Effective construction workforce management helps contractors coordinate people and work, ensures that everyone has the information they need to do their jobs and encompasses all activities needed to maintain a productive workforce. Contractors have put in a lot of hard work making old spreadsheets and whiteboard systems work for their organizations, so now it's time to upgrade. With modern technological solutions, they can make faster and more informed decisions from anywhere, rapidly update and share safety and compliance documentation and make real-time adjustments to labor models to instantly see the effects on project costs and profitability.
Technological evolution is transforming nearly every industry — and the construction industry is no exception. Contractors increasingly rely on emerging technologies and digital applications to improve operational efficiencies, which highlights the need for more comprehensive construction workforce management solutions.
At LaborChart, we know that good construction workforce management helps contractors coordinate people and work, provides everyone with the information they require to do their jobs and includes all activities needed to maintain a productive workforce. These tasks include labor scheduling, forecasting, communications, skills and certification tracking and labor analysis.
Like many modern contractors, you may be shifting to a remote or distributed workforce. To ensure that your operations run smoothly and that your teams can collaborate effectively, you need internal processes that optimize your employees’ field productivity. Workforce management software for construction companies can do all this. You just need to know what to look for.
The Problem With Outdated Workforce Management Tools
Let's address the elephant in the room: The construction industry has historically lagged in technological adoption. Contractors have gradually adopted modern advances in the construction industry, including estimating software, enterprise resource planning technologies, accounting tools and project management solutions to run their businesses. But to manage people in the field, legacy workforce management solutions like whiteboards and spreadsheets remained the go-to. There has to be a better way. (Spoiler alert: There is.)
We knew finding a solution was crucial for the construction industry. While companies in various industries site effective workforce management as critical to success, the quality of workforce management is even more closely tied to bottom lines in the construction industry.
The era of workforce management software for the construction industry is now. Companies still relying on whiteboards and spreadsheets remain vulnerable to inefficiencies, miscommunication, lost productivity and a lack of operational visibility that prevents strategic decision-making.
So what’s behind the reliance on legacy solutions? It’s not that construction leaders are unaware of the need for digital transformation: In fact, a 2017 KPMG survey found that roughly 72% of engineering and construction executives believed that technological innovation played a vital role in pursuing their corporate visions. At the same time, less than half had implemented definitive strategies for leveraging technological advancements. This gap exists at least partly because many industry leaders don’t understand what’s to gain from replacing outdated processes. After all, if you’d gotten by for decades using an office whiteboard to organize teams, why would you rush to adopt a software system that is presumably more expensive and complicated?
Here’s the short answer: Outdated construction workforce management systems puts you at a competitive disadvantage. Even if your competitors haven’t made the leap yet, they will. The use of modern technology in the construction industry will only expand as industry leaders discover the benefits. Companies increasingly turn to software to plan projects, manage materials, monitor job sites, ensure employee safety and accomplish other important goals. Digital transformation at the operational level can’t wait.
Plus, it's only more difficult for you if you do wait. Your role is hard; it's no small feat to manage a workforce with antiquated tools. Updating whiteboards with Post-it notes and scouring spreadsheets is time-consuming. You're managing well, but there's a tool that can make your life even easier. We want to bring you some relief and help you make better labor decisions.
Effective Workforce Management in Action
Liz Hartmann, vice president of field operations at W. Bradley Electric Inc., has worked in the industry for more than a decade and felt firsthand the challenges of a manual workforce management system. Her team used to rely on two floor-to-ceiling whiteboards to manage projects and personnel. Given that many of those team members were union workers with travel restrictions spread out across multiple divisions and geographic locations, visibility was limited and workforce management mistakes were inevitable. “You’re moving week-to-week, and it’s difficult,” she says. “And then we never had the visual to project out past four weeks.”
As projects continued to grow bigger and more complex, her company identified the need for a more sophisticated construction workforce management solution. That’s where our team at LaborChart stepped in. “Most companies would be using multiple types of tools,” CEO Ben Schultz says. “What LaborChart does is pull together all the tools, puts them in one spot, makes it in real time and makes it available to the people who need it at the transparency level appropriate for that person.”
After integrating LaborChart with their accounting software, Spectrum, Hartmann and her team at WBE now tracks project labor requirements — including the mix of skills and wages associated with a particular job — even as those requirements change. Project leaders receive automatic project updates three times each day, which allows them to adjust their short- and long-term cost and profitability projections in real time.
