Getting your head around the younger generation


“Young people today — they don’t know what hard work really means.” Ever thought this about your apprentice? Your boss probably thought the same thing when you were an apprentice!

Here, we look at some generational traits of “millennials” — also known as “Gen Y”, or those born between 1980 to 2000. Rather than this group of youngsters being “no good”, it seems most of the negative perceptions towards them are due to a lack of understanding.

It’s important that this is understood, as millennials will compose the majority of the construction workforce by 2025.

To harness the positive attitudes of today’s young workers, employers and industry leaders need to understand the way they think and behave.

On one worksite alone there may be at least three different generations all trying to work together. To ensure a harmonious environment, each generation needs to have an understanding of the other so that everyone’s ideas and opinions benefit the business and the industry as a whole.

Although older workers may find many of the traits of millennials annoying, they are actually well attuned to the world they inherited.

In order to mentor the next generation of construction professionals, industry leaders of today need to understand the millennial mindset to help groom youngsters for leadership roles in the future.

Here’s a look at the attitudes and actions of millennials, and an explanation of how the wires can easily get crossed between the way they may be interpreted and what they actually mean.

Employers with new apprentices should be able to identify with these!

Constant need for feedback

Perception: This is a bid for attention or a lack of know-how that irritates supervisors.

Reality: Eager to please, young people want to know they’re doing a good job and look for mentorship. They want frequent feedback and guidance.Confident in their abilities, especially in regard to technology

Perception: They are over-confident and expecting fast promotion. They’re unwilling to pay their dues and think they know it all.

Reality: They want a meaningful, important job that pays the bills and gives them a sense of purpose. In regard to technology, they are up with the play.

Crave immediate gratification

Perception: They’re disrespectful and unable to show respect to authority.

Reality: They are data-driven and not concerned with emotion, and deal with the hard facts. They’re all about equal rights at every level.
Not interested in working 9 to 5

Perception: Young people have a short attention span and are unwilling to put in the required time and effort.

Reality: Millennials are open to change, and are flexible. They’re willing to work any time provided they’re able to do so on their own schedule. They want and expect the freedom to choose.

They’re restless

Perception: They’re impatient and arrogant. They think they are more accomplished than what they are.

Reality: Millennials are action-oriented, self-motivated and eager to achieve goals. They’re motivated by their own ideas making an impact. When their ideas have a quick impact they’re satisfied employees.

Too connected to their parents

Perception: Young people are coddled, and unable to make decisions for themselves.

Reality: Millennials are family-oriented, and they long to remain connected and think about the community at large rather than just themselves. 


Perception: They are narcissistic and self-obsessed, particularly online.

Reality: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — these days everyone markets themselves and their very own personal “brand” in order to stand out above the competition. Millennials have no choice but to invest and develop an online presence.


Perception: They’re disloyal and unable to stick with one thing for any length of time.

Reality: Millennials are concerned with their work environment and don’t want to be taken advantage of. They’re hard workers and they’re willing to put in the hours, but it’s important that it’s in the right environment.

Imagine going to sleep and waking up to a workday in the 1960s — it would be completely different to your workday in 2014.

Young people have evolved just like the work environment has. If you’re taking on a young apprentice or worker, assign them a mentor, provide ongoing high-quality training, and give them a stake in your company’s outcome by encouraging their ideas and questions. Provide constant specific feedback and all will be well in both your worlds!

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