Building for Change: Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Construction Professionals

Time for construction to make it make sense.




  • Recruiting from homogenous networks: When aiming to attract and retain the next generation, it’s important to look at multiple diverse organizations, agencies, and universities. You want your workforce to reflect an inclusive work environment, one in which employees feel as though they can see themselves at your company long term.
  • Failing to engage your employees as advocates: Though often overlooked by many companies, the use of employees can positively impact the overall recruitment process. The best marketing effort is having your employees go back to their alma mater or engage their Alumni Associations to share the benefits of employment.
  • One-size-fits-all career development: For project-specific efforts, Flatiron has a designated Training Institute Coordinator. As one of the initiatives under the eight track institute, this individual assists our project team to engage young professionals and raise awareness of the project, science, technology, engineering, architecture, and mathematics (STEAM) fields and construction-related opportunities.

If a company wants to address past missteps, take the failed effort as an opportunity to reevaluate and learn from what could be done better. There are resources, tools, and allies readily available to support you on your journey.

Generation Z and Millennials look for the three C’s:

  1. Culture: Culture is the most important. If you don’t want to come into work every day, you will find somewhere else to work. You have to enjoy where you're working and feel comfortable and able to grow.
  2. Compensation: Compensation is complex. A lot of people think compensation and they think hard dollars. However, if a company can only give a certain salary but they're listing other benefits, like paid family leave and telecommuting options, younger generations will take that into consideration. It's not all about the money. It's about the quality of life.
  3. Communication or Control: This one differs between the two generations. Millennials want communication. They want feedback and to understand where they are going, how they are getting there, and ways to improve. Generation Z wants control. They want control over their path within a company so asking questions about their interests and passions empowers them to control their own destiny. That will help motivate them.

Here are some ways companies can successfully engage talent and prepare for the next generation while building a future-focused culture.

  • Understand the current state: Every day the shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry becomes more acute. In 2013, it was projected that 40% of construction workers were over the age of 49 and 54% of construction managers were over the age of 49. By 2015, it was projected that over a million construction workers would retire by 2024. While the industry was thriving as of 2019, there was a shortage of qualified workers and there were few schools and technical-education programs. The awareness has been there for quite some time, but companies and organizations have struggled to know what to do.

  • Create space for open dialogue: When we talk about diversity and inclusion, one piece that gets overlooked is cognitive diversity. That is simply the act of bringing together people with different experiences, backgrounds, and skill sets. Organizations that tend to thrive put their most experienced workers alongside people who are new to the organization. As a result, intergenerational collaboration increases, relationships thrive, and people feel like they're part of a team. Anytime collaboration and innovation increase, employee engagement increases.

  • Prioritize your employees: We spend a huge proportion of our time at work so there's this mindset that, "I want to work somewhere where I enjoy my work, it's a valuable use of my time, and it's something positive in my life.”A people-first culture has become the driving, motivating factor, especially for younger generations and where they choose to work.

  • Get started now: There continues to be urgency to this. I would encourage leaders of construction companies not to be overwhelmed. If you can just think of one change you could make in your organization to foster teamwork, put people first, and be more mindful of the future, it would make a tremendous difference. We've got to turn the tide, and there's no better time to start than right now.