As the construction industry continues to move forward and embrace the digital transformation of their core processes, putting a focus on data analysis will continue to become more important for all leadership and construction management positions. Construction is making the effort to shift from manual processes to cloud-based, automated software and technology for their workforce planning. That shift will inevitably result in a wealth of project and workforce data being captured from every phase a project goes through.
According to FMI 95% of all the data captured in the construction industry goes unused. On top of that, 13% of construction teams’ working hours are spent looking for the correct project data and information to keep projects moving forward.
As with most industries making the shift to digital, there’s likely only a handful of people employed by general contractors that have the specialized skills to analyze and pull key takeaways from your data when it’s being stored in a cumbersome spreadsheet system. It’s important that your organization:
Makes data analysis approachable for team members that aren’t “data experts”
Clearly defines what success means, and then measure it
Ensures the right people have access to the data they need
Puts a focus on education and the benefits of being a data-driven culture
Consistently make, and communicate, workforce decisions supported by data
In this article we’re going to discuss a few steps your organization can take to build a data-driven culture that can positively impact your construction workforce planning processes.
In a recent post by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), they identify the struggles in shifting to a data-driven business is often simply a technical struggle, but also a cultural one.
HBR has put together a list of data commandments that can help to create and maintain a data-driven culture, we’re going to outline some of their key suggestions and narrow the scope to discuss what that means for the construction industry and workforce planning. For more information about workforce management, check out our guide to construction workforce management.
data-driven workforce planning will always start from the top down
General contractors that are paving the way for data-driven cultures do so by allowing their leadership to set the expectation that workforce decisions need to be supported by accurate data before they’re made. Leadership enforces that this become a regular process and not something that happens occasionally.
Your operations and project management teams should lead by example. For instance, ahead of construction manpower planning meetings your teams should regularly update and consolidate all relevant information and spend some time preparing to discuss project progress, changes they think should be made, and the data to support those changes. Making this a regular practice helps to extend the culture downwards through your company. It demonstrates how decisions are actively being made and the data to support those decisions. Team members that want their input to be taken seriously will begin to adapt their approach to be centered around actionable data.
Allow your team to access your data, regularly
This is one we hear about often in the construction industry. More often than not, workforce and project data is maintained in a series of spreadsheets and the team member responsible for maintaining the data is understandably hesitant to allow access. Human error and altered formulas can quickly result in a spreadsheet becoming unorganized and might require countless hours to fix. However, by denying access, the team members that are looking to use data to support decisions they’re making will always come up short and your data-driven culture won’t get off the ground.
For a general contractor looking to allow access to their workforce data, it’s a good idea to start slow. There are alternatives to spreadsheet systems that will allow you grant different access to team members and not only dramatically limit the impact they can have on the data, but also present your data in an easy-to-understand way that doesn’t require them to be “data experts”. For instance, Bridgit Bench is a construction resource management solution that allows administrators to create custom permission groups. This allows them to differentiate levels of access to their workforce plan for their operations team, Project Managers, and Site superintendents. Everyone has access to view the data that will support their decisions, but the risk of human error or altered formulas is gone.
In being consistent with the “top down” approach to building a data-driven workforce plan, ensure your leadership team is given access to data to create metrics and company strategies that are data-based.
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Knowing with absolute certainty is an impossible task. However, HBR suggests that if you require that your leadership and project teams quantify their uncertainty, it can have 3 powerful effects on your organization.
It forces decision-makers to grapple with potential sources of uncertainty. Is the data accurate and reliable? How can new factors be incorporated when there isn’t existing data? These questions can often lead to uncovering new ways of updating processes and problem solving.
Your workforce data analysis gains a deeper understanding of your models when they have to evaluate uncertainty. This can help to paint a more accurate picture when running scenarios with active project bids based on the likelihood of winning/losing bids.
Understanding uncertainty will also push your organization to run experiments. Whether it’s trying out a project team that’s never worked together or taking on a project your organization hasn’t managed before, “trial and error” allows for small opportunities to discover new methods to support widespread changes.
Keep training relevant and at the right time
It’s pretty standard for general contractors to invest in large training efforts that include as many team members as possible to save on costs. The problem is that team members that don’t have a chance to immediately put that training into practice will often forget what they’ve learned. Offering training that leads directly to practical application of new skills will help reinforce those skills and create a foundation of confidence when using data to support decision-making.
Be sure to also communicate to your team how using data will positively impact their work. If you paint a picture of how having a data-driven workforce plan will affect the company in the long run, team members may hesitate to abandon current practices and revamp their work. If you communicate how it will directly benefit them as individuals – avoiding rework, saving time – they’re more likely to invest in the change.
Explain analytical choices
Ask your teams about the steps that were taken to approach an allocation problem or project decision. Ask what alternatives were considered, what the positive and negative trade-offs are, and ultimately why the end decision was made. This will help give your team a deeper understanding of different approaches to workforce planning and will enable them to consider alternatives and change previous assumptions. If there’s a member of your operations team that assembles project teams in a different way, and uses data to explain their methodology, it can help open the eyes to the rest of the team when they are contributing similar information.
Like most industries, general contractors (and the different teams and divisions within them) will hesitate to make the shit to data-driven decision-making for workforce planning. The alternatives can often seem risky, incur a new cost, or appear difficult to enforce company-wide. Having accessible workforce data helps to provide evidence and support to new ideas, and give operations teams the confidence to adapt new or improved processes without feeling like they’re jumping into the unknown. Creating a data-driven workforce plan isn’t easy. It requires leadership to lead by example and create expectations for the rest of the team, but once you’ve started taking steps to make the shift, your data-driven workforce planning will allow your teams to see decision-making in a new light.
Bridgit Bench is the leader in construction resource management because it makes data analysis approachable for every member of your team. We aim to enable operations teams to make data-driven decisions when it comes to workforce and project planning by providing customizations that allow general contractors to track people and project data specific to their company needs. Bridgit Bench will also help to better understand your workforce utilization and match your teams’ titles and availability to unfilled project roles to maximize productivity.
Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more. Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Instagram.
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