Creating an Inclusive Tech Culture for All Generations

Efforts to create a more welcoming workplace often focus on race, ethnicity, and gender. But is there more to ensuring everyone feels included?

Consider the following scenarios:

  • Chatting with a colleague in the break room, a construction accountant in her 20s rolls her eyes and says, “He left me a voicemail. I’m like, ‘Who does that? Send me a text!’”
  • A construction CFO in his 60s logs in and finds that IT has installed Slack on his work computer. Younger colleagues quickly embrace the digital collaboration tool, creating channels, sharing GIFs, and trading acronyms to get their point across. The exec is annoyed and confused. FWIW? YMMV? AFK?
  • A master builder with 45 years of experience starts thinking harder about retirement after the CTO floats a plan to bring virtual reality to the jobsite.

To truly foster an inclusive workplace, it is crucial to recognize and address the generational differences and technological advancements that impact an individual’s sense of belonging.

Generational Differences Around Tech 

Tech tools are a proven way for construction financial professionals (CFPs) and others in the construction industry to ramp up collaboration and foster a stronger sense of shared purpose. And yet, the degree to which different generations understand and are comfortable with technology varies widely.

Internet usage is just one example. Recent survey results from the Pew Research Center point to “notable differences between age groups when measuring the frequency of internet use.” In fact, “Some 48% of those ages 18-29 said they were online ‘almost constantly,’ compared with 22% of those 50-64 and 8% of those 65 and older.”1

Immersion in social media, with its endlessly evolving landscape of memes and cryptic cultural references, is another potential point of difference. Also in the survey, “[T]hose 65 and older also were the least likely to say they use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram in the most recent survey. Some 45% reported using social media, compared with 84% of those ages 18-29 and 81% of those 30-49.”2

These differences matter. In a worst-case scenario, they can leave some older team members feeling disadvantaged or discounted, undercutting their sense of belonging to the organization.

An important caveat: None of this is to suggest that older people are, by default, less able to understand and use technology. There are lifelong technology enthusiasts of all ages who enthusiastically welcome the latest advances — everything from hardware such as drones, robotics, and wearables to sophisticated software platforms for project management, construction analytics, and BIM.

Indeed, a March 2023 IronPros study3 suggests that corporate position — not age — could be a stronger factor in whether someone sees the value of construction tech for “lowering cost and risk, shortening timelines, or increasing margin,” writes Tech Editor Charles Rathmann at

Nonetheless, Gen Y and Gen Z “digital natives” tend to have a different relationship with technology than their Baby Boomer counterparts. Even some Gen Xers or older Millennials may use and conceive of technology differently than their youngest colleagues.

Tips for an Inclusive Tech Culture

How can you ensure that people of all ages feel valued and included in your company’s technology strategy? Consider implementing the following tips.

1. Have Honest Conversations

As members of CFMA’s DEI+ Committee, we have witnessed firsthand how powerful it can be when colleagues engage in safe, honest, and open conversation about difficult topics. By contrast, when a company silently avoids these interactions, people can feel unseen and unheard.

Let’s look at a couple of company cultures and the impact communication plays.

Company A’s management and IT decide to roll out a new collaboration and resource management tool with a dense, multilayered graphical user interface. The company has never openly discussed how tech plays into its vision and culture, nor have its leaders thought much about the generational differences that exist within the organization.

IT pushes ahead with the rollout. “We’re going digital as a company, and we expect everyone to get on board,” the IT manager says in an open meeting. “You’ve all received a link to the tutorials. Let’s start using this thing.”

Several older members of the team feel intimidated by the software. While the fast-paced, jargon-filled tutorial videos do help a bit, these older employees still have lots of questions. Afraid of being judged, they stay silent and struggle with the new tool.

At Company B, leaders routinely discuss how to make the workplace inclusive, safe, and comfortable for everyone. They periodically engage in open conversations with the team about diversity, equity, and inclusion — including the need to question assumptions related to age.

Past sessions on ageism at Company B have helped employees learn to question and resist a raft of age-related stereotypes. During the dialogues, Gen Z team members expressed their weariness of stereotypes about younger generations (e.g., they are entitled “snowflakes” who lack a work ethic). An older employee then opened up about her fear of being left behind on technology — and left out of robust discussions that were happening in some of her colleagues’ private chat groups.

Thanks to this culture of thinking carefully about the needs and experiences of different team members, Company B’s IT department chooses to handle the software rollout in a more sensitive and skillful way.

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About the Authors

Bruce Orr

Bruce Orr is Founder and Chief Data Scientist at ProNovos Construction Analytics in Atlanta, GA.

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Cesar Torres

Cesar Torres is Group Accounting Manager at M. A. Mortenson Co. ( in Kirkland, WA.

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