Apr 24, 2020
These days, it’s inevitable that a diverse group of older and younger workers cross paths in the construction industry. After all, the young, tech-savvy, socially conscious demographic known as Gen Y (Millennials) and Gen Z are currently the largest living generation in the U.S., navigating the workforce in record numbers. And the boomers may be retirement age, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to stop working. Many baby boomers are choosing to enjoy “encore careers” – jobs that allow them to continue to apply their skills and experience to personally meaningful projects.
Here are a few ways to help these two groups work together, so your construction business benefits from their unique and complementary skills.
Baby boomers and millennials in the construction business
Millennials offer incredible potential to the businesses they work for. Young, tech-savvy, and interested in making a difference in the world; Gen Y only lacks one key trait: experience.
Boomers, on the other hand, know how the business world works, and many enjoy sharing their knowledge with younger colleagues. However, unlike millennials, they may be “stuck” doing things less efficiently, simply because they don’t adapt quickly to new technologies.
With their distinctive skill sets, pairing up a young worker with an older employee can be mutually rewarding – and highly beneficial – if you know how to manage the relationship.
Partners – not proteges
Trust is the foundation of every good working relationship. Building trust among your younger and older workers can mean establishing a very different work dynamic than your more former employees may be used to.
To keep clear of tension, avoid creating hierarchies at work. Even in a mentor-mentee relationship, each person must see themselves as equal. That way, when someone doesn’t know something, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed. No one is the boss; everyone is there to exchange knowledge and experience.
Communication is key
Being digital natives, Millenials may prefer communicating with tweets, texts, and instant messages; Boomers, on the other hand, prefer a phone call, email, or face time.
Moreover, older generations may be used to a more formal approach to communicating at work, particularly with management. They may interpret a more casual communication style – common among their Gen Y peers – as a lack of respect.
You can help bridge gaps in communication with weekly staff meetings. You might even consider creating a communication policy: group emails for urgent matters that affect everyone, and the communicator’s preferred form of communication for other issues.
Do you run a family business?
The future of your construction company may seem like a problem for tomorrow or sometime next decade, but forward-thinking business owners know they need to plan for the future today. The steps you take now to prepare your company for the next generation will go a long way to determining how successful it remains after you retire.
It's tempting to think that things will automatically work out for the best—especially where family businesses are concerned—but that rarely happens without planning.
Here are some easy steps you can take now that will help your construction business survive after you've retired:
1. Write a formal succession plan
You might know in your head how you want the business to run when you're gone, but it certainly doesn't mean that everyone will agree with you. In fact, not having a written plan can lead to conflict and legal disputes.
Put in writing how you want the business to run after you leave. Who will take your role? Will your job be divided among various family members? Will, one of your children, own the entire business, or will they all be part owners? Is everyone in the family aware of your decision?
Talk to the people affected by your succession plan. Make sure they are willing and able to take a role in the business. Please don't assume that because you want your son or daughter to take over the company, they are capable of it or even want to.
By working on your succession plan early, you also have time to determine who has the skills to take over specific roles and who might need additional training.
2. Invest in professional development
Many business owners assume their children know how to run the family business because they've grown up in the industry. That doesn't mean that they have all the skills necessary to run your construction business successfully.
It makes sense, then, to invest in education and professional development, not just for your family members but for young employees who could one day take over management roles in your company.
Start slowly handing over more responsibilities, so the job isn't overwhelming to them when you decide it's time for you to retire. By the time you go, the person or people taking over your role should already be very familiar with the job expectations and feel comfortable in the role.
3. Foster innovation
Again, it's no secret that the younger generations have embraced technology as a way to make business more efficient. Fostering technology and innovation early in your business makes it more appealing for the next generation to stay with your business for the long term. It also shows them that you are forward-thinking and that you value their input and ideas.
Adopt new technologies and encourage your employees to be innovative. They may find ways to make your business more successful, or at least more efficient.
While you can’t necessarily influence how well any two employees work together – after all, there’s more to any working dynamic than generational tendencies – an awareness of how your staff works best and an attitude of flexibility can make a huge difference.
Find ways to support your employees as they nurture each other’s growth. When it comes to problem-solving, encourage your boomer staffers to help younger workers understand their reasons behind their decisions with examples based on their experience. Likewise, millennial staff should think about the best ways to teach their older colleagues, who are less comfortable with technology, how to use a new web tool or software.
Planning for the future might not be the most fun way to spend your time, but it is vital to do so to ensure the continued success of your business. It also keeps the transitional time after you retire as smooth as possible for those who follow in your footsteps.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to nurturing the skills and talents of all your workers – and creating a harmonious atmosphere for everyone.
Running a family business and need some help? Get in touch.
About The Author:
Sharie DeHart, QPA is the co-founder of Business Consulting And Accounting in Lynnwood, Washington. She is the leading expert in managing outsourced construction bookkeeping and accounting services companies and cash management accounting for small construction companies across the USA. She encourages Contractors and Construction Company Owners to stay current on their tax obligations and offers insights on how to manage the remaining cash flow to operate and grow their construction company sales and profits so they can put more money in the bank. Call 1-800-361-1770 or firstname.lastname@example.org