Generational Shifts in Your Workforce - And What to Do About It

multigenerational workforce

Attend the education session "How To Build a Diverse, Multi-Generational Workforce" on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 from 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. 


There is a lot going on beneath the surface as companies say goodbye to boomers and hello to Gen- Xers, Gen-Ys and Gen-Zs.  What’s coming up in that vacuum is a real urge to change from being command and control all the time to being command and control selectively, “says Bronwyn Weaver, president of Vision & Strategy for Q4 Impact Group, a management consultancy and creative agency specializing in construction and mining. “The culture now wants to be collaborative. Younger employees want to work together and have a more diverse team.”

For the first time in 2020, the number of Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen-Zs will account for more than half of the total working population. “The sands have shifted and we are in it,” says Weaver.  “We’re seeing a greater sense of urgency to discuss these issues.”

With record low unemployment and companies struggling to recruit and retain workers, construction and mining firms who want to stay ahead need to evaluate their appeal to all workers, especially women and minorities. “Five years ago, our clients were trying to recruit themselves. They wanted a millennial that behaved like them,” says Ami Gignac, executive vice president of Q4 Impact Group. “Today we are advising clients that the pool of recruits is small. The last thing we want to do is pigeon-hole ourselves.”

According to Gignac companies are beginning to recognize that maybe a younger version of one’s self isn’t the best person to survive in an environment where people are collaborative and want to understand “the why” behind all aspects of the business.

It’s a big paradigm shift. Instead of everyone trying to be like the boss, people think differently and feel comfortable bringing up different ideas. “It may take longer and require more skills to get a decision, but companies should be better for it,” says Weaver.

“It is a changed world and changed workforce and to be a healthy company today you have to wake up,” says Weaver. Historically construction firms haven’t been known for embracing either change or diversity. “It was a culture shock when I came back to the industry after more than 10 years working at Starbucks,” says Katie Woodhall, managing director of operations/workforce development for Q4 Impact Group. “Some of the verbiage, some of the way that conversations were framed. It was eye opening to see that some parts of the industry were so behind the times.”

As women working in a male-dominated environment, Weaver (Boomer) Gignac (GenX) and Woodhall (Millennial) understand what it’s like to be in the minority and how to break through old ways of communicating to reinvent the work culture. At CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020 they will be leading a session on “How to Build a Diverse, Multi-Generational Worforce.” They bring years of experience in helping companies communicate and collaborate across generations so that every team member contributes to a productive and positive work environment.

Three Strategies to Help Work Through the Challenges of Multi-Generational Differences

The team from Q4 Impact Group offers hope for working through the challenges of multigenerational differences. “This is a complex issue and it is a process,” says Weaver. “There are no easy answers. You have to have a strategy and commitment to get through the aches and pains of change.” All have seen tangible bottom line improvements among companies who are successfully navigating the change. Here are a few of the strategies they say work.

1. Improve emotional IQ

According to Weaver, the construction industry is infamous for taking someone who is a good equipment manager and promoting them to a people manager without giving them other support or training. “By teaching emotional intelligence to managers, they can learn to more aware and more accepting of diversity,” says Weaver.

2. Rediscover how to argue

Whether we welcome it or not, the industry is becoming more diverse. “Currently people like to jump to whatever camp they represent,” says Weaver. “That doesn’t get to a good team decision.” Communication skills are necessary to fight through this so that issues can be discussed in a productive manner. Companies need to decide on the boundaries for communication.

3. Focus on creating a safe environment

Work on creating an environment where employees feel comfortable being themselves and can safely bring up things that bother them for discussion. Millennials want to be their whole self at work and they want that work-life balance. At the same time, boomers don’t want to feel like their experience doesn’t count any more.

Attend “How To Build a Diverse, Multi-Generational Workforce” at CONEXPO-CON/AGG on Wednesday, March 11 at 1 p.m. to learn how you can better navigate your evolving workforce. Learn how diversity can drive productivity and profitability at your company.

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