Shawn McCadden
Sharpe + Harrell Photography Shawn McCadden

Eventually the remodeling market will become healthy again. To prepare for that, remodelers will need to ramp up their personnel. The available workforce will include members of “Generation Y,” that is, the more than 75 million people born somewhere between 1975 and 1995. Remodelers who operate their businesses with a long-term perspective need to understand what is different about this generation, which will eventually make up the majority of those in our industry.

What Gen Y’s Want

One significant difference about Gen Y, or what I’m calling “Generation Why,” is that they have grown up questioning their parents and everything they have been exposed to. Unlike generations before them, they’ve been pampered, nurtured, and scheduled with a wide variety of structured activities since they were infants. This generation also wants their jobs to accommodate their family and personal lives with job flexibility and opportunities for quick advancement. The combination of these characteristics results in a workforce that’s both high-performance and high-maintenance.

This generation won’t reinvent the wheel. Its members Google everything and rely on social media to find and qualify what works, adopt it, and then make it better. If you’ve been running your business with an authoritative and Calvinistic management approach that includes a lot of micromanaging, you’ll need to adjust your approach if you expect to attract and keep this new demographic of employee. As one 23-year-old put it, “We are willing and not afraid to challenge the status quo. An environment where creativity and independent thinking are looked upon as a positive is appealing to people my age. We’re very independent and tech-savvy.”

The Tech Effect

Another important consideration is that this generation grew up with technology, and many may not be able to be productive without it. If your business doesn’t have the most current technologies, this group may not be interested in working for you, or if they come onboard, they may quickly become disappointed and leave. Their reliance on technology means that they expect the information they need to be accurate and readily available.

What does all this mean to a remodeling business owner? Here is one future scenario: A Gen-Y lead carpenter will expect to use a Web-based application to access the project estimate, product installation information, and the project schedule. Because she will expect opportunities to advance her career and compensation, she will also expect to understand how the company earns its profit. She will use that information to prove she deserves a raise or to keep track of her share of profit-sharing if her compensation will be tied to produced gross profit margins.

Getting ready for Gen Y may be a really good thing for your business. Most remodeling companies would benefit from improved business systems, increased use of technology, and better storage and access to critical information — all things this new workforce will assume, expect, and need to be productive and to have the confidence that they can advance their careers. And if you’re not ready for these expectations, you won’t attract this new generation.

—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build company. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute, he speaks at industry events and consults with remodelers.

Want to Know More?

Learn about working with other generations through REMODELING’s coverage of the 2012 Remodeling Leadership Conference, “Profiting in Place.”

A couple of highlights:

Generations at Work: An Interview With Meagan & Larry Johnson A father-daughter team addresses workplace communication for a range of age groups.

I Can(’t) Relate: An Interview With Colette Carlson  You won’t get far trying to sell to women and men the same way. Here’s why.