Managing Multiple Generations in the Modern AEC Workplace
The average age of a Juneau Construction Company employee is 37 years old. We have roughly 150 employees, and since I am pushing 60 years old it is painfully obvious that I am on the upper spectrum of the workplace generations. In fact, I fall on the line of Baby Boomers and Generation X (I can see characteristics of both)!
I am a strong believer that multiple generations can not only co-exist in the construction industry but can offer growth opportunities as well. Below, see my take on the definition of four generations and the qualities, values, and needs of each (based on our employees)!
Baby Boomers: 1944-1964*
- Influenced by: Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement
- Challenge status quo
- Seek immediate gratification
- Individual goals are important
- Values: Personal growth, team involvement, and gratification
- Ambitious and competitive Highly educated Multi-taskers
- Needs: Development opportunities, to be front and center, and involved in operational matters
Generation X: 1965-1979
- Influenced by: Kids home alone because parents work, MTV, the Berlin Wall falls, and AIDs
- High number of divorced parents
- Independent, self-sufficient, and hard working
- Values: Diversity, work-life balance, technology, and informality
- Won’t give their life to their job
- Dislike being micro-managed and structured work hours
- Prefer “hands-off” management style
- Needs: Work-life balance, independent work, and self-managing
Generation Y & Millennials: 1980-1994
The largest percentage of Juneau Construction Company totaling 65%
- Influences by: Computers/technology, schoolyard violence, and TV talk shows
- Have protective parents/adults
- Everyone should be recognized, regardless of effort
- Largest age group in the country
- Values: Flexible schedules, time-off, and personal growth
- Job needs to challenge them constantly
- Want to see opportunities and a path for advancement at work
- Proud of their company
- Needs: Defined responsibilities and structure, social interactions are important, and supportive managers
Generation Z: 1995-2015
First wave of Generation Z will enter the workplace by 2020!
- Influences by: Social media, smartphones, watched parents go through housing bust and deep recession, pollical polarization, and soaring debt cost
- Diverse and individualistic
- Progressive and pragmatic
- Lonely and anxiety ridden
- Values: Entrepreneurial and financially secure, progressive, flexibility in the workplace, and inclusion
- Visual learners
- Loyal to companies and peers
- Needs: Understanding company expectations, flexible career paths, and ability to decrease debt
While the above statistics give you a feel for what the different generations can look like, there is no substitution for taking the time to get to know each one of your employees. We all learn and like to be managed in different ways so to effectively get the most out of your employees you must first understand the environment in which they thrive and then play to that.
As we continue to face labor challenges within our industry of construction, Juneau Construction Company has invested heavily into our in-house training modules. As so many in our industry are aging out of the industry, the transfer of knowledge is more critical now than ever. It’s because of this that we often start training a young Project or Field Engineer who may be technically savvy, with a more Senior Superintendent who has decades of knowledge to pass down, creating for a very dynamic next generation.
Lastly, I will say that Juneau Construction Company has been successful at navigating the complexities of a multi-generational workforce by understanding the strengths, limitations, and values of each employee (regardless of their generation) and ensuring our managers and company leaders are adequately trained on how to manage and approach conflicts knowing each generational tendency. Management training which has direct correlation to employee satisfaction, turnover and lost productivity has been a successful integration across multiple generations.
As owners, Les and I have worked hard over the past 22 years to create a strong family-oriented culture. We know that our culture is embraced and valued by our employees. Purposefully, we have values that not only reflect our largest generation of employees, the Millennials, but our entire employee base. Juneau’s values are progressive, family-oriented, and of high integrity, while maintain a strong work ethic. We have the utmost confidence in the potential of the “next generation” of leaders in our company and industry combined. The future is bright when multiple generations make the choice to work together and not just co-exist.
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