A widening skills gap is affecting a number of worldwide industries, with manufacturing and construction both near the top of that list. In the case of construction, 80% of residential contractors and over 50% of commercial contractors said that skill positions were increasingly difficult to fill, according to separate surveys from 2018. It hasn’t gotten better since then — eight out of 10 construction companies still can’t find the workers they need.
Some of it is out of their control, and in long-tailed sectors like these, composed of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, it’s almost impossible to muster an industry-wide response. That means it’s up to those individual companies to figure out what tools can be used to attract workers during a time when unemployment is low and the job market is incredibly competitive.
If there’s one thing that can consistently aid employers in that process, it’s the obvious fact that millennials are the demographic that must be targeted almost exclusively. The next piece of the puzzle, then, is learning what they want out of a job. For companies on this path, here are three research-backed “perks” that top the list of what appeals to younger workers.
1. Technology-forward experience
Millennials are used to using digital technology in almost every aspect of their day-to-day life — and that extends to work. One Microsoft report found that 93% of millennials rate technology as being among a workplace’s most important aspects.
But even before they even consider going to work for an organization, modern workers turn to the internet to see what it’s all about. A website is a good start, but social media activity is even better, as it gives prospective employees an opportunity to engage with a business before committing to it.
Google, Yelp, and Glassdoor reviews are equally important — what are customers and past employees saying about the business, and how does leadership tend to handle it? We mostly think of a brand as the connection between company and consumer, but increasingly, it’s also between employer and employee. This is the first area where construction companies can benefit by being tech-forward, but it’s definitely not the last (more on that below).
2. Open communication lines
Millennials are also accustomed to near-constant communication with the people they have close ties to, which includes colleagues and employers. Wanting to communicate can take different forms, but the setting of expectations is definitely one of them, as is the desire for regular feedback. In one report, 42% of millennial workers wanted some form of weekly, on-the-job evaluation (double what any other generation wanted).
In both cases — expectations and feedback — technology ties back in: modern apps and services make it possible to communicate quickly, easily, and efficiently. A sit-down between an employee and supervisor or employer, for instance, can happen anywhere and anytime. How important is communication? Over 80% of millennials claim they’d rather work somewhere where “open communication” is valued than somewhere with excellent benefits.
3. Ethical work
In one survey, 60% of millennials listed “a sense of purpose” among the reasons they chose a place of employment, and three out of four would take a pay cut to work somewhere more sustainable. In another (this one trans-generational), 42% of the workforce expressed a desire to work within an organization that positively impacts the world. In that same report, 44% said that how much they were paid mattered less than whether or not the work was meaningful. Corporate social responsibility may be a mouthful, but it’s on the tip of the workforce’s collective tongue.
This trend should prompt companies to consider the impact they have — not only that of their products but of their entire operations from start to finish. As of 2020, we can add global pandemics and broken supply chains to the list of reasons that corporate transparency has become a necessity, and while getting that transparency might be difficult in the short term, it’s also a critical factor in attracting tomorrow’s talent.
Applying the knowledge
It’s easy to read and write about things like transparency and ethics, but it’s much harder to concretely incorporate them into a company’s ethos and practices. In other words, adjusting legacy business practices in order to attract a new generation of employees will, in many cases, be a very bumpy road. And yet, it must be done. Not only because it’s what those employees want, but because digital transformation, radical transparency, and social responsibility are what the industry will require going forward.