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Integrating the Millennial Workforce



Our last few blogs focused on young people entering the construction industry and what they should expect. Just as they should have expectations about our industry, we need to be aware of what to expect from them. The millennials present a different culture and we need to understand their expectations and what are the keys to obtaining engagement. So who are the millennials and how do we manage their expectations?

Who are the Millennials?

Millennials are the newest group of labor market who range in birth years from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. They are our emerging workforce and have distinct expectations of their jobs.

What can we Expect?

Here is some insight to managing millennials in the workplace:

  1. They are well educated and skilled in technology.
  2. Very self-confident, able to multi-task, and have a lot of energy.
  3. Millennials have high expectations and prefer to work in teams rather than individuals.
  4. They want performance feedback – Millennials are used to constant feedback so shorten the time in between reviews, and provide them with short-term goals.
  5. Create a flexible, relaxed workplace- This generation is facing the “real world” later in life, and they prefer putting their friends and lifestyle above work.
  6. Millennials are Innovative – Focused – It’s important for the industry to keep a fresh perspective, as the millennials are tech-savvy.
  7. They seek challenges but work-life balance is very important to them.

I have been in the construction industry for about 13 years. My background was production management. When I entered the construction field, it was apparent to me that it was lagging behind other industries. Let me explain. Sub-contractors cared more about their scope of work than the good of the overall project. The louder someone yelled, the greater the productivity. You worked from sun up until everything was done no matter what time of day that was. It was the norm. Thirteen years later, construction has changed tremendously – for the good. Companies are training their people with soft skills. Sub-contractors work as teams so that projects are completed on time and at budget. Coaching has replaced yelling. Companies recognize that employees have to have a work-life balance.

As far as the list above, I believe some of the greatest challenges will be performance feedback and the work-life balance. Projects still need to get done on time. Schedules are constantly changing due to the weather and other unforeseen delays. There are less people choosing construction which impacts everything.

Here are a few examples that we have done to help with the 7 challenges:

  • We offered free tickets to the Cinderella movie to families. About 100 people attended.
  • We offer classes at our fitness center during the week – boot camp and yoga. Employees can use the fitness center during lunches or off hours.
  • Increase communication throughout the company by utilizing “chatter groups” from Salesforce.
  • Developing of curriculum of classes for new employees to help with the on boarding process.

These are a few of our initiatives.  What are you doing?





New to Concrete Construction?

Our last blog focused on young people who will be entering the workforce. We hope they are putting in some thought about working in the construction industry, and potentially Northern Concrete!

Applicants can apply at

This blog is for the newcomers, and gives information on what to expect at an entry level position (i.e. wall laborer).

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Pull Your Weight

This isn’t to scare anyone off, but day after day you will need to keep up and pull your weight. This job is very physically demanding so make sure you are up for the task before you sign up!


Balance, depth-perception and hand-eye coordination are all critical to keep you steady.


Hours vary by job, location, and season. You can expect to work out of town; there is a lot of work throughout Wisconsin, as well as some out of state work from time to time.

Dress the Part

Having the right equipment and being dressed for the part is especially important in the construction industry. Expect to wear jeans, steel toed boots, and a fluorescent t-shirt. Other precautions worn to stay safe are hard hats, safety glasses, ear protection, dusk masks, gloves, etc.

First Day Tips

Pace yourself- this job can wear you out if you’re not used to the physical demand. Show eagerness and be willing to learn; eventually your body will catch up!

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – being new means you get to screw up, it’s inevitable and expected. Don’t let the fear of making a mistake hold you back from learning. However, when you do make a mistake DON’T HIDE IT!  If you have previous experience, be open to new processes.  Not all companies do it the same way.  I’m not sure how to say this so I will just be honest – “don’t be a know it all”.




Job Advancement

As college degrees are becoming the norm, Millennials don’t see a clear path of progression through the process. This isn’t the case in construction. There is plenty of room for advancement opportunity; you won’t be a laborer forever!

