What a Dairy Farmer Taught Me About Construction Labor Scheduling

A close-up shot of two cows looking into a camera with a herd of cows behind them.

I’d like to tell you about a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. It was a weekend; but she was up early because there aren’t really weekends on a farm.

Her cows needed to be milked. But the power was out on the farm. Without power, the milking machines were sitting idle. This was a huge problem because if cows aren’t milked regularly, they stop producing milk or go into shock. Her livelihood and the health of the cows was on the line. 

She had a service contract with a local electrical contractor. I worked with that electrical contractor and I was in charge of the service department at that time. I was off at home. Remember, it was the weekend. 

We had advertised that we were available 24 hours, 7 days a week. And so, she called and got our answering machine. She furiously scribbled on a pad as the answering machine spit out names of electricians and their home phone numbers. She started calling. And calling. And calling. Nobody answered or returned her calls. 

The Work Needs to Get Done 

An endless list of calls probably sounds familiar if you’re a labor manager who has ever tried to catch a journeyman or project foreman at the end of the day. There is a delicate balance to scheduling labor. Assignments are never only about moving one person from one jobsite to another. 

As a former labor manager, I remember the difficulties of trying to move people. I had to call the foreman who was losing a laborer and ask them to inform the electrician that was being moved. I had to trust that the information would be relayed correctly and that the person would head over to the new jobsite. Then, I had to try and contact the foreman at the new site. I was at the mercy of whether or not someone picked up the phone or heard a message. 

But the potential issues didn’t stop there. I was constantly interrupted in the middle of workforce scheduling because that wasn’t my only job. I also had no way to record the relevant or new information I discovered during those conversations. I was having a lot of those conversations in a day. I was drowning in the repetitive, but necessary, tasks needed to schedule labor. 

I know you’re probably experiencing some of the same things every day. I remember what it was like to spend half the morning with a phone to my ear or pecking out emails on my computer. It’s time for you to stop being bombarded by busy work.

A woman with milk buckets petting cows.

But what about the dairy farmer and her cows?

She made a lot more calls. Her frustration grew with each one. Then, she got lucky. A relative who happened to work for our company picked up. He was able to get the power back on. The cows were milked. 

She called back Monday morning. I answered this time. She tore into me like you wouldn’t believe. And she was absolutely right. 

She gave me a reason to think about our system. Our system didn’t work. It was archaic. It was a black box and a bit of luck. That one call set us on a new path. 

We gave our service technicians pagers, so we could reach them in an emergency. Then, we gave them cell phones. We adapted. Technology, and being open to new technology, made it possible for us to communicate in real-time. It helped us serve our customers. 

Stop Being Bombarded by Busy Work 

I’m telling you the moment when I realized there was a better way to reach our team in the field because I want you to consider the same possibility. There will always be jobsite challenges and uncertainty, particularly as we continue to deal with the changing landscape of COVID-19, that require your attention. I want to free you from the daily grind of phone trees or typing out emails so you have the time and energy to address those challenges.  

A digital workforce management platform helps you communicate efficiently and provides certainty that the right information is getting to the right people. With LaborChart, you can reach your team in the field in three direct ways: email, SMS (or text) and notifications within the mobile app.

Three direct ways to reach your team in the field using LaborChart: Email, SMS, Mobile App Alerts

Streamlined communication is a key part of tracking labor. When you’re issuing a new assignment in LaborChart, critical information like the address and project lead, are automatically populated based on the relevant fields that you select. 

Certainty comes with how a cloud-based workforce management platform can integrate with your other software platforms. LaborChart syncs with accounting software like Viewpoint, so you can be sure that the contact information is accurate and up-to-date. You’re not leaving a message on the weekend and hoping for the best.

Got Digital Workforce Management?

A digital workforce management platform improved my assignment process. I built a labor plan. I could identify needs. Find a person. Assign a job. Send a message. And I was done, unless an issue arose. 

The right information is only the first step. With digital communication tools, you can now anticipate issues that might arise. For example, your labor might have travel restrictions or preferences. LaborChart lets you assess travel time via a map page and record the reason why someone is being reassigned or staying on their current jobsite.  

A construction worker holding a white tablet and blueprints

After moving to a digital workforce platform, we developed a stronger connection with our labor pool. I could track certifications and look up an electrician’s history and experience instantly. 

I also saw an improvement in the morale of our labor. Digital communication tools led to better transparency and less confusion. The right people got the message and I could have confidence that they were seeing the information they needed. 

I shifted my focus from the immediate demands of workforce scheduling to start to address our company’s productivity issues. Don’t wait for a crisis to make a change. There’s a better way to connect with your team in the field and staff your projects. 

Give LaborChart a call.

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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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