6 Ways Boomer Retirement is Affecting the Construction Industry

Read on to learn about how the construction industry will mourn Boomers.

He doesn't look too sad about it
Boomers are getting ready to leave construction. Martin Barraud // Getty Images

Were you born between 1943 and 1960? If so, you’re a Baby Boomer! At the ripe old age of 54+, your thoughts may already be turning towards retirement, even if many workers declare their intention to carry on working for the money, for the satisfaction, or for both. The construction industry, however, is a special case. Like all other industries, construction has Baby Boomers in its work force, but it has a higher proportion of them.

Those construction Baby Boomers also tend to retire earlier too, often because of the physical toll their profession takes on them. Boomer retirement is therefore likely to affect construction even more so than other industries.

1. Expert construction knowledge will leave with Boomer employees

Recent statistics indicate that about 54% of construction managers are Boomers. These people have often spent a professional lifetime in acquiring not just information, but know-how about what works in building and what doesn’t. They are savvy enough to avoid pitfalls and experienced enough to keep projects on track. Getting experienced managers to train their successors on the best way to use construction management software could be a smart move for many construction companies.

2. Good building craftspeople will be harder to replace

In a similar way, specialist skills like roofing, glazing, and plumbing are likely to be less available.

The apprenticeship-to-specialist approach that worked a few decades back does not hold the same interest for younger generations of workers. New construction methods including prefabricated components may help to alleviate future skills shortages, although the manufacturing sector must also solve its own Boomer retirement challenges.

3. Productivity may go down

What? Aren’t older workers supposed to be less energetic and less capable? Not according to a report on the aging workforce from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, that points out that older workers are less prone to absenteeism, more dependable, more motivated to do a good job, and require less supervision. Younger generations tend to have a more individualistic approach, although (fortunately) many have grown up in an environment of online collaboration apps that could help bring productivity back to building projects.

4. Soft skills may need to be boosted

The same report from the Kenan-Flagler Business School also states that older workers “have a lifetime of experience dealing with people” and “because of their life experience, older workers can better relate to others.” While digital tools and resources will shape much of the future in the construction industry, team working and customer relationship management will continue to be critically important. E-commerce and construction are still two different worlds: customers need to deal with real people when they are deciding whether to fund a new building project or invest in additional construction work.

5. New construction company workers will need to be hired

Construction companies need to hire younger construction workers and then properly train them, especially in the light of the paragraphs above. New workers are likely to be younger and the advantages of hiring more women in construction will become even clearer. New workers are also likely to evaluate potential employers according to the technological resources offered. The use of online project management and collaboration will be one criterion by which workplaces are judged.

6. The construction market itself will change

Seventy-six million people were born in the US during the period of 1943 and 1960. This Boomer population bulge has been making its way from infancy to maturity, with a corresponding effect on the workforce as a whole.

As an example, in 1978, Baby Boomers accounted for about 45 percent of the US workforce. Many Baby Boomers bought large single-family properties, but according to their age and resources may now prefer smaller, lower maintenance dwellings or retirement communities. As a result, the traditional market for ‘Boomer-style’ buildings may decline, while other construction opportunities open up elsewhere.