A millennials guide to the future of construction

At the recent CE leadership breakfast, the current co-chairs of G4C, Julia Lydall of T&T and Robin Lapish of HS2, were asked to share their thoughts and expectations of the industries future.

From a personal point of view it was great to hear that with no work behind the scenes, key messages were aligned to those I gave the previous week at the CE nuclear conference, but more importantly they all resonated with me and it was great to see it also resonated with everyone congregated in the room.

Robin and Julia introduced their viewpoints from three perspectives, personal, career and corporate.

From a personal point of view, they felt that as consumers millennials and future generations;

  • Are living increasingly complex lives, as part of a constantly connected 24-hour society.
  • Will be highly confident, wise and well-informed of current trends.
  • Will be increasingly attuned to good value and high quality, and will demand new levels of convenience and control.
  • Will share what they like and what they don’t like at lightning speed; valuing “the moment” and constantly searching for new things to experience and share.
  • According to the Walker study in the US, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
  • Have expectations of their environment and the services they choose that have never been higher, and they will continue to rise.
  • Increasingly, will demand instant access to high quality infrastructure, on-demand services, uplifting places and spaces that support enhanced quality of life.  What was once considered innovative become hygiene factors very quickly.

An interesting point was made how the traditional 9-5 role isn’t necessarily one that appeals, but more so the blurring of work and life where by choice both are much more entwined with each other than ever before:

  • No longer is it just about ‘work-life balance’; it’s about work-life integration.
  • We see work as a function, not a place to be. We are comfortable working on-the-go.
  • We demand empowerment and flexibility in how we fit work around life and life around work.
  • These behavioural shifts and changes are already manifesting themselves in other sectors, and it is other sectors who are leading the way

So what does this mindset shift mean for construction?  

  • As a B2B industry, should we not be focusing on the end user much more – indeed everyone who comes into contact with our assets.
  • Collaborate with them through the design process; giving the wider communities we serve a voice, not just through the development phase but throughout the lifecycle?
  • How do we raise the bar to meet the increasing service orientated, ‘right now’ expectations?
  • And how do we as an industry make sure we can flex as the rest of the world changes?

What impact does this have on career expectations?

Julia elaborated that she feels millennials will require:

  • Constant stimulation and interest with immediate recognition and reward – social media, video games, tap into a subconscious human need for achievement. Pings, blips, clicks, likes etc. Constant confirmation that you are interesting, important, popular, good at something, stroking egos. But as was challenged by the audience, does this create a generation that cant receive negative feedback?
  • Self actualisation and achievement – Empowered people, possibly over inflated views of their own importance aware of amazing things that other people have achieved and hoping to emulate them. No need to temper their expectations as they can see examples everywhere of success. They will expect to be able to achieve exciting things in their careers.
  • Public private lives, over sharing – Everyone’s favourite subject is themselves, social media has provided people with the opportunity to shamelessly publicise and talk about their favourite subject. new generation will see no value in segregating data and knowledge.
  • Collaborating by default – The hive mind of social media, collaborative online games, translation capability and effortless global communication is bringing more people together. Creating an environment where you will always find someone better than you at something and someone who can support your efforts. Our future construction professionals will be experts in coordination and communication.
  • Efficient ways of working – (time is precious and productive) if you can organise a party, learn about origami and read about the history of the Americas on a bus trip home, you expect that kind of capability and productivity in your job as well.
  • Tech orientation – everything has a programme that can do something faster, better, more efficiently, where are these capabilities in construction? And why haven’t we started using them?
  • The previous generation often started a job when they were 14 and retired at 60 within the same organisation
  • The current generation will have 4 or more roles in different companies as part of their career
  • The next generation are likely to have 3 or 4 jobs simultaneously
  • We need to provide an exciting and innovative career choice with variety, where employees have the systems and tools they need to be connected and productive.

These last few points brought about an interesting debate around how that fits with the culture of an organisation. Is it as important in the future as it is now? Will the culture be much more driven by its workforce that it currently is?

And what does this all mean to a construction company

A millennial will look at what organisation it works for through a different lens to past generations:

  • According to Wired magazine, Generation Y is the most ethical, socially responsible generation, very aware of the scarcity of resources, urbanisation and environmental and social challenges.
  • We have an entrepreneurial spirit – yes we understand the bottom line but from a social and ethical mind-set.  The start-up culture, now developing even in large organisations, is creating a new notion of value that goes beyond money.
  • We want to work for organisations who share and live by our values; and will hold them to account should they fail, or vote with our feet.
  • We want to work for organisations who are ambitious, creative and innovative; who can see the greater good in what we do, who align themselves with their communities and who develop, invest in and empower their people.
  • Steve Jobs: “Hire great people and let them fly”
  • We have grown up in a diverse world; we expect the highest standards of inclusivity and openness.
  • Point about construction brand, how we ‘market’ ourselves to attract talent. We’re getting better at talking amongst ourselves but our narrative to an external audience is weak and fragmented.

One member of the audience challenged Wireds assumption regarding our generation and challenged if we were actually only ethical when it suited us? We ignore sometimes what we can not see for the convenience of what is in front of us.


Are we too self confident? Perhaps but, the next generation, the generation we are hoping to inspire into constructive construction careers have been brought up in a hyper-connected society where you must shout loudest to be heard.

They have been fed a diet of instant recognition and accessible data; of shared information with no barriers as to what they can find out and who they can communicate with.

They are ready for a new, connected, automated and efficient construction industry, one that we haven’t built yet; one which we will need to build by revolutionising the existing manual intensive, admin heavy industry that they are currently not interested in.

Above all we must remember that our industry is an enabler to great things improving peoples lives on a daily basis. We should never forget this, we should be proud of this and we should tell everyone all about the great things we do.