At a recent Work of Leaders workshop session, a client asked us to set aside time to discuss improving communication with the younger generation.  I asked my daughter Samantha if she would take the lead to co-facilitate this segment with me.  She graciously accepted, and her research produced the surprising fact from a Deloitte survey that 75% of the global workforce will be comprised of Millennials by 2021.

The title of the segment we facilitated was mentoring and managing Millennials and Generation Z.  Samantha opened her presentation with the headline, “A different world, a different worldview”.  The majority of Millennials and Gen. Z are much more purpose driven than previous generations, and so if we want them to follow our lead, we will need to explain to them the purpose of what we are doing.  These generations work to live—they don’t live to work.  Work does not define them, nor should it us.  Work should be enjoyable and satisfying to everyone if they are pursuing their calling.  A Millennial might take an approach to those things that have to be done whether we like it or not differently than previous generations.  Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers will suck it up and do it.  A Millennial or Gen. Z might try to change it up to make it more palatable. They are a generation of innovation where new technology is surfacing at a rapid pace.  I am a Gen. X’er, and still remember when Excel and AutoCAD changed our industry.

What is the big challenge with a focus on innovation for construction management within a contracting firm?  Learning and adapting to new, more efficient, technologies may come easily to the majority of construction management professionals of all ages, though the implementation of the technology to match company-specific communication and workflow processes may not.  It’s important to understand the reason behind why an organization is doing something a particular way before you start looking to make changes.

You should be deliberate when changing a platform or process, and quick to sustain if you try a new technology product and it is detrimental to the project and/or company’s success.

The single most important thing to remember with technology is that it only does what it is designed to do.  The same holds true for human capital.   Technology can be modified with add-ons or programming to work better for your organization, but sometimes the modifications will end up hampering efficiency.  The same holds true with people.  Skills can be taught, but only to the extent of their attitude and aptitude.

If you are leading a teammate born before 1980 try this approach:

Get to know them personally.

Ask about why they chose to enter our industry.  What they like to do outside or work and how they like to communicate.

Allow them to be flexible on schedule and work assignments by focusing on the result you are seeking.

While certain things have to be done in order, like sequencing of trades or sign off on a change-order before proceeding on work in place, with other things like calls or documentation it may not matter what order it gets done as long as done before they go home.

Provide Feedback.

Immediate feedback improves Millennials’ confidence.  They want their leaders to respect them and value their contributions.  They are not as concerned with being replaced as they are with being a problem. They want to make a difference and most, despite many having low self-esteem, are fine with constructive criticism as long as it is done professionally.

Baby-Boomers and Gen-Xer’s, know that the next generation is not here to replace us so long as we are continuing to learn and grow in our careers.

The Deloitte Millennial survey goes on to say: “Although Millennials value its role in creating jobs and expanding prosperity, they have larger ambitions for business. Millennials see a large gap between the potential of business to address the challenges facing society and the actual impact it is having. Fulfilling this potential will require businesses to do a better job of encouraging new thinking within their own organizations to develop innovative products and services, while also working collaboratively with government, with nonprofit organizations, and with other companies to develop creative solutions”

To Purpose, Passion and Prosperity,

Suzanne Breistol


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