Construction labor management definition: What it is and how it’s done

Construction labor management definition: What it is and how it’s done

Labor management is a very expansive field of practice in which professionals rely on numerous strategies for delivering results. Keep reading to learn more about the definition of labor management as it relates to construction.

Labor management definition

Labor management encompasses activities intended to optimize an organization’s workforce. Based on the common definition, these activities include (but are not limited to):

  • training
  • recruiting
  • scheduling
  • forecasting
  • analyzing worker data
  • bargaining with labor unions

In recent years, many industries have trended towards specialization. As a result, activities that once fell under the broad umbrella of labor management are increasingly being recategorized. Some (such as collective bargaining) now fall under the purview of personnel management.

Despite this shift, professionals still commonly use the umbrella term “labor management” to describe various workforce-related activities.

How this definition of labor management fits into the construction industry

Construction professionals typically classify labor management activities under the umbrella of workforce management.

Given how labor-intensive construction projects are, labor management within the industry requires extraordinary attention to detail and fine-tuning of logistics. Accordingly, construction management professionals typically use purpose-built software like Bridgit Bench to handle labor-related concerns like scheduling and forecasting.

Labor management job titles

Now that you know the definition of labor management, let’s briefly discuss some roles responsible for handling it.

Labor relations specialist

Labor relations specialists manage correspondence between employers and unions. Their tasks often include creating proposals and handling concerns related to compensation and workplace safety.

This role is sometimes also referred to as labor-management relations (with a hyphen).

Human resources manager

Human resource managers typically handle staffing concerns such as recruiting, interviewing, and hiring new talent. In other words, they’re tasked with human capital planning.

Human resource managers also typically address interpersonal conflicts within an organization (i.e. complaints of discrimination or unfair treatment).

Human resources technology manager

Technology is an increasingly significant part of labor management. Human resources technology managers coordinate the programs and systems staff use to handle things like scheduling workers and analyzing workforce data.

Health and safety coordinator

Health and safety coordinators ensure workers are following proper protocols related to those concerns. In construction, this work must be conducted in accordance with local health and safety legislation (such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario).

When incidents occur on job sites, health and safety coordinators are typically responsible for producing reports detailing what happened and what’s being done to prevent future occurrences.

Time and attendance professionals

Issues like buddy punching are unfortunately common in construction. When unaccounted for, they can cause gross inaccuracies in a company’s understanding of its true labor costs.

Time and attendance professionals play a key role in catching potential issues.

Broadly speaking, time and attendance professionals make sure employees are where they claim to be. 

Objectives and best practices for labor management professionals

Next, let’s look at the goals of labor management along with the best practices professionals employ to achieve them.

Hiring the right workers

To those outside labor management, this may seem like a laughably simple objective. However, those tasked with the job recognize how challenging it can be.

Thankfully, many resources exist to help construction workforce managers with staffing. Check out this post for a solid list.

Of course, hiring good workers is only half the battle. Labor management professionals are also tasked with retaining those employees (aka limiting turnover) through human capital planning strategies like compensation and benefits analysis.

Overseeing workforce development

The construction industry is constantly changing. New technologies and processes routinely emerge, which necessitates ongoing training. This training typically falls under the purview of labor management.

One best practice associated with workforce development is the creation of personal development plans. Every worker has a different skillset and background. Personal development plans keep everyone engaged in their progress.

Professionals often view this objective as being all about helping workers create careers at an organization, not just jobs.

Keeping workers engaged

The art of keeping workers engaged goes even further beyond personal development plans.

Best practices regarding this objective include assigning workers challenging yet rewarding tasks that fully utilize their skills.

It’s also important to have a strategy for promoting good workers and pushing bad ones out of the organization. Tools such as the nine-box grid are commonly used for this purpose.

Keeping up with compliance requirements

All workplaces have compliance requirements regarding safety and conduct.

In construction, accordance with these requirements can quite literally be a matter of life and death given the risks involved.

Safety coordinators are typically the labor management professionals responsible for addressing these risks.

Monitoring and streamlining labor cost calculations

A construction company’s workforce is easily among its most valuable assets. That comes at a high price, though.

Beyond a worker’s salary, they get paid benefits, receive paid sick days off, etc. These expenses all need to be tracked. Labor management professionals (i.e. time and attendance coordinators) are invariably involved in this process.

If labor costs are unreasonably high relative to productivity, these professionals will ultimately have to figure out why and make adjustments as necessary.

Maintaining a productive work environment

Labor management professionals play a large role in setting a workplace’s tone and culture. This isn’t something to take lightly; research indicates happy workers are 13% more productive. That can mean incredible things for a company’s bottom line.

At the end of the day, it’s also just nice for everybody – including labor management professionals and owners – to work in a nice, happy environment.

There are many best practices associated with maintaining a happy work environment, including:

  • hiring positive people
  • encouraging team building (especially important in construction given the collaborative nature of work)
  • demonstrating care for employees
  • encouraging a healthy work-life balance

We hope this guide has helped you arrive at a meaningful definition of labor management.

To summarize, activities under this umbrella term typically include anything to do with managing a company’s workforce.

While aspects of labor management are increasingly being recategorized in a more specialized way, this umbrella term is still commonly used, including in the construction industry.

For more construction workforce management-related definitions and best practices, visit our blog.


Lauren Lake

Lauren Lake is the CCO 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.

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