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Taking a longer look at the misunderstood generation at Buildex Calgary

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by Kathleen Renne

Kevin Smith has been working as an electrician in Calgary for eight months. At 21-years old, he's part of the so-called Generation Y: people born between the years 1980 and the late 1990s.
Taking a longer look at the misunderstood generation at Buildex Calgary

Smith and his fellow Generation Yers are the jumping-off point for Eric Termuende's Wednesday afternoon seminar at Buildex Calgary called Generation mYsunderstood. It aims to "outline how to better attract, engage, and retain a highly misunderstood generation" that will compose 75 per cent of the workforce by the year 2025.

Termuende is the co-founder and director of Gen Y Inc.

Despite the title of his seminar, Termuende said it's important not to label a generation.

"Very quickly, I shift from the generation of misunderstood to the misunderstood workplace," he said. "Instead of articulating the characteristics of a generation, we want to focus on the  characteristics of workplace culture and the need to attract people on the basis of it," he adds.

That being said, Termuende does share a few statistics relevant to Generation Y, or Millennials as they are also called:

The average tenure for a Millennial in any given place of work is two-to-three years. Currently, 34 per cent of Calgary's workforce is made up of Millennials.

Students coming out of school now will have 10–14 jobs by the time they're 48-years old, nearly double the number of the previous generation.

So, what does this mean for a company?

For one, an endless cycle of training new employees, which Termuende said comes at a cost of between $40,000 and $60,000 per person. He said this expense could be avoided if more effort was put both into finding the right people, who best fit an organization at the outset and then into retaining them.

"This is an expensive, reactive cost, contrasted to a smaller, proactive investment in the success of people in the organization," he said.

For his part, Smith said he hopes these Generation Y statistics aren't indicative of his future career path.

"I don't see myself as someone who wants to jump from company to company. Having 20 different jobs? I feel that would be pretty stressful on the body and the mind," he said.

To retain employees from Smith's generation, Termuende said a company needs to keep a few things in mind.

"It's important for companies to have organic natural mentorship, strong communication in the workplace and an understanding of how their employees' potential can be unlocked and maximized," he said. Termuende said other strategies companies should consider involve employee recognition, which doesn't always have to be monetary and the clarification of employee milestones.

"The idea of work has changed over the last 30 years. Work is much bigger than it used to be. It's no longer just about punching in and punching out," he said.

Fearon said the people who may find it particularly difficult to get jobs today, as compared to a year ago, are those new to the job market. "Those coming out of college will find it hardest, because companies have fewer opportunities at the junior level," he said.

And Fearon has some advice for these folks, which he'll also share in his presentation at Buildex.

"Be flexible when it comes to the companies you're looking at and the positions you're prepared to take," he said

"Present your CV in the best way possible, and prepare very thoroughly for interviews ... If there are fewer jobs out there, you've got to present yourself better than all the other candidates."

Another part of Fearon's seminar will share the findings of a Hays report exploring the "DNA" of a VP of Construction.

The report presents the results of interviews with more than one hundred vice presidents of construction across Canada and shares their stories, how they moved from entry-level positions to that of vice president.

Fearon said that to progress one's career forward, it's essential to acquire a broad knowledge.

"In the first five years of your career, don't jump around from job to job. Learn as much as you can at the junior level, so can move upward," he said.

Navigate the Calgary Construction Market for Individual, Team and Business Success runs from 12:30  p.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Smith agreed that employee recognition is important to him and his co-workers.

"My co-workers and I want long-term recognition, not everyday praise. At the end of a project, they should show it by saying, 'We've got another job, and we'd like you to come along,'" he said

Termuende said part of the solution to improve employee retention lies with a company's human resources (HR) department.

However, he sees some challenges.

"HR departments in Canada are viewed as cost centres, not as strategy centres ... Companies need to empower HR to bring on the right people for the right reasons," he said. "We live in a hyper-connected world. We can apply for a job in Sweden this afternoon that we wouldn't have even known about 15 years ago. That awareness of everything that's going on, that's what has changed."

Content employees may not look as hard for other opportunities.

"If people are happy in their positions and they have the potential to do the best they can do, if they feel their full potential is being unlocked, while still growing and learning, other opportunities aren't as engaging," he added.

Smith said he hopes to remain with the company that he's currently working at least until he achieves his journeyman status.

"They treat me well. I get great hours, great benefits. I can't complain ... I think companies value their tradespeople. Companies want guys that last a long time," he said.

Generation mYsunderstood takes place Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

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