A Key Ingredient Missing from Today’s Younger Workforce.

Words: Corey Adams 

“Why would you waste your time like that?”  

That phrase is clearly etched into my mind. I was like any other kid with a brand-new video game system. I wanted to catch ghosts, save the princess, and play as my favorite superhero. Between parents, grandparents, and every other adult figure in my life, that phrase was loud and clear.  

Fast forward to 2019. Video games are a multi-billion-dollar industry, and technology has transformed every single task we perform in life. Were those adults correct to question my every waking hour sitting in front of the television? Maybe yes or no. But the problem was they failed to see how my generation was changing the way we do everything.  

What does this have to do with the construction industry? Well, the vast majority of contractors I collaborate with tell me the same thing: the younger generation will not work. They have no skills, no work ethic, and no motivation to go into the trades. Definitely sounds a lot like my parents.  

The reality of the situation is that today’s younger generation grew up differently than we did. This generation has never had to change their own oil, plant a garden for food, or built a doghouse with their parents.  

How frustrated was your dad when you were helping him build that doghouse? You had no experience, but you were there anyway, learning how to use tools and complete a project, and in the most basic way, you were beginning to understand construction.  

When we are hiring and working alongside today’s younger generation, we have to be aware that they are just like us helping our fathers build that doghouse. They are wide-eyed and unsure of what is going on, but they know they are building something from beginning to end. 

Sometimes, when faced with this uncertainty, new employees will freeze up when it comes to comprehending something new. While this can and often is perceived as laziness to more seasoned workers, the truth is that these employees may just do not know what to do, when to do it, or how it is done. 

The companies that will adapt to this trend will be the ones to succeed. Implementing a training program that delivers information on the “why”, “what”, and “how” can greatly increase new hire’s success rates. We all have more interest in things we can understand.  

You don’t have time to train employees and just need them now? That is fine, but let me counter with this: if you pay entry-level wages, then you get entry-level employees. Part of the reason that entry-level employees are paid so poorly is because they lack skills and/or experience, and training is built into the wages that they earn.  

We have all fallen into the world of instant gratification, and as a result, we want employees that are top notch from Day One. When we do not find them, we blame them. As employers, we need to be aware that traditional skills are missing from today’s younger generation, and begin to adapt to fill this need. 

How do you adapt? Start by answering three questions and relaying those answers to everyone. 

  • What are we building?  
  • Why are we building?  
  • How are we building?  

The more information and experience that we can share with entry-level employees, the faster they begin to pick up the nuances of our industry. Treat the younger generation the way you would have wanted to be treated when you were learning: with explanation, patience, and guidance. Reward the fast learners with raises, and move off the ones that do not progress.  

Every good employee had to be trained by someone. It is time for that someone to be us.  

Corey Adams is the President of the Concrete Division at Genesis Contracting, and Founder of The Faster Horses Agency, a business development and marketing firm that serves the construction industry. His unique blend of construction experience, and business development strategies make Corey a go to source for many contractors looking to take the next step. To contact corey directly, Call 740-350-3072, or email him at  cadams@genesis-contracting.com