Elizabeth Manning is the managing editor of Construction Business Owner magazine.
With a new generation of workers comes changes—changes to your workforce, changes to the way your work is completed and changes to the way you run your business as a whole. One of the biggest changes is the impact millennials will have on the implementation of technology within your business and its workflows. CBO recently spoke with Stacy Scopano, senior industry strategy manager at Autodesk, about how taking on technology and the new generation of digital natives can be a relatively seamless and beneficial experience for your business. Read his answers below.
CBO: How will this new generation drive construction to increased efficiency, safety, collaboration & ultimately increased profit margins?
SS: Where to start! We are now dealing with digital natives in the workforce. Their brains are wired differently. We now have employees that are able to sift and sort—so what does that mean for the workforce? The workforce you will hire from now on has to be able to do more with less. Every year, most industries are seeing these massive shortages of labor. One of the challenges employers face is how to attract more, younger workers who grew up with tech in their hands and don’t see construction as a viable industry. Business owners have to use technology as a strength and leverage that. You need to understand that these workers will come in with innate technical acumen and be able to convert that into output that is meaningful for production. With safety, the ability to be a constant contributor to proactive safety management is great. We are moving away from a top-down control approach to one that is culture-driven and emphasizes broad adoption for safety at its core. The current class of technologies and users that are inbound will help with that.
CBO: How can industry leaders position themselves to take advantage of & empower this new wave of workers?
SS: On a positioning side, the advantage of having an innovative workforce is key. After you’ve done all your preconstruction activities, the final yard is creating a sense of worth with the client—and a lot of that is centered on a compelling story coupled with compelling technology these days. Look at how your company not only embraced the theme of integration, but how have you also integrated that into your brand? Build a business around innovation and technology. Internally, focusing on operations involves leading with innovation as a core corporate value. There are a couple ways to do it:
- Cultivate an environment for it. Do some due diligence and investigate new frontiers of technology.
- Determine what your appetite is for the tech, and chart a course to implementing it.
- Determine what ranks will be involved with the implementation.
- Resource the ability to explore or implement new technologies—or drive something programmatically for the company at large.
CBO: What are some of the effects the industry is already seeing from this new generation of workers & technology?
SS: We are seeing this notion of reversed mentoring, where a more senior employee on a project is learning from the high-powered, fast-twitch, digital native that comes straight out of school and into the workforce. In our experience, it works really well to pair those two together for mutual learning. That way, you have someone to run the technology alongside someone that is guiding what is going into the technology. Multiple people can take that veteran’s knowledge and then begin to build standard processes and best practices around it. Codify that embedded knowledge and share it with the low-level employees.
CBO: What potential obstacles should business owners be preparing for with the new generation entering the workforce?
SS: You can get counterproductive—“There’s an app for that,” is a motto that is often heard in the market. So many product options can cause a lot of confusion by not adhering to a well defined corporate approach. A top-down mandate may actually drive inefficiencies and you have to learn from that. In technology (including apps) you should be looking for something that can be delivered and implemented across the company. You also have to ask yourself and senior management what learning and insights can you get across the company from this new generation that is using new technology. Contractors are going to have to constantly determine whether they want to drive executive-driven data or use a project-specific approach. Look at the pros and cons of each. We deal a lot with this demographic—and you have a couple different perspectives. The new generation is standing on a bunch of capability and a bunch of tools, but they don’t know much yet about the buildings they are going to be working on. Millennials have a totally different value set from older generations. These employees need to be able to draw meaning from their work. Impact and recognition are just as valuable to them as so many more cents per hour. These are opportunities to establish a culture that bridges these divides.
For more information, visit Autodesk.