Every generation wonders about the kids of the next. How often have you heard, What are they going to do with their lives? How have all those video games prepared them for their careers? Look back to when the Baby Boomer generation shocked their parents with their love of freedom and the power they could command based on the size of their population. Though not as big in numbers (and still puzzling to their predecessors), the generation that followed – the Gen Xers – have proven to be very astute and capable.
The data about Millennials tells us that they have higher population numbers than Boomers. As kids, Millennials programmed the VCR and then the DVR so their parents wouldn’t miss an episode of MacGyver or the Simpsons, but now they don’t have much need for a TV. Today’s generation uses smartphones to communicate, investigate, and stream. The way Millennials work is different but productive – focusing on turning out work and ideas, and challenging 8-5 schedules, but still in constant contact. They just focus on texting rather than calling.
As the Baby Boomers relinquish their domination of the workforce majority to the Millennials, who are joining the Gen Xers in leadership roles, consider: how is your company handling this unprecedented cultural shift? At Terracon, we are embracing it perhaps even hastening its pace, by innovating our work. This creates a more engaged workforce, a more dynamic attitude, and a firm that is more prepared to serve our clients.
In the geotechnical arena, we are innovating our practice by building a GIS-based data mining method that allows us to predict the subsurface and build intelligent, interactive exploration plans, constantly comparing our findings to those expected. This activates Terracon’s vast database of historic information and integrates it into public domain data. As we have migrated to this approach, we have gained tremendous acceptance of the concept across the generations because it saves our clients’ money by allowing us to perform more efficient geotechnical investigations, develop higher confidence in subsurface conditions, and ultimately design more economical foundation systems.
We also reimagined how we communicate with our clients and design team members. The Report of Geotechnical Investigation is a staple of our profession that has not changed since long before the Baby Boomers were suffering through their first calculus class. But, it doesn’t work for this generation of tweeters, texters, and collaborators. We needed to change our system to respond to new client generation more familiar with turning on a smartphone, making a few rapid-fire keystrokes, and satisfying their informational needs.
The result: Terracon developed GeoReport, which transforms the traditional geotechnical report into a web page providing real time access to all clients and design team members and creating a continual collaboration opportunity. We also got serious about schedule tracking. Recognizing that today’s workforce wants to track everything from Amazon.com shipments to pizza delivery, through GeoReport, they now have a portal to track geotechnical information, too.
A traditional geotechnical report consisted of a paper-based site summary and included the results of field exploration and laboratory testing along with interpretation of subsurface conditions in the form of a geotechnical model and geotechnical recommendations based on analysis.
As Millennials replace Boomers in the work force, the rate of change and innovation will continue to accelerate. We plan to enjoy and leverage this change by innovating as we engage with clients and design team members with similar aspirations. So, if you feel excitement more than anxiety when talking about “kids these days,” we want to partner with you to innovate together as we improve our profession and create a more engaging workplace for everyone. Especially those kids.
Vic Donald, P.E., is the national director of geotechnical services. He has more than 35 years’ experience in geotechnical and geo-environmental engineering working with clients and geotechnical engineers across the country.