How to Attract and Retain Millennial Workers for Your Construction Business

3 min read

As Baby Boomer trade workers continue to retire in large numbers, construction teams are quickly running out of workers under 25. Here's how to adjust your hiring strategy to attract more millennials to your team.

Truth is, most millennials just don't find construction work attractive.

But now that 1 in 3 US workers is a millennial (soon to be 3 in 4 by 2024), we need to know what works for luring these workers in.

Because the old tricks just won't cut it. A 2015 Glassdoor survey revealed 89% of millennials prefer benefits and perks to a pay raise and another 83% of millennials would shift their job for better benefits.

Clearly, millennials are a different breed. Here's how to get more of them on your team.

Step 1: Know who you're dealing with

There’s a good chance the next applicant that hits your desk is from a millennial who also belongs to a minority group.

In fact, research shows that more than 50% of millennial populations in 10 different states are members of a minority group. Maybe that's why they care so much about where a brand stands on important social issues.

Take, for example, the recent recent protest of the 100,000-member unionized construction workforce against The Related Cos, the developer behind New York’s largest construction project. When workers felt that CEO Stephen Ross was "condoning racism, sexism and union-busting," they immediately sprung to action.

Here are some questions to think about to help you walk your talk:

  • Does your mission statement actually mean something? (Or is it just for decoration?)
  • Do your values reflect your real-life working practices and expectations?
  • Do your hiring practices reflect those values?

Step 2: Upgrade your D&I efforts

In an industry where women make up only 9% of the workforce, getting your Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) game in order might seem like an uphill battle.

But some companies are ready for the climb.

Pepper Construction is a great example of how a commitment to D&I can contribute to greater ROI. According to Jennifer Suerth, the company’s Vice President of Technical Services, “As diversity increases in our industry, we see increases in productivity because we see new ideas being brought forward.”

At Pepper Construction, 30% of employees are women. Boosting diversity at your firm may feel tough, but it's not impossible.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Make sure your job ads are optimized for inclusive language
  • Revamp your EEO/Fair Hiring statement to show applicants you're genuinely excited about D&I
  • Use employee surveys to measure inclusion, not just representation

For more on how to make sure you're hiring for true culture add, check out this easy-to-follow diversity hiring checklist.

Step 3: Modernize your perks and benefits

Offering perks and benefits that millennials can't help but tell their friends about is the key to both attracting and retaining future workers. And given the industry's track record of long hours and high-risk conditions, work/life balance tops the list for millennial construction workers.

46% of parents work full time and with more and more millennials entering parenthood every year, flexible working and family benefits are key.

In one stellar example, Boston-based general contractor Shawmut Design and Construction offers a paid leave program including a month of paid time off when employees have or adopt a new child, or need to look after a sick family member.

And it seems this trend is going global. In Japan, the government went down to a five-day workweek for workers on public projects.

Think about where you can afford to loosen the reigns and build more flexibility into your project plans and work perks.

Here are some of the other top perks millennials love:

  • Learning and development - 87% of millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important to them in a job.
  • Modern health benefits - According to a 2016 Glassdoor survey, health insurance is the #1 benefit that matters most to candidates when accepting a new position (and with 20% of millennials experiencing depression, this should include mental health, too.)
  • Tech-enabled work environment - 73% of US millennials and Gen Z'ers interact with each other digitally more than they do in real life.

Keep in mind

If you really want to future-proof your HR, start by embracing the role of construction companies not as mere builders, but as developers of people.

It may sting a little in the short term, but making the internal and external changes needed to win with millennials is definitely going to pay off. Stay committed to evolving your approach and know that by doing so, you're changing the future of the industry for the better.

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