What do you think of when you hear the word millennial?
The first thing that comes to most people’s minds is an age group. Pew Research will tell you that anyone born roughly between 1981 and 1996 is a millennial, more formally known as Generation Y.
There has been no shortage of time spent analyzing this group. Articles about the generation’s purchasing habits, financial decisions, travel planning, among other society-altering topics, are hard to miss.
The conclusions of these pieces are usually the same: millennials are ruining all established social norms. But is being a millennial simply a matter of age and certain stereotypical lifestyle choices?
Not according to Jeff Sample, the director of strategic accounts for eSub Construction Software. “I believe millennial is a mindset,” Sample said.
Despite the widespread debate over the merits of millennials’ alleged lifestyle or career preferences, Sample argues the millennial mindset is actually a good thing. What’s more, Sample said that this mindset is something that all construction companies should be buying into.
Defining millennial mindset
So, what is a millennial mindset’?
According to Sample, who’s spent 20 years working in construction software, it’s primarily about three things: adaptability, diversity and perspective.
These characteristics will push the industry forward through the age of technology and innovation. “I think the millennial generation has a chance to save us all,” Sample said.
Construction could use a dose of increased technology. A recent study by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. showed that construction is an industry sorely lacking in digitization, which could be holding back the growth of the entire sector. McKinsey’s study also found that the construction industry may be losing out on a potential $1.6 trillion in growth due to a lack of increased production resulting from a reluctance to adopt new technology.
Could a millennial mindset help combat this? Sample thinks so. “They taught me how they think differently,” Sample said about his personal experience working with millennial colleagues. “They advanced my career. They turned me into somebody and taught me how new technology worked, and how to be good at adopting new technology.”
Adopting new technology requires mental flexibility. Innovation in technology provides new tools that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of workers. A tool, however, is only as effective as its user. Users need to be open to re-evaluating how they’ve done things in the past and be open to solutions that can increase their productivity going forward. These are things that anyone can strive for, regardless of age.
Building better businesses
The benefits of the millennial mindset stretch beyond standard business performance indicators. Sample said he sees the diversity of thought within this generation as something that can help construction companies deal with overarching cultural issues. “They’re the most ethnically diverse and the most open to diversity,” Sample said. “Diversity of thought from every perspective that we have is the most important thing that our organizations can bring.”
To illustrate the importance of diversity for business success, Sample points to a company called PDI Drywall and its founder, Miki Paradis. Paradis built the company from the ground up, lost it all due to the financial crisis in 2008 and then rebuilt it into a stronger, more durable company.
“PDI Drywall is one of the most successful companies,” because, according to Sample, “[Paradis] brought the mindset of the millennial to her entire organization.” She did this through constant innovation and adapting long-term, sustainable approaches to the company’s projects. “She chooses materials to use that are more expensive but has been able to convince people it’s the right thing to do,” Sample said. “Because it’s right for our environment; it’s right for the long-term.”
Sample said Paradis also embodies the future of construction by encouraging more women to join the industry. It’s this kind of approach, Sample said, that will make construction healthier and more inclusive going forward.
This importance of diversity is becoming more widespread across the construction sector. “As diversity increases in our industry, we will see increases in productivity because we will see new ideas being brought forward,” Jennifer Suerth, vice president of technical services at Pepper Construction Co., told Redshift by Autodesk last year.
Studies back up the idea that increased diversity means happier and more productive workers. “Gender, ethnicity, age—it doesn’t matter; you need them all,” Sample said. And for these workers to be effective, they need an environment that is open to new ideas and approaches—an environment with a millennial mindset.
If there’s one thing to take from Sample’s unique perspective, it’s this: The openness and adaptability of the millennial mindset will help construction businesses increase productivity and promote sustained growth into the future.