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Strategies for the Recruitment and Retention of Millennials in the New Zealand Construction Industry

According to a recent report prepared for Waihanga Ara Rau, New Zealand’s Construction and Infrastructure Workforce Development Council, the New Zealand construction industry faces significant challenges, including an ageing workforce and skilled workers leaving for other sectors or overseas jobs. The research shows that many people lack awareness of career opportunities in the construction sector and often view construction trades as unattractive career choices, especially from within the millennial demographic.

Millennials aged 26 to 44 who were surveyed commonly viewed construction jobs as unattractive compared to jobs in other areas, such as engineering, business, law and government. They tended to believe that a lack of fitness or strength and insufficient math or science skills were significant barriers to working in the construction industry. This report and other research highlight that while a construction career is seen as a financially beneficial and valid profession, roles within the industry are perceived as requiring difficult, lengthy, and costly training along with other prerequisites.

Changing these perceptions is crucial for attracting and retaining new industry talent.

Millennium Characteristics and Career Values

Millennials (Generation Y) are people who were born (approximately) between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. They are often characterised as ‘digital natives’, having grown up during the rise of the internet and digital technology. Millennials experienced the transition from dial-up internet to broadband and from basic mobile phones to smartphones. They are generally highly educated but have faced significant job market challenges, particularly due to the 2007-2008 Global Financial crisis in 2008 and the subsequent recession.

They typically value work-life balance and may prioritise meaningful work over high salaries. Millennials are more diverse in ethnicity, race, and culture than previous generations and often advocate for inclusivity and equality in various aspects of life and work. Many have struggled with student loan debt, housing affordability, and economic instability, affecting their financial independence and long-term financial planning.

Millennials are usually more environmentally conscious and socially aware than previous generations – supporting and advocating for sustainability, social justice, and corporate responsibility. They tend to marry and have children later, often prioritising career building and personal goals first.

Understanding millennials requires an awareness of the unique social, economic, and technological contexts influencing their values, behaviours, and career choices.

Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash

Millennials and the New Zealand Construction Industry

Several factors influence millennials’ perceptions of the New Zealand construction industry. These include job opportunities, work conditions, sustainability practices, and technological advancements. According to the research, the key motivating factors and values for this generation that would make them consider a long-term career in the construction industry are as follows:  

Job opportunities and career growth

Millennials see the construction industry as offering a range of career opportunities, from trade roles to professional positions like engineering and project management.

They value clear career progression and development opportunities. The industry’s ability to provide training, apprenticeships, and skill development is crucial in attracting and retaining millennial workers.

Work conditions and culture

Work-life balance is important to millennials, and they seek flexible work arrangements. Traditionally known for long hours, the construction industry may need to adapt to meet these expectations.

Safety and working conditions are also critical. Millennials expect high standards of health and safety on construction sites.

Sustainability and the Environment

Millennials are particularly concerned with sustainability and environmental impact. They favour companies and industries that prioritise eco-friendly practices and sustainable construction methods.

Green building practices and innovations in sustainable materials are significant factors in attracting millennials to the industry.

Technological integration

The construction industry’s adoption of technology is a key interest area for millennials. They are attracted to companies that use modern technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM), drones, and other digital tools to improve efficiency and innovation.

Tech-savvy millennials expect the industry to embrace digital transformation, smart construction techniques, and roles that allow the use and development of these resources and tools.

Reputation and social responsibility

The industry’s reputation and its engagement in social responsibility initiatives are important. Millennials prefer to work for companies that have a positive impact on the community and uphold ethical standards.

They are also interested in the industry’s role in addressing housing affordability and infrastructure development, which are significant issues in New Zealand.

Diversity and inclusion

Millennials value diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The construction industry, which has traditionally been male-dominated, is expected to create more inclusive environments that support gender diversity and equal opportunities for all workers.

Understanding these perceptions can help the New Zealand construction industry adapt its practices to attract and retain millennial talent, ensuring a robust and dynamic workforce for the future.

Image by freepik

Strategies for attracting and retaining a millennial construction workforce

So, what are the best ways the New Zealand construction industry can attract and retain a millennial workforce?

Attracting and retaining a millennial workforce in the New Zealand construction industry requires a multifaceted approach addressing this generation’s values, career aspirations, and work-life expectations.

Research shows that the following strategies will inspire millennials and showcase the opportunities available in the construction industry:

1. Offer clear career pathways and professional development

·       Career growth – provide well-defined career progression paths, mentoring programs, and opportunities for promotion.
·       Training and education – invest in continuous training, apprenticeships, and professional development opportunities. Partner with educational institutions to create and promote clearly defined pathways for skilled workers.

2. Promote work-life balance

·       Flexible working arrangements – offer flexible hours, remote work options (where possible), and generous leave policies to support work-life balance.
·       Health and well-being – implement programs that support physical and mental health, such as wellness initiatives and access to counselling services.

