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Welcoming Gen-Z to Estimating

By Nick Walker | Apr 15, 2022
Foreman Project Manager Construction Worker Image Credit: Shutterstock / Visual Generation
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For many companies, hiring from a younger generation is key to staying fresh and continuing success. As your shared knowledge begins retiring or even shifting into different roles, an experience vacuum develops. The newest generation entering the workforce is Generation Z (Gen Z), typically defined as those born between 1997 and 2012. They have a different set of untapped assets and expectations for employers.

Attracting Gen Z estimators

Many times, estimators find they must explain their career function to others, and this will surely be the case for those in Gen Z. Anyone completing a set of coursework in construction science or management may complete a single class on estimating that encompasses many trades, but the nuances and excitement will have to be described and exemplified by experienced estimators.

One of the joys of estimating is the constant influx of new work. Every two weeks there is a new job of a different type and scale. A new estimator may start work counting receptacles for the finish-out of an office tower, and then spend the next week learning to takeoff switchgear and distribution for a data center. The constant challenges and learning opportunities are often what attracts people to estimating.

The fast turnaround and satisfaction of a job well done also come quickly and often with estimating. With that accelerated schedule also comes accelerated learning. For example, a new estimator will likely see and have to master six or more types of lighting controls in their first year. At the same time, they will also see an untold number of unique lighting fixtures and encounter headaches they would not have thought possible. As a training ground, there is none better than estimating.

Those in Gen Z are hungry for education and experience, and it will be important to not leave them counting stub-ups all day, but to promise and deliver engagement and mentorship.

Gen Z’s advantages

Gen Z is not content to show up, keep their nose down and complete tasks the same old way. They want to be given trust and room to grow, prove themselves as valuable and be appreciated.

One way to leverage this mindset is to make them local champions of software. Whether it’s your core estimating system, the on-screen takeoff package or even how you work with and manipulate PDF files, there are numerous places to find new efficiencies. Many of us find a particular way to use our software and are content to continue that method. Rather than only teaching new estimators our way, we should also be sending them to training seminars for the software so they can come back to the estimating and operations teams showcasing new features or methods. Maybe there are ways to export data from the estimate to quickly make a budget, or maybe the on-screen takeoff can be better exported for a BIM/CAD team to leverage into construction drawings. Maybe some of the software used in the office has a mobile version that can work with tablets in the field. An estimating team shouldn’t fear being left behind by a new generation and should instead be enabling them to shine.

Another way to use these fresh estimators is sending them to trade shows. Senior estimators may be less inclined to travel a few days on the road, but many in Gen Z are excited to travel, be given the opportunity to represent their company and come back with new ideas. Many valuable insights can be found at trade shows, such as faster installation methods, new tips and tricks for software, new versions of existing software or even a new product line that makes work safer. But many companies are missing out simply because no one wants to make the trip.

Bringing in a younger generation that is more willing and excited to attend trade shows and training seminars means you’ll have team members that are engaged with the work and helping your whole team to thrive.

Company culture

One last thing to keep in mind when looking toward this next generation of workers is that the company and team culture are more important than ever. Like Millennials, Gen Z wants to enjoy their time spent at work. They want camaraderie and a team they enjoy working with.

They also want management, whether in the form of a chief or senior estimator, that recognizes their worth and actively mentors them. It is not enough to drop a set of prints on their desk and tell them to have it counted at the end of the day; they want to have a career progression plan with intermediate goals to reach.

The next generation is eager to get to work, and it will take an active estimating team to use those Gen Z to their fullest.

About The Author

Nick Walker has worked in electrical construction since 2014. He has been estimating for 8 years in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in various sectors including commercial, retail, industrial, residential and mixed-use developments. Reach him at [email protected].

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