Attracting, retaining and developing millennial workers

The onus is on employers in the infrastructure sector to attract, retain and develop millennials through alternative work models and career mobility to keep them energised and engaged, says Dugald McIntosh.

Whether we look at transportation, construction or engineering, each sector is going through a digital revolution, with technologies such as automation, robotics and artificial intelligence transforming how projects are assigned and carried out. As a result, organisations are increasingly relying on skilled workers who have the capacity to learn new processes and technologies to ensure that critical projects can be completed on time and within budget. 

Yet, this is not a straightforward procedure - a recent study found that 40% of employers are having difficulty filling jobs. Businesses admitted they were experiencing the most marked tech talent shortage in a decade, with employers singling out engineers as one of the most difficult roles to fill. 

Employers within the infrastructure industry should therefore be looking at new ways to source this talent, starting with millennial workers. This generation, which will make up 35% of the global workforce by 2020, are a great asset for employers to tap into.

At the same time, the growing gig economy has given this generation an appetite for new challenges and portfolio-style jobs, with recent research revealing that nearly two-thirds of millennials believe less than two years is the ‘right’ amount of time to stay in a single role before being promoted or moving on to another. The onus is therefore on employers to attract, retain and develop these individuals through alternative work models and career mobility to keep them energised and engaged. So, what can employers do to achieve this?

Be open to alternative work models

Millennials want more choice over where, when and how they work. Gig working and digital platforms are making it easier for professionals to pick and choose short-term contractor roles that suit their lifestyle. This is particularly beneficial for those individuals working in construction and transport, who don’t want to be tied to a single employer. And from an employer perspective, embracing this type of workforce enables them to tap into global top talent more easily and plug any resourcing gaps they may be facing. 

Recognise that there is no silver bullet for training 

Millennial workers’ more flexible way of thinking should be embraced across all aspects of the business. Looking at training, organisations should respect their employees’ diverse needs and ways of learning. A multi-channel approach is therefore a vital part of motivating staff, as it provides the ability to learn and develop skills in new ways. 

Virtual and augmented reality training programmes are two examples that showcase the future of training and are better suited to more technically-minded individuals, but traditional, more hands-on tactics, such as face-to-face training or a classroom-based approach, are more appropriate for others. This type of training enables employers to use regular catch-ups as a chance to review development and coach employees on the job - which is better suited to those who are practically-minded. 

Provide continuous opportunities to up-skill

For many, career security is critical. Because of this, some millennials are increasingly seeing in-demand skills as an enabler to climb the corporate ladder and secure long-term employment. They understand the key to remaining employable over longer working lives is through upskilling and continuous development and are focused on learning technical and interpersonal skills. Employers should provide supportive development and training initiatives that enable crucial upskilling opportunities. By also sharing examples of employees who have progressed through on-the-job learning, it shows people what’s possible. 

Focus on variety and mobility 

To keep employees energised and engaged, employers should aim to create a working environment that encourages staff to be involved in multiple projects. With different assignments requiring different skill-sets, this technique is designed to widen understanding and professional experience, keeping employees motivated. 

Working with the millennial generation can be invaluable to employers within the infrastructure industry, as it gives them direct access to an enthusiastic workforce who are adaptable and keen to learn new skills. Ultimately, this attitude can help organisations to keep up with the pace of the digital revolution. To stay ahead of this curve, organisations need to both future-proof their workforce and give their employees career security. If these requirements are addressed, businesses will improve engagement, retention, speed to competency and ultimately, their bottom line.

Dugald McIntosh is head of professional resourcing and workforce solutions provider, Experis Engineering.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email awalker@infrastructure-intelligence.com.