by Colm Allen
Other than playing my 36 lefty guitars, there is no other one thing in my life that I have done longer than recruiting. I love it. I was born to do this job, but it is becoming more and more difficult. Recruiting is changing before my very eyes. Coming up on two decades now, I sometimes think I have seen it all. Yet every so often, as a headhunter, exec search consultant, talent diviner, or whatever exotic name our industry is labelled with next, something novel hits me between the eyes. I have been wondering for a long time, why do some great employees leave, and others stay? If you are in a role, charged with finding and retaining talent, the answer lies in the following question: “What’s it like to work for me?”I am now firmly of the opinion that many, many employees don’t leave, they are driven out by what I used to call “the bad manager,” but these days, call “a bad leader.” Most people today in management roles don’t even realize that management has morphed into leadership. “What’s the difference?” you ask, Managers tell their staff what to do, and leaders show them how it’s done. A good leader will assume the risk, make the decision, explain the deliverables, and then frequently connect with their team to make sure everyone is on the same page. And, when necessary, they are in the trenches with them. This behavioral style lends itself to a collaborative environment rather than what many employees consider the “them versus us” attitude of typical managers who only measure by metrics and performance. The techniques so often pontificated in the coffee table tomes of the ’80s and ’90s are all but irrelevant now. They were written in a time when companies could control information. When secrecy was your advantage. When those with knowledge had the upper hand. And it was the role of those who knew what to do to tell or order others how to; technology has evened the playing field, and today your only real competitive advantage is your committed workforce.That brings us to Millennials. If you’re smart, you are doing everything in your power to hire them. They are the next wave of construction professionals, and they don’t want managers, they want to follow leaders. They know what they want in a work environment, and they are not shy at telling their employers (and potential employers) what it will take to recruit them and, more importantly, to keep them happy. Once they are in the job, they need a clear directive and then let them get the job done. However, they need regular feedback to tell them how they are doing, be it good or bad. Further, they are not promising loyalty “till death us do part.” Know this job for them is a stepping stone, but when they are with you they will work hard, really hard. They are not interested in a gold watch at the end. Heck, they don’t even wear watches any more.So, go on, ask yourself, “What’s it like to work for me”? Are you still managing, or have you started leading? Are you still telling employees exactly what to do, how to do it? Still castigating people in public? Does your mood determine the vibe in the room? How many times do you use “me/my/I/mine in conversation? Are you relating to your direct reports in the same way your old-fashioned boss relates to you? By next year, these new type of employees will be 35% of the workforce, and by 2025, they will be 75% (U.S. Dept. of Labor). And yet, most of our client companies are led by either Baby Boomers or those just behind them in age. There is a communications gap looming in every industry, but especially in our most old-fashioned world of construction. Couple all of this with the emerging pool of clients and owners reps who have employed their own Millennials, and we are looking at a Tower of Babel situation in the construction world where old can’t talk to new. We must find a common language between generations.Now, we have known for years that most people change jobs for life enhancing opportunities, not just more money. Add to that, what the next generation of employees want:Belonging to a Team – It’s the “Peers not Beers” approach: Millennials are most motivated by who they work with, and whom they work for. They want to work with people they admire and respect.Mentorship: They want to be led, not managed. They also want to share what they know. And they will work really hard for those they respect.Sense of Purpose/Mission: They need to connect with the company they work for and feel that everyone is committed to a common, clearly defined goal or cause.Opportunity: They seek to contribute in more than one arena. They want to cross-train, swap roles, and accept different responsibilities.Freedom: This is a big one. They don’t want 9 to 5. Nor walled offices (either for them or their bosses). They want to work from home. To check Facebook Twitter Pinterest at their desks. But they will work while on vacation too.Contribution: They want to be listened to, to be able to make suggestions, and to feel important in the team (even if they are just recent Wentworth grads).Honesty and Openness: They will not get behind a program that they don’t believe in. You must share good and bad news with them. If you do, they are very loyal to the company and the cause. Also, they know every technology out there so if you have something to hide, they will find out!This is a huge topic, and I have barely scratched the surface. But be assured, it is being discussed by every enlightened leader in our industry seeking to find and retain the intelligent talent that is becoming harder and harder to recruit. So having read this, go ahead and ask yourself, one more time: “What’s it like to work for me”?Colm Allen is president and owner at Construction Recruiters, Inc. in Milton, Mass.