, or CMIC?  And even if they learn it, will they develop the momentum to keep up with the performance of others in the company?

Project Experience: “Construction is construction”, right?  No.

Some candidates work well with interior build-out projects with minimal MEP.  If your goal is for them to have the ability to grow with time and eventually manage more complex ground up projects, you should keep in mind from the outset that they may or may not have the aptitude or interest to grow into that role.  You may spend a lot of time teaching them the nuances and become frustrated due to their lack of interest in the new role.  Using tools such as shadowing and multiple interviews will help you determine what motivates them.  Some candidates are just not wired to new challenges and just not excited about bigger or better things.

As another generation moves out of our industry due to time, new challenges arise, and we need to rise to meet them.  Many of these professionals mentored us as we came up through the industry, and we will be ever grateful to as we continue the circle of life.

Age is in part a state of mind, and both the Body and mind adjust with age.  Young people discover with time what they are willing and unwilling to do.  Whether you are interviewing to make a career move, or interviewing someone to join your team, what they can, will, and are able to do all factor into the equation.

If you’ve made a wrong match, don’t run from it and don’t beat yourself up.  That’s how we all learn.

Hakuna Matata,

Suzanne Breistol