Dead last is not the best spot to be in, but according to a 2012 report by Gartner Research, that’s where the construction industry falls in a comparison of 14 other industries’ information technology (IT) spending. On average, less than 2 percent of revenue, regardless of the size of the construction organization, is spent on IT investment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of U.S. productivity growth comes from IT. To put it simply, it’s wise to spend money to create efficiencies that increase profitability. As such, new technology is critical to establishing a competitive advantage.

What Prohibits Investment in Technology?

Availability of capital is obviously necessary to invest in anything, including technology. But even when the capital is there, some companies are still hesitant to invest.

One key to using new technology to maximize profits is actually being able to implement it so that it creates efficiencies instead of headaches. Essentially, making wise and lasting technology investments starts with people.

It’s critical for the people who know how to use the technology to teach it to others. This is where putting a new twist on an old practice—mentoring—can create a competitive advantage. Traditionally, older workers advise and train younger colleagues. But in the case of technology, the younger generation actually has the experience and knowledge to train more seasoned employees through reverse mentoring.

Turning to Millennials as Technology Mentors
Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, have grown up with technology. Not only are they tech-savvy, but they also are connected and confident, with a desire for collaboration and teamwork. These characteristics make millennials prime candidates for helping others learn and adapt to new technology in order to increase company profitability.

Lack of fear and willingness to explore new technology are important criteria in establishing reverse mentoring for technology implementation and usage, but other characteristics need to be present for millennials to teach their older counterparts how to succeed. The millennial generation also exhibits a hands-on and open-minded approach to learning and to teaching.

Utilizing a tell/show/do model of training, a person who knows how to use the technology:
  • explains the technology in clear language free of jargon;
  • shows how it is used in the context of the work; and 
  • gets his or her colleague to do it alone.
It’s critical to have a millennial with a hands-on approach and the patience to observe a person “doing” until he or she is comfortable utilizing the technology solo. It’s also helpful to select mentors who embrace new technology, don’t make others scared of or intimidated by technology, aren’t know-it-alls, and are willing to reach out for help when needed.

More often than not, a millennial will meet all of these characteristics. However, limiting the pool of mentors to just millennials is the wrong approach. Selecting trainers should be a result of what people can learn from each other, not a product of age.

Finding the right person, regardless of the generation, and utilizing their strengths and skills is a talent management imperative for all organizations. In fact, utilizing people’s talent in the right way can lead to more profitability than technology by itself. Remember, only people can unlock the power of technology.


Mary Ila Ward is owner of Horizon Point Consulting, Inc. For more information, email miw@horizonpointconsulting.com.