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Industry faces biggest ever challenge from digitally native ‘i-generation’

Stantec HR director, Jeannie Edwards, speaking at ACE’s Digital Leadership Conference 20 June 2019.

Businesses in the built environment sector are facing some of the biggest and most profound challenges in its history as a result of the changes brought about through increasing digitisation and the effect this has on the workforce, according to Stantec’s Jeannie Edwards.

“The younger generation are more demanding than ever, switch between private life and work life quicker than ever and expect employers to understand that,” said the Stantec HR director speaking at ACE’s Digital Leadership Conference in London on 20 June 2019. Edwards said that digital developments and the generation that has grown up taking them for granted is leading to major staff challenges that construction firms needed to be aware of and work with.

Edwards said that traditional educational qualifications were now being challenged by online learning. “We have to rethink how we view self-taught candidates, but also evaluate the risk of working with inexperienced people,” she said. “Getting some firms to accept that is a challenge,” said Edwards, but it would have to be done.

“The ‘i-generation’ comes to work, wants to innovate, wants more face-to-face involvement and wants to be involved and can be frustrated by traditional working methods and systems,” Edwards said. It was a serious challenge that the industry was facing and there was a real need for firms to “understand how the work culture is frustrating people”. Companies needed to grasp this Edwards said by “understanding what frustrates people and then deliver the skills that help them to work with other colleagues”. 

She also cited the example of organisations that had become irrelevant in a changing world because they had failed to use new communication tools effectively and said that should be a warning to firms in the construction sector. Edwards said that the changes and challenges brought by younger, more digitally native employees would only increase. “A tsunami is coming – we are at the beginning of the change,” she said. 

Digital transformation will require changes in many areas of construction businesses who will in turn have to embrace accommodating the post-Millennial i-generation and the challenges they bring, but also the benefits they offer.