Editorial: Low on vitamin Y?

Jan 31, 2014

There may be something missing in your firm after the recession, Mark Zweig writes.

The recession of the last six- to 8 years has been hard on the A/E/P and environmental consulting business. Many companies – particularly those that are more building design oriented – shrunk their staffs considerably during the downturn. And those that didn’t shrink probably cut back on hiring entry-level staff. The end result of staff cuts (the preponderance of which were at the lower levels) and a lack of hiring at the entry level has created a “vitamin Y deficiency” for many firms in this business. Vitamin Y is the youth element on staff, and not having enough of it creates a wide variety of issues that affect the firm in multiple ways. Before going too far, let me say I don’t like to stereotype. That said, youth often brings a new energy and sense of possibility. We have added more than a half-dozen young people to our staff in the last year. Their enthusiasm, willingness to try anything (whether “qualified” to do so or not), and creativity has been very encouraging to me. I also don’t buy the notion that young people won’t work. I am certain every generation accuses their successors of the same crime. Young people will work long and hard – they just want something meaningful, worthwhile, and creative to do. Without that, they get bored easily. There are too many distractions available to them. That said, most young folks want, and perhaps even more importantly, NEED to work. Young people are certainly better-versed in today’s technologies and communication tools. Whether it’s how to use social media marketing, do spellcheck on the latest version of Word, develop a Prezi presentation, or print from a cellphone, many young people have a built-in technical knowledge that us old-timers simply don’t have. I value that. Young people don’t know their limits. That’s good, too. They’ll try to do things with a lot less fear of failure. And they usually don’t go in with an attitude of why something won’t work that many older workers may have – something acquired from all their years of experience. A balance of both adventurous spirit and caution can be valuable to your firm. Maybe it’s time for you to inject some vitamin Y into you firm. I would suggest you start with interns and co-ops. This is the best way to test people out and see what they can do. Of course, teaching at the college/university level is another great way to identify smart and motivated young people. And finally, have a work environment that will appeal to younger people. That means maybe there’s some flexibility in working hours or individual office space design. And you have to pair these people up with the right experienced workers so they have don’t get turned off. Try Vitamin Y – it works! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.