Construction companies commonly struggle to recruit and retain younger workers. Tech-savvy Gen Z is hesitant to enter an industry that still relies heavily on pen and paper workflows and traditional communication methods.
Strategically implementing technology to streamline daily reporting and other monotonous tasks can help construction businesses appeal to the newest generation of the workforce. Today’s youth use software and devices to enhance nearly every aspect of their personal lives, and they typically search for a company that embraces modern technology in the same way.
Why is it so difficult for modern construction companies to recruit younger workers?
The Canadian Construction Association reports that in 2021, the construction industry employed over 1.4 million people nationwide. Construction has consistently grown and provided profitable career opportunities and valuable training for decades. So, why don’t more younger workers apply for open positions?
Construction is rooted in tradition. It’s an industry with a history of stability. While these are positive qualities, construction companies sometimes rely too heavily on established processes.
For a generation that grew up with internet access, pen and paper reporting, paper timecards and inefficient communication are relics of the past. Gen Z, who use mobile phones and software applications to record and share information instantly with friends and family, see these tasks as overly complicated and unnecessarily time consuming. They don’t want to join a company that refuses to use the modern tools and conveniences that make their personal lives easier every day.
In addition to the industry’s reputation for being old-fashioned, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the business landscape in several significant ways.
Now, more companies than ever offer remote work opportunities. While some office-based positions at construction companies may be able to work remotely, the majority of work must be completed on the jobsite. Construction companies are competing for candidates with businesses that are fully remote or that can offer other technology-based perks like state-of-the-art devices.
The pandemic has also reinforced the concept of work-life balance for many younger workers, who generally prioritize their own mental health and well-being over job titles and monetary benefits. They want to be productive workers and expect their place of employment to give them the tools to work quickly and effectively.
When a company shares this value and implements technology to consolidate or automate time-consuming tasks to make their employees’ workdays easier, younger workers see it as a sign of respect. Likewise, they may become easily frustrated when overly complex processes take time away from their job-related responsibilities.
What kind of technology do younger workers expect to use on the jobsite?
Younger workers are more likely to seek out employment opportunities and continue working with construction companies that offer tools that simplify tasks like daily reporting, time tracking and project communication.
Easy reporting and time tracking
Digital daily reporting software saves workers time by allowing them to collect crucial productivity data more quickly and accurately than with pen and paper. Using an app on a device they are likely already familiar with, workers can capture information from the jobsite and report on daily progress with ease. They may even be able to use voice-to-text recording.
Some software offers advanced features that further simplify data collection. Templated reports and checklists take the guesswork out of reporting, while task management capabilities help track hours to specific cost codes. The most comprehensive tools even allow for photo and video capture, which can paint a clear picture of project progress without the need to type in complicated explanations or take time to add attachments at the end of the day.
With pen and paper processes, reporting and time tracking take a significant amount of time out of a field worker’s day, and the office also spends valuable hours interpreting handwritten data and performing manual data entry. Digital reports allow both the field and office to focus on their core responsibilities of ensuring project work is completed on schedule. This helps younger workers feel like their time and skilled labour are being used to their potential, and not like they are wasting time on menial tasks.
Companies may be collecting information from the field digitally, but without a streamlined communication process, younger workers may be struggling to keep up with disparate emails or too many text messages. They’re used to organizing and sharing information online quickly with one click or tap, and they expect that to be the case at work as well.
Digital reporting and time management systems that share information streamline communication, saving time for everyone. Data can be shared between the field and office instantly as it’s uploaded, giving the office real-time insights and preventing the field team from spending too much time organizing and sending reports through outdated channels.
How else can construction companies benefit from technology?
Embracing digital documentation processes helps construction companies appeal to younger workers, but it also increases the quality of reporting overall.
Digital reports are more accurate and detailed than pen and paper. They deliver real-time data that gives stakeholders clear visibility into exactly what’s happening on the jobsite each day. With these up-to-date insights, minor issues can be caught before they develop into costly problems, and small changes to the budget and schedule can be made before an unexpected complication evolves into a costly delay.
With digital storage, companies have access to historical data that can be searched and reviewed much easier than paper files. They can use this information to improve planning of future budgets and schedules, or fairly resolve any disputes.
Many construction companies struggle to appeal to the youngest working generation. However, with some research and wise investments in new technology, they can improve their ability to attract and retain younger workers as well as improve the quality of their documentation process in general.
Brian Poage, senior construction support manager at Raken, has been an innovator in the construction industry for nearly 10 years. He started his career with Turner Construction Company and worked as a field engineer, project engineer and superintendent. After Turner, he transitioned to a project manager role for the developer Holland Partner Group before taking a role as project manager for WeWork building office space in the southern California area for the high-growth company.
Poage was a Raken customer and was impressed with the field team’s adoption of the platform and his team’s ability to leverage project analytics to improve their management. He joined the Raken team to help other construction companies find the same real-time insights.