Let’s face it, in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping across the globe, it’s inevitable that at some point you’re going to encounter times when individuals – and maybe even your whole team – are unable to physically attend your construction manpower planning meetings. The importance of these meetings can’t be understated and cancelling meetings should never be an option. The good news is that we live in a time when technology and cloud-based software solutions have improved our ability to meet with team members remotely and still be able to communicate effectively during the coronavirus outbreak.
For most construction companies, the need to host manpower meetings remotely has been rare, but every now and then there are times where it actually makes more sense to host your manpower meetings remotely as opposed to having everyone physically present.
Have no fear.
While running meetings remotely may seem to be a technological headache, if you follow some of the helpful tips provided here you’ll quickly discover that there are plenty of benefits that come along with running meetings remotely. For instance, team members need to be better prepared going into the meetings so they can be clear and concise when communicating project information, and are less inclined to get derailed socializing with each other or getting off-topic (imagine the joys of having a remote control to mute certain team members during meetings. We’re all looking at you, Geoff).
Let’s dive into a few ways you can ensure your construction manpower planning meetings remain effective, productive, and still provide everyone with a seat at the table when the table is no longer an option. For more information about manpower planning, check out our guide to construction manpower planning.
Assign someone to facilitate your meeting
This may be something that you will do yourself, but assigning a specific team member to facilitate the meeting will allow you to focus on the content of the meeting and not waste your time troubleshooting different conference tools and getting the meeting set up. It also means that you’ll have another person helping to drive your meeting agenda forward, and can help moderate project discussions to keep them timely and productive. Your meeting facilitator will help get you up and running, and also help to keep everyone locked in on your agenda.
Choose your conferencing tool
This can be tricky. For most people, they’ll be familiar with most of the tools that enable them to have meetings one on one (phone calls), but manpower meetings will often involve not only multiple stakeholders, but also require that information is communicated visually. You will want to find a tool that not only allows for multiple team members to join, but we recommend also finding a tool that will allow you to make a video call and share your screen so that you can easily communicate your agenda and project information. You may also want to consider using video conferencing that will allow you to record your meetings so you can send them to your team afterwards in case, for any reason, someone was pulled away from the meeting and missed important information.
Communicate your meeting schedule early
This shouldn’t be groundbreaking advice for anyone that’s hosted meetings regardless if they are remote or not, but if you find yourself in a position where team members are working from home it can be surprising how often personal schedules will shift due to circumstances that would never normally affect your meeting times – like team members with children at home.
Communicating your meetings well in advance will give all stakeholders plenty of time to prepare project notes, potential talking points, ensure they have a quiet environment to communicate with the team, and get familiar with whatever conferencing tool your organization has chosen to utilize. We suggest keeping your meeting time as close as possible to the time you would if it were a physical meeting. Whether you run construction manpower planning meetings once a month, or once a week, do your best to keep those times consistent. It would also be beneficial to send a calendar notification ten to fifteen minutes prior to the meeting to ensure you aren’t waiting for anyone (Geoff) to get settled and troubleshoot any technical issues that may arise.
Create a single source of truth for your project and workforce data
When running a remote manpower meeting, it’s more crucial than ever to ensure that everyone has access to, and are looking at, the same information. Communication can quickly dissolve if people aren’t on the same page in regards to their organization’s workforce plan. Spreadsheets are a difficult tool to use when communicating project information with your team. They lack visibility, and stifle collaboration when you’re needing to ensure you’re communicating effectively. Sharing your screen is a great way to make sure everyone is looking at the same data, but there may also be times when people are unable to attend meetings or participate in a way that allows them to see your shared screen. Because they are updated in real-time, web-based construction manpower planning tools like Bridgit Bench can help to keep everyone updated on changes that are being made during meetings. Users can access their Bridgit Bench account before meetings to contribute project notes and talking points, easily follow along during your meetings, and quickly double check any updates to the workforce plan if they’re unable to attend for whatever reason.
Set your meeting agenda and stick to it
Setting an agenda for your team meeting and sending it to relevant stakeholders ahead of time will ensure your meetings remain efficient and productive. There’s nothing worse than joining a virtual meeting, only to spend the first few minutes deciding how it’s going to play out. If you are responsible for running the meeting, you’ll want to make sure that everyone is aligned going in so that as you move through your key projects, your operations team and project managers are ready to discuss any updated project information and workforce allocation needs or changes. It also gives a chance for everyone to send any information ahead of time that they would like the owner of the meeting to display for everyone to see. If your construction manpower planning tool allows you to, we suggest isolating one project at a time and systematically working your way through each of them.
Your construction manpower planning meeting agenda should include:
Team members expected to attend (Operations, PMs, Site Supers)
Key projects that will be discussed
How long you intend to discuss each project
Information that attendees will be expected to bring forward for specific projects
Manpower meeting guidelines
Set your manpower meeting guidelines
Think of your guidelines as etiquette. You wouldn’t sit around a table and have everyone constantly talking over each other, and while it may seem obvious that you wouldn’t want that for a remote meeting either, you’d be surprised how quickly introducing a new meeting format will throw people for a loop and your meeting runs the risk of spiralling out of control. This etiquette should also extend to the owner, or person responsible for running the meeting. Here are some basic guidelines that should help keep your team in line, but also give everyone a chance to communicate;
Say hello – Introduce everyone in the meeting and give them a chance to say hello. This is a quick and easy way to check in and make sure everyone’s microphones and cameras are working
Smile for the camera – While it may be difficult for some, ask that your team have their respective cameras turned on. It may not seem overly important but it goes a long way to improving communication when you can actually see the face and expression of the team members you are meeting with and ensuring everyone is engaged in the meeting at hand.
Use your mute buttons – Most software will give individuals the ability to mute themselves and we highly recommend you urge your team to stay muted until they are called upon to speak. Small background noises can add up quickly and you don’t want anyone distracted by Geoff’s oddly loud chewing during your meeting. It also prevents people from jumping into the conversation at unwanted times.
Let them speak – If you’re going to ask that everyone stay muted until called upon to speak, you need to make sure you give that opportunity. As you finish updating each project you should open the floor for related questions and comments.
Let them know – Send your meeting agenda and expected guidelines to all attendees well in advance of your meeting. Everyone in construction knows that failing to plan is planning to fail, the same goes for your meetings. Plan ahead!
Running the meeting
The owner of the construction manpower planning meeting will be responsible for sharing their screen to ensure that everyone is looking at the same information. You should start each meeting with an overview of the agenda in case anyone neglected to check the agenda you’ve sent prior to the meeting. To start, you may also want to communicate your meeting guidelines and explain where everyone’s respective mute buttons are. This likely won’t be necessary over time as your team gets used to meeting remotely, but everyone benefits from a quick review of expectations.
Before moving into the details of a project, it’s a good idea to quickly re-introduce relevant team members to ensure that everyone is engaged and ready to contribute. If your team members have updated their project notes ahead of time, allow them to openly discuss those talking points before opening the floor for questions and comments. Again, allow for questions and comments after each project. This will ensure that everyone feels heard and has an opportunity to share any concerns.
Bridgit Bench is a construction workforce planning solution that provides users with a single source of truth for workforce and project data that is perfect for communicating information during construction manpower planning meetings. It boasts a dynamic Project Gantt that will help keep your team locked in during meetings and keep them highly productive, and maintain employee engagement. You can apply powerful filters to isolate your focus to specific projects and manage all of your project roles and allocations without having to navigate through a complicated tool or spreadsheet. Bridgit Bench is highly visual and is great for using during conference calls and video chat to communicate clearly with your remote team.
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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