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Top-line digital solutions can create safer construction workplaces by simplifying work and task management and enabling collaboration and communication.

Younger generations savvy with digital technology expect safer and more appealing construction jobs and they expect technology on par to what they use in their personal lives. Digital relevance matters when recruiting and retaining young workers for these jobs.

Skilled trade industries continue to struggle to find and replace employees. According to ManpowerGroup, trade positions were ranked the hardest to fill globally for the sixth consecutive year, even though workers have plenty of open opportunities. Why does this gap persist?

Younger workers are often pushed toward college degrees rather than the skilled trades. But the reality is that many workers may be interested in these jobs and also may be an excellent fit as well. Safety, however, is a top concern for younger workers in industries requiring skilled trades such as construction. They want to work for companies that take safety seriously and that demonstrates this commitment with more than just words or paper forms.

Digital technology exists to help companies better ensure workplace safety. Younger workers are primed to use this technology: 96% of younger workers use smartphones in their daily lives and they also use advanced tech in their homes and engage in tech-related hobbies like video gaming. With real-time access to information and immediate feedback available in their everyday lives, these workers expect the same from their jobs. Asking them to fill out paper forms or basic electronic forms is going to immediately show how a company is not staying technically and digitally relevant.

Construction companies can implement digital solutions to become more relevant to younger workers and build a safer, more appealing workplace culture:

Real-time safety software – Construction jobs have one of the highest rates of injury and fatality for any trade sector. Coupled with the CDC’s findings that workers aged 15-19 had work-related injuries more than two times that of workers 25 and older, it’s not surprising that younger workers are passing on construction jobs. The high injury rate can be attributed to the type of job and the lack of experience and safety training, a problem one-third of contractors expect will worsen.

Digital safety software can offer on-the-job engagement and training and real-time safety processes introduced at the right moments to reduce younger workers’ injury risks. Mobile technology lets workers identify and document in-the-moment safety risks and hazards. Data from documentation better inform workers about on-site safety issues and prepares the next shift to stay safe.

Some companies will need to shift from the top-down compliance models that could create negative environments where workers believe they’ll get in trouble for doing the right thing. Workers recognize when they’re not rewarded for properly documenting and identifying risks, stopping a job when warranted, or using proper safety equipment. With safety software enabling quick feedback and responses, workers feel like they’re part of the safety improvement process–and that makes a big difference to younger workers.

OSHA agrees, as its best practices for successful safety programs highlight worker inclusion and participation. When workers are motivated to share issues and concerns, it builds a sense of pride in the job and saves lives and dollars.

Consistent communication tools – A recent CompTIA survey found that more than two-thirds of younger workers consider a company’s technology when applying for a job. These workers expect most business to be conducted in a digital environment and will not settle for ad hoc processes, paper forms or crude electronic solutions.

Workers have experienced a massive increase in their personal use of social media and mobile messaging applications to converse with individuals and groups, and the workplace is no different. These tools have set a high bar to clear, but companies can leverage digital technology so that frontline workers and management can converse more effectively, especially helpful for remote workers on the job. Top-line digital safety solutions can create safer construction workplaces by simplifying work and task management and enabling the necessary collaboration and communication.

Visual engagement in training – In other sectors and in everyday life, people can readily access pretty much anything they want to learn. Oftentimes, however, that kind of access does not translate to skilled trade jobs, and younger workers notice.

Visual presentations help more than 64% of the younger generation learn faster, making accessible, in-the-moment and relevant training more critical than ever. Capturing on the job photos with associated context and annotations can serve to build a much-needed repository of materials tailored for a project, location, team or for a skilled trade. Also, safety training materials that contain photographs, videos or simulations can help new concepts resonate faster with younger workers accustomed to learning this way.

Active engagement with safety training improves retention and supports a culture of safety within the workplace and on the job site. Training supported with data from workplace safety software can equip experienced construction supervisors as coaches for younger workers to provide new hires continuous feedback on improving their skills.

Using digital technology offers side benefits, such as data to inform companies’ plans on improving safety, productivity and worker engagement. Companies can set their preferred frequency and quality levels to allow for real-time decisions on continuous improvements.

Traditional models encourage companies to focus on the bottom line no matter what, but younger workers expect more from their jobs. Companies embracing worker safety–and showing it by investing in digital safety solutions–set themselves apart through positive safety reputations. While safety awards and other similar recognition can increase a company’s appeal, bad reviews and negative perceptions around management’s handling of safety concerns can cause irreparable harm to a company’s workplace reputation.

Younger workers take pride in their workplaces, and safety is a critical element. Companies committed to investing in safety software and digital technology vault themselves ahead of their competition. Along with a safer work culture for all workers, these companies can attract and keep the younger generations they need for continued success and growth.

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