A Dying Field

The median age of construction workers in 2000 was 37.9. By 2010, the median age increased to 40.4 years old (Center for Construction Research and Training). This means that construction workers are getting older, and as the baby boomers leave this industry, WE NEED REPLACEMENTS.


If you feed on seeing results the construction industry could be for you. At the end of the day you will be able to see the progress you and your team has made. Nothing is more rewarding then seeing your completed project.

Ask the Experts

We asked our employees for reasons to consider construction for a career; here’s their comments:

  • High demand for workers
  • Strong industry; always will be building
  • Workers leaving industry and nobody taking those jobs
  • Good living
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Can always go to school after a few years of work to see what you really like
  • This industry offers training and classes; they give you the skills you need
  • Skills are portable, where as some skills require you to go to the work (example- mining). Construction is everywhere
  • Learn skills that you can utilize for your own self
  • Can start producing income from day one out of high school
  • There’s opportunity for advancement
  • Equipment and technology today has helped to some degree on the wear and tear on the body
  • There’s a variety of duties; not boring
  • Chance to travel
  • Build relationships with people and other companies
  • Construction is “local” our jobs can’t be moved to other countries like manufacturing- we have to staff with the people right in the USA so it also creates job security

Check out this link and video from the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc Wisconsin Chapter



Portland Cement

What is Portland Cement?

What would we do without Portland cement? We use it to build roads, bridges, buildings, and yes football stadiums. Last year we had a shortage of cement in the Great Lakes Region causing quite a few headaches. Hopefully there’s enough stock pile of cement to carry us through this year. Portland cement is the ingredient in concrete that binds all the materials together. Portland cements set and harden by reacting chemically with water, through a process called hydration. Other materials with cement like properties can be used in place of Portland cement. These supplementary materials can replace 10% to 50% of the portland cement; some common blended cements include slag cement and fly ash. These materials can significantly improve the strength and durability of the concrete. There are five types of Portland cement. We use type I in our business.


Types of Portland Cement

Type Characteristics
I Normal Portland cement. It is general-use cement suitable for all applications where the special properties of the other types of cement are not required. It is used in buildings, bridges, floors, pavement, and pre-cast concrete products.
II Used for structures wherein moderate resistance to sulfate in water or soil is desired. This type of cement generates less hydration head at a slower rate than Type I.
III Sets quickly and achieves high early strength. It is ground finer than other types and used when high strength is required very soon after placement.
IV “Low heat” Portland cement. It is used in massive concrete structures where the rate and amount of heat produced by hydration must be kept to a minimum. It develops strength more slowly than other Portland cements.
V Sulfate-resistant Portland cement. Used only in concrete structures where the groundwater or soil has high sulfate content. It is manufactured to resist chemical weathering.


Check out this link to see data concerning cement in Wisconsin.



There are two types of concrete- concrete that has cracked, and concrete that will crack.

Cracking in concrete is inevitable, the best the contractor can do is try to control the cracking. There are two basic strategies to control cracking. One method is to provide steel reinforcement in the slab which holds random cracks tight. And the most widely used method is to place joints.

The three basic types of joints in slabs-on-ground are:                                               isolation joints

  • Isolation joints
  • Contraction joints
  • Construction joints

Isolation joints separate slabs from fixed objects such as walls and columns. Isolation joints in slabs-on-ground permit horizontal and vertical movement between the slab and any walls, columns, or footing that the slab is in contact with. Isolation joints are also called expansion joints.


To minimize random cracks, contraction joints are used to create straight-line planes of        Contraction jointsweakness in the slab. As the slab shrinks, the joints open slightly and cracks occur at the predetermined locations instead of randomly over the slab. Contraction joints can be established using jointing tools, inserting joint forming strips while the concrete is still plastic, or sawing the concrete after it has been finished.


Construction joints are placed in a slab where concrete placement stops for the day. Construction jointsTypically, doweled construction joints are used in pavements and industrial floors that carry heavy wheeled traffic. When transferring loads across the joint, the dowels help hold the two sides at the same elevation.