For general contractors, improving the visibility of their workforce and workforce data can help ensure that everyone has the information they need to inform their work. Workforce visibility can help with forecasting recruitment needs, understanding workforce availability for upcoming projects, and aligning individual skills with project needs, but getting that information into the right hands can be a challenge if GCs aren’t using the right tools for the job.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Dan Barry, Vice President of Operations at Schimenti Construction Company, about the steps they’ve taken to improve workforce visibility and the impact it’s had on their team’s planning.
Schimenti Construction is #338 on the ENR 400 and has offices in New York, California, and Connecticut. With offices that span from the East to West coasts, managing a workforce effectively requires constant collaboration and information sharing.
You can watch the full recording of our conversation with Dan Barry, and we’ve also included a full transcript below. Interested in checking out the rest of our Innovation Spotlight series? Find our full episode lineup on our media page.
David Pimiskern: Tell me a little bit about Schimenti’s visibility into workforce management prior to implementing Bridgit Bench.
Dan Barry: On the operation side, which I head up, it was very cumbersome and time-consuming. We used to use an Excel spreadsheet to manage our resources, which took a lot of time and didn’t give us the ability to forecast out too far. It just was really cumbersome, it took longer to do, and you’re not working with a live document all the time. Something changes and the Excel sheet has to be updated. If you’re remote, it becomes difficult.
Having now adopted Bridgit Bench for workforce management, what are some of the new insights you’ve been able to gather by standardizing that process?
Dan Barry: Now that we’re using Bridgit, we’re able to assign and track supers out with no limit, which helps us a lot when we’re working on program work. We might take a team of supers and project managers and put them on one job after another, and now we can map them out for 18 months. It’s accessible for the whole team and it helps us make sure people aren’t slotted in the wrong location or someone is overcapacity.
David Pimiskern: How has that visibility into your workforce helped evolve the workforce planning process?
Dan Barry: It really helps us share the information between departments. At Schimenti, our people are our best resources and we have a team atmosphere. Before, when we were doing workforce planning on a whiteboard, in Excel, we couldn’t forecast as much and we would double-book, or someone would be overworked or over capacity. We can really strive to make sure everyone has a good work-life balance.
David Pimiskern: How did operations collaborate on workforce management and what were the challenges, especially being bi-coastal?
Dan Barry: Some of the challenges were with my counterparts on the project management side that I work closely with. If someone from the East Coast Connecticut office needed some extra support, he had to get on the phone and start making all these calls and emails, going back and forth.
Now, with Bridgit Bench, everyone’s putting that information in one platform, which helps for multiple reasons; you don’t have to get on the phone or email, you can just pull up Bridgit Bench on your phone or laptop and see where there are resources. We share resources sometimes and there are time differences. So 6:00 at night in California, it’s 9:00 here. You don’t have to wait until the next day. We can get on Bridgit Bench see resources in Connecticut. So it’s been really helpful on that end.
We’re big with making sure we have enough people to provide our clients with the right experience. With Bridgit Bench, and using it as a live document between all the offices, we’re able to set up our teams for success and they’re ready to go so we can start those jobs right.
David Pimiskern: Are there other instances when having centralized workforce data enabled you to solve problems quicker?
Dan Barry: The first thing is with operations. I spend a big portion of my time out in the field supporting, leading and giving oversight to our field people because we have a field-first mentality here at Schimenti. Things happen. You’ll get a phone call randomly that maybe a superintendent has to leave abruptly because of a personal situation at home, and we make that very easy. I have to call someone to get an updated sheet. Once I get that call, I can pull up Bridgit Bench on my phone, filter it to the type of superintendent I need for that location, and come up with options and make a decision in real-time with facts.
David Pimiskern: So the labor shortage is nothing new in the construction industry, but how does having visibility into your labor needs help to support your recruiting process?
Dan Barry: Using Bridgit Bench, we don’t only use it to manage our people, we have all our projects on there. When we pull a project up, we’ll attach the profiles of the people that we need to be assigned to that project, so we could forecast out and say ‘Hey. Nine months for this project, I need this type of superintendent and this type of project manager.’ We share this information with our internal recruiting department, headed up by HR, and we can forecast what people we’ll need.
Bridgit Bench really paints a picture of what we need to fill these slots with the right people. At Schimenti, we continue to grow, but a big thing we always say is we grow responsibly. Bridgit Bench helps us continue to grow responsibly and give HR the right facts so they know what we need and can go recruit the right people.
David Pimiskern: How have your teams been able to be proactive with workforce planning?
Dan Barry: Bridgit Bench really helps us work smarter, not harder. Operations are part of the “do work” part of the business. So operations and project management work closely with the other parts of the company. Business development and estimating, we can share information and they can see what resources we have available and what types of people. Certain projects need certain types of people and it really goes back and forth. So we can be proactive and say “Hey, we’re looking at this type of work. We might need these people,” or, “Hey, in 12 months we’ll have extra people that are very successful in remodels. Let’s go after some more remodels.”
David Pimiskern: Prior to having an intelligent workforce planning solution, did you trust your capacity to manage data?
Dan Barry: We trusted it, but it was very time-consuming. It was factual information, but it took a lot of strokes. We were really able to open up availability for other things when we went to Bridgit Bench.
David Pimiskern: What benefits have you seen from including project opportunities and pursuits in your workforce planning pipeline?
Dan Barry: It just really shows, in real-time, our capacity. If you get asked by a board member or an owner, “How are we looking with capacity in two, three months?” Bridgit Bench takes guessing out of it. You can pull up Bridgit Bench and look out two months and see that we’re at 80% capacity with project managers, or we’re going to have three available supers in November.
It just really helps with our capacity. I have to go back to it – It’s helped the work-life balance across the organization for project management. It’s really given time back for people that were constantly updating Excel sheets. They’ve been able to focus some of their time on other tasks that were more valuable for the organization.
That’s something that we’ve always been focused on, our people. The type of work we do is fast-paced construction because we’re working with clients that are either retail, hospitality, industrial, or CRE. They’re fast-paced jobs, so people do need a break. People need to have a little vacation in between jobs or in the middle of a job.
Bridgit Bench helps us keep that informational house so we know that, “Hey, this superintendent on the seventh week of his 12-week project, he’s going to be gone for a week.” Then I can start planning ahead so I have the right person. So that individual, that superintendent, when he’s away with his family for a week, could enjoy himself and not worry about, “Is my job in good hands?” So it really helps with things like that.