3. Enhance workplace safety, culture, and conditions

·       Safety and comfort – develop and maintain high health and safety standards on job sites and create a supportive and inclusive work environment.
·       Health and safety training – provide rigorous health and safety training for workers and accreditation/training for Health and Safety reps.
·       Modern workplaces – invest in comfortable and technologically equipped workspaces that cater to the needs of a modern workforce.

4. Embrace technology and innovation

·       Technological tools and equipment – adopt and integrate advanced technologies like building information modelling (BIM), wearable technology (digitally monitored PPE), drones, virtual reality (VR), and communication technologies. These innovative products can improve project efficiency and appeal to tech-savvy millennials.
·       Innovation projects and awards – involve workers in cutting-edge projects and create awards to recognise and promote innovative practices, workers, and projects within the industry. Publicise and celebrate these awards to highlight the industry’s role in shaping the future.

5. Commit to and encourage sustainability

·       Green building practices – implement and promote sustainable and environmentally friendly construction methods, materials, and practices.
·       Corporate social responsibility – actively engage in initiatives promoting sustainability and community well-being, demonstrating social and environmental responsibility and commitment.

6. Foster and adopt diversity and inclusion

·       Inclusive policies – develop and implement policies and practices that promote diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, ensuring equal opportunities and support for all workers regardless of gender, ethnicity, or background.
·       Diverse teams – build and promote diverse teams that reflect the values of inclusion and representation. Promote worker case studies showing the diversity and scope of the construction workforce.

Image by freepik

7. Enhance industry reputation

·       Public engagement – improve public perceptions of the industry by showcasing successful and impactful construction projects such as affordable housing and sustainable building initiatives. Use media campaigns to tell stories of how these projects benefit local communities.
·       Community Engagement – involve community members in construction projects through public consultations and updates, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in the developments.
·       Transparency and ethics – develop and encourage high ethical and professional standards and transparency in business practices to build trust and attract workers who value integrity.

8. Competitive compensation and benefits

·       Fair and equitable pay – ensure competitive salaries that reflect the skills and experience of employees.
·       Benefits packages – offer comprehensive benefits packages that include health insurance, KiwiSaver contributions, and other perks such as childcare support, travel and tool allowances.

9. Leverage social media and modern recruitment practices

·       Digital presence – use social media and digital platforms to engage with potential employees, showcasing the dynamic and rewarding careers available in construction. Ensure social media platforms are demographically relevant.
·       Recruitment campaigns – develop targeted recruitment campaigns highlighting the benefits of working in the construction industry, using current employee testimonials, case studies, and success stories.

10. Engage and retain through employee involvement

·       Feedback and participation – create channels for regular feedback and involve employees in decision-making processes to make them feel valued and heard.
·       Recognition programs – implement recognition and reward programs that celebrate achievements and milestones. Promote the employee programmes and support that are available to construction workers.

By recognising the motivations and expectations of millennials and using appropriate strategies, such as the ones suggested above, the New Zealand construction industry can offer prospective employees a more attractive and supportive workplace. The adoption of recent technologies, innovative practices, and a commitment to progressive employee support and retention is key to the growth and endurance of the industry.

Conclusion

The New Zealand construction industry must address millennials’ values and challenges to attract and retain a millennial workforce. Highlighting positive community projects, leveraging digital media, promoting sustainability, and improving workplace diversity is essential. Offering and emphasising career advancement, technological integration, and work-life balance can transform the industry into an attractive destination for millennial talent if the correct strategies are employed.

Through the understanding of millennials’ motivations and by implementing progressive and supportive strategies, a more appealing and relevant workplace will ensure the future growth and sustainability of the industry.

First published on LinkedIn here.

References/Sources:

  • Waihanga Ara Rau, Construction and Infrastructure Workforce Development Council. ‘Career Perceptions of the Construction & Infrastructure Industries’. Waihanga Ara Rau, May, 2024. (Link)
  • Deloitte. ‘Gen Z and Millennial Survey 2024’. Deloitte New Zealand, 2024. (Link)
  • Builder Trend (Website). ‘How to Retain Millennials in Construction’. Jan, 2024. (Link)​
  • BDO New Zealand. ‘2023 BDO Construction Sector Report’. BDO New Zealand, 2023. (Link)
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. ‘Building and Construction Sector Trends Annual Report 2023’. MBIE, 2023. (Link)
  • Austin Nichols Technical Search (Website). ‘Why Do Millennials Not Want Construction Jobs? How Can You Fix It?’. Dec, 2023. (Link)
  • Construction Reach (Website). ‘Bridging the Divide: Attracting Younger Generations to Construction’. Oct, 2023. (Link)

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