The Real Reason You Might be Accidentally Overstaffing or Understaffing Your Job

A pair of construction workers on a site at sunset.

The prevailing wisdom in contracting is that the less labor you use, the better off you can be. Tightening margins and an increasingly sophisticated construction industry means it’s time to retire the idea that we try to do more with less

Instead, contractors need to approach labor decisions as part of a roadmap, understanding when people should be added or rolled off a project. A digital workforce management platform allows you to stop making decisions reactively and instead, make strategic decisions based on workforce data and project information proactively. 

Seek Out Early Stage Opportunities 

When you view labor as an opportunity rather than a burden on your bottom line, you can identify the labor scheduling adjustments you need to make to keep a project on time and under budget. In other words, monitoring your workforce scheduling early-on is vital to a project’s success. 

But an opportunistic strategy only works if you’re also adjusting your labor plan on the back end of a project at the same time that you’re accelerating work on the front end. Every project assignment has to have an end and start date. This concept may seem foreign to many contractors—and you may be thinking, “How and why would I ever determine an end date?” 

But an end date is critical. It allows you to make real-time adjustments to your labor plan. 

A digital workforce management platform instantly informs you how adding or removing workers from your labor pool will impact your bottom line. You can compare, in real-time, your project hours versus actual hours.


A construction worker hammers in a nail next to the quote “by placing outsized demands on your workforce, you risk burn-out and loss of morale.”

The True Costs of Understaffing Projects 

Understaffing projects can come with some very real costs beyond margin fade. By placing outsized demands on your workforce, you risk burn-out and a loss of morale. You’re not following an established labor plan, and often, you may be asking someone to do more than is humanly possible. 

Your labor pool can start to lose confidence in management and will naturally experience declines in field productivity. Willing your way through jobs can stifle the success of the project you’re working on, as well as negatively impact your current and future workforce. 

Adjust Your Labor Plan in Real-Time 

You may think you’re saving money by using less labor. The reality? You’re creating a situation where you have to pay the piper later. By keeping your crew small in the early stages of a project, you likely have work available that you’re choosing not to do. 

Later, when your project is at its peak and you have multiple trades working on top of each other, you’re going to need a larger workforce for a longer period of time. An overstaffed project hurts field productivity. You may be navigating around obstacles, installing conduit around ceiling grids for example, that weren’t there earlier. The costs—more tools, more supervision and therefore, a higher composite wage rate—can quickly erode your margins

 A trio of construction workers look at a tablet on a job site.

Stop Running in the Dark 

An understaffed job can quickly demoralize your workforce and hurt field productivity. An overstaffed project comes with ballooning costs and the wrong mix of skills. It’s time to stop running jobs in the dark. You can now make decisions with an up-to-date view into your entire project, seeing how adjustments to your current workforce will change your labor schedules in the future. 

Stop hoping you’re going to land in the right spot. Get certainty from a digital workforce management platform that shows you have the labor pool you need and the right schedule to get a project done.

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Sr. Workforce Advisor
Gary Fuchs is a Senior Workforce Advisor at LaborChart. Prior to LaborChart, Gary was VP of Construction at Westphal Electric. He and his wife Cheryl are proud parents of three daughters and 10 grandchildren. Gary enjoys woodworking, golf, hunting, fishing, and working with LaborChart. In his past, Gary was a volunteer firefighter and basketball official.

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