Stephen Veness is Group Manager of Davidson Projects & Operations. With eight years experience in construction recruitment he has gained some interesting insights on the skills and demands of our industry… here he shares some thoughts on managing a multi-generational workforce:

Our workforce is becoming increasingly multi-generational and businesses who embrace this are reaping the benefits.

Life expectancy in Australia is expected to increase by around four-and-a-half years between 2013-2061, and the number of people aged over 65 is set to rise from 14 per cent to 23 per cent, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

With statistics clearly pointing to an ageing population, it is safe to assume that we will have to work longer to support our retirement plans, and for the first time ever, we have four generations of workers side by side:

  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Generation Y
  • Millennials / Generation Z

It is possible that in the near future we will even see five generations working together on construction sites. This will require a real commitment from every business to increase levels of collaboration and communication across the workforce. It will become vital for people to learn from each another, and age diversity will need to be better recognised and positively harnessed.

Here are a few benefits of a multi-generational workforce:

1.      The wisdom of maturity
From a recruitment perspective, we know experience ranks highly. Safe Work Australia recently found that workers under the age of 25 had work related injuries 18 per cent higher than mature age workers. In an industry where safely is the number one priority, it is important that younger workers learn from their more experienced counterparts. The older you are the more likely you have been exposed to safety incidents, and the better your understanding of the risks. There is little substitute for experience.

2.      Networks
Building an industry network is beneficial to your business, and the longer you’ve worked in the industry, the more people you will know. Reputation and trust go a long way in this industry so mature workers can help the younger members of their team by making introductions – connecting them to networks will support their career development and broaden their opportunities. 

3.      Creativity
Engineering and construction is about problem solving and delivering innovative solutions, and not all problems are best solved by the textbook. While older members of the workforce have the benefit of hindsight and experience to draw on, younger workers are more likely to think outside the box.

4.      Reverse mentoring
Younger workers can add value to a business by pushing traditional boundaries and thinking. Many of the world’s leading brands (like American Express, IBM, BP and Accenture) have adopted the practice of younger employees mentoring older peers. Younger generations are tech savy and are willing to table innovative ideas, they also contribute through their high energy and enthusiasm. The concept of reverse mentoring may not be standard practice in the construction industry, but expect that to change.