Guest Blogger: Mark Brown is a student at BYU-Idaho where he studies Construction Management. He currently lives in Spokane, WA, working as a carpenter and studying online while his wife finishes her Bachelor’s degree in nursing. This article is a shortened version of an essay titled “Is Generation Y learning how to learn?” written by Mark for a research writing class. It has been revised to help contractors working with Gen Y employees.
Advice For Contractors On How To Work With Generation Y From One Of Them
“Things just aren’t the way they used to be” is a lament often heard from aging generations. However nostalgic and skeptical this observation may be, it is definitely true. Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 2000) is growing up in a world completely different than their parents. Today we are surrounded throughout our waking hours by new technologies and devices that feed us steady and seemingly infinite flows of information, providing us with instant connection to knowledge that used to be much more difficult to acquire. Obviously, things are not the way they used to be. One can’t help but wonder; how do these changes affect our daily lives? The way we work? Our relationships with others? The way we see ourselves? How we learn?
Contractors today face an especially daunting task trying to teach the business to a generation that learns completely different than the average hard-knocks PhD. Understanding these differences is essential to utilizing the huge talent Gen Y possesses and snuffing your own doubts of any hope for the future.
The way Gen Y learns is fundamentally different than their parents.
They process information about ten times faster, they expect free and instant access to all this information, and they wonder what everyone else thinks about it all. Most have grown up learning on a computer from the time they were in grade school. Google is their main professor and they’ve learned to research as fast and efficient as possible. Capitalize on this. Gen Y can sail through tasks you find yourself poring over for hours like learning new scheduling software, Google Sketchup, or computer networking. They love to share what they’ve learned and can help you learn faster.
They can learn fast and perform consistently
Like a Southern California piece-work carpenter, Gen Y loves to have their work lined out and ready to tackle. This may be frustrating to those who value someone who can see what needs to be done and figure out how to do it, but think of the value of someone who can learn fast and perform consistently. Gen Y is also extremely adaptable, so they can learn how to be the leader who takes charge. They just need a better reason than, “Because that’s how it’s done you idiot!”
Can, will you give them what they want?
Gen Y has often been accused of wanting everything right now that their parents spent 25 years earning. However fair the accusation may be, it definitely reveals something about Gen Y. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more ambitious bunch. If they know that you can give them something they really want, they will follow whatever path you draw for them to get it. You can build them in ways that you never could with a burnt out 50 year old carpenter who’s been swinging a hammer the same way since he was 18.
The construction industry has seen some dismal days as of lately and those who have spent nearly a lifetime in it may not wish others the same. But, I hope they can see the promise that exists in the younger generation and take some time to be coaches and mentors to those who are ready and more than capable of taking the industry to the next level.