Recently, a talented assistant project manager at our firm – we will call him “Bill” – approached me and requested, in a polite but firm manner, a promotion to the role of project manager. Bill is in his mid-20s. Our employees know I have an open-door policy and I encourage candid conversation about all areas of the business, including their careers. This was not the first time I had encountered the expectations that have become synonymous with the so-called “millennial generation.”
Shifting Attitudes and Expectations
Adapting to the awareness and expectations of today’s younger workforce can be a challenge. In the past, Bill’s presumptiveness would have been unthinkable. The construction business has had a long-established career path for those with senior management aspirations. Historically, it began with a lengthy on-site apprenticeship period, followed by a steady succession of roles with increasing levels of responsibility.
It was implicitly understood that workers had to pay their dues in the trenches to advance in the company. The job of a project manager – the individual with oversight for all aspects of a major construction project – carries extraordinary responsibility and was typically the purview of professionals in their late 30s to mid-40s with many years of experience under their tool belt.
However, times have changed. Today’s younger workers have strong technology backgrounds, innovative minds and much needed skills, resulting in high expectations and accelerated career timetables.
Mentoring Down, and Up
At Omnibuild, our more experienced workers are a tremendous asset in terms of leading by example, providing hands-on training and sharing knowledge that would take younger workers a decade to amass. At the same time, the younger members of the organization tend to be adept at using new technologies, helping onsite teams work faster and smarter.
This mutual give-and-take has formed a strong bond between younger and older project team members, and helped to ensure our culture of camaraderie and openness continues to be strong.
We have also made a concerted effort to regularly recognize and reward success. In the past, you were expected to keep your head down, work hard and quietly appreciate your promotions and raises. Now, when a younger team member makes a notable contribution, wraps up an important project or is promoted to a new role with significant responsibility, we make it an opportunity for celebration within the firm.
The construction business has a reputation for being tough and it can certainly be a demanding job. However, the industry also places regularly among the highest rated in terms of job satisfaction – regardless of workers’ ages – because of a well-earned reputation for collaboration, communication and camaraderie. At Omnibuild, we strive to foster the best possible environment, and the millennial generation has proven its value.
– Peter Serpico, CEO