Words from the IACDS President: What about the ‘Millennials’?

Published 10/10, 2018 at 17:17

The Millennials: sat in front of their phones, tablets or on demand TV, more worried about the latest reality TV star’s next Instagram post than they are about embarking on a career or, to start with, just finding themselves a job.

A fair assessment, you might say, but is our stereotyping of a whole generation one of the reasons that we are struggling to find the future workforce that will ensure our businesses and industries continue to run for many more years to come?

I was inspired to write this column when I saw a presentation by David Perkins of Hilti at the CSDA Convention in Maui, and then again, at the IACDS Tokyo Conference by Erin O’Brien of the CSDA. It really got me thinking and doing research when I returned back to the UK. Whatever is a Millennial some will be asking? In the UK, it’s basically anyone who was born between 1980 and 2000. In 2016 they accounted for 16.8M people: a quarter of the whole population and the largest proportion of the workforce. The USA uses a slightly different measure; that of anyone born between 1982 and 2004, making up around 75M of the population. We can be confident that these figures are reflected, if not completely mirrored, around the world. 

Perhaps, we as an industry should be the first to look beyond the millennial label. After all, construction, and all of its specialisms, is probably one of the most typecast industries on the planet. Some will tell you it’s for the unskilled or the unintelligent: I find this assessment laughable and bordering on the offensive. The sector we work in requires intelligence and skill, yet we are labelled with the opposite stereotype. How then can we be willing to label a whole generation in one way? 

Research shows that the millennial generation is not the selfish, self-absorbed group that the stereotype suggests. Surveys have found that they are looking for substance and meaning in their work, and not just the biggest pay packet. They care about a company’s brand and reputation, wanting to feel what they are doing is contributing to something worthwhile. They are also willing to work; a large proportion work in excess of 40h a week with many undertaking two jobs. Of course, technology plays a big part in their life, with 91% being regular internet users; but is that something employers should fear or is it something we need to embrace?

Many in our industry can point out that many of this generation are often apt to quit and leave. Maybe some do, but the biggest reasons given for leaving a job are that there are no opportunities to advance, little growth in pay, excessive hours, lack of teamwork and a lack of flexibility. Thus we have a stereotype of a generation, and a stereotype of an industry, but neither match what’s happening in reality.

If we are to find new blood for our businesses, we are going to have to dip into the pool of talent from the millennial generation, and look beyond the stereotyping. In order to do so, we have to sell our industry better and, maybe, look at some of those factors that are important to those surveyed, such as flexibility and the opportunity to progress. Also, we have to be willing to bestow the importance of construction on society and the economy. Without us, there are no roads, no schools, no homes, no hospitals etc. If a young worker is looking for meaning in what they do, what could offer that better than being part of an industry that is creating the future? 

So please let me know what are your experiences of Millennials, and has this made you think about your recruitment policy for the future. It’s a subject that is going to come up again and again, and will definitely be revisited by the IACDS at future conventions. 


Julie White, President of IACDS


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