Even more exciting for WBE: New lines of communication have opened up between employees in the office and on job sites. “The field had never been able to see the [white]board because it was a [physical] board in our office,” Hartmann says. “ We now have the option to enable a foreman to see the manpower [available] and where it is at all times."
This level of job site visibility and communication enhancement proved vital in November 2019, when Northern California wildfires raged close to WBE job sites. With LaborChart, Hartmann easily identified potentially at-risk employees and reached out to them via text message to verify that they were safe. Using the old system, she would have had to notify a foreman, who then would have needed to alert workers in person. That’s no easy task with a large crew spread out across a dynamic job site. A good workforce management solution simplifies it.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic further illustrates the need for a more comprehensive construction workforce management solution. Without a digital platform, construction crews may find it impossible to keep everyone informed, connected and safe. Abrupt project changes, social distancing requirements and other issues mean that construction leaders must know where employees are and must be able to reach them quickly. The construction industry is changing rapidly because of the coronavirus, and this evolution is ushering in a new era of workforce management.
The Benefits of Digital Workforce Management in Construction
Accurate and timely information is crucial all the time, not just during a crisis. To maximize field productivity — and, by extension, business profitability — leaders must be able to ensure that workers can get the information they need when they need it. That’s why effective workforce management is the number one differentiator among construction companies today.
Because most companies project similar material and equipment-related costs for a given job, labor management becomes the biggest cost variable. If you have effective workforce management, you can optimize labor productivity and offer lower pre-construction bids than your competitors. As a result, you can capture more business, experience more growth and reap these five other benefits of workforce management software:
Responsive scheduling. Different projects require different skill sets. The LaborChart platform lets managers select the right personnel for each job on the basis of their skills and certifications, the project’s dates and timelines and a host of other variables.
Workforce capacity optimization. Overworked teams become less productive over time. On the flip side, workers who don’t get assigned enough work will eventually leave. That’s why it’s essential to optimize employee workloads to meet the needs of labor and every project.
More accurate forecasting. Construction leaders must be able to plan ahead to ensure they’re most effectively using the labor, equipment and capital available to them. Our platform helps leaders plan ahead for workforce demands, allowing contractors to strategically pursue opportunities and evaluate risks.
Reduced downtime. On many job sites, construction workers spend a tremendous amount of time simply waiting for others to finish a task so that they can begin working. A construction workforce management solution ensures that employees in the field are where they need to be when they’re needed and equipped to do their jobs, allowing contractors to consistently meet deadlines and budgets.
Greater employee satisfaction. When workers have the information they need to do their jobs, they’re not only more productive, but they’re also happier. Transparent, timely communication across all levels of an organization is the foundation for a strong company culture that attracts top talent and fuels long-term business success.
Because we built our platform specifically for the construction industry, we designed every feature to help your teams work more efficiently and effectively — even as projects become bigger and more complex. Companies should evaluate how different workforce management software will meet their needs and take feedback into account. Their interactions are the key to where we are today.
Choosing a Construction Workforce Management Software
In today’s world, speed, agility and experience define leading companies in almost every industry. For construction companies, developing these qualities hinges on effective workforce management. Your company’s unique requirements and objectives mean that some solutions will fit you better than others. That said, the best construction workforce management platforms have these four elements:
1. Cloud-based data storage. Digital data is easier to access than physical whiteboards or legacy spreadsheets. Cloud-based solutions can give you confidence that your data storage environment is secure and that the right people have access to the right information at the right times.
2. Integrative features and functionality. You likely rely on technology to support other aspects of your business. The right workforce management software for construction will integrate easily with pre-existing systems and tools.
3. Potential for customization. Your workforce management needs depend on many factors, including your organization’s size, project complexity, existing capabilities and regulatory considerations, among others. Look for solutions that let your teams customize fields, permissions and other key components as the business evolves.
4. Comprehensive components. A workforce management platform should enhance visibility and improve efficiency at every stage of the project lifecycle. The right solution will let leaders accurately forecast project costs, research needs in real time, make quicker and more informed scheduling decisions, dispatch teams on the basis of rich workforce data, issue detailed labor requests remotely, communicate seamlessly and view workforces by specific attributes.
If you still use whiteboards or spreadsheets to organize and manage your workforce, you’re likely falling behind. Technology will continue to transform the construction industry, and you’ll need digital construction workforce management solutions to adapt and thrive in the years ahead. Our team at LaborChart is ready to set you up for future success and help you increase workforce efficiency.