The unique challenges of specialty contractors in workforce planning

Navigating the nuances of workforce planning for specialty contractors

The unique challenges of specialty contractors in workforce planning

Addressing the challenges of specialty contractors goes beyond general construction needs. Their niche expertise demands detailed workforce planning, tight coordination, and adaptability. Let’s dive into what sets them apart and how they can navigate these unique hurdles.

Workforce planning for specialty contractors

Specialized Skill Sets Required

Specialty contractors require individuals with skills tailored to specific tasks or projects. This ensures high-quality work but narrows down the available talent pool. For instance, a contractor specializing in restoring historic buildings will need masons familiar with techniques and materials used centuries ago – not something every mason might be trained in.

Along with teams with ancient skills, specialty contractors must be regularly updated and trained on new methodologies, materials, and systems. An HVAC specialist, for instance, has to be well-acquainted with the latest energy-efficient systems and smart home integration methods.

Even your team’s skills are under additional constraints too. Building codes, safety standards, and certifications are ever-evolving. For specialty contractors, staying compliant means ensuring that your team is not just investing in training but also meticulously tracking certifications, ensuring they’re up-to-date and relevant to the projects.

Complexity and duration of projects

Because specialty contractors take on a dynamic landscape of projects, one of their main challenges is having a workforce prepared to handle variability easily.

One day, you might be called for a short, high-intensity task – like fixing a critical electrical fault in a commercial building. The next day, they might start a month-long project to retrofit lighting in an entire residential complex. Balancing these demands requires adept workforce planning, ensuring that short-term and long-term projects get attention without compromising quality.

Given the specialized nature of their work, specialty contractors face clients with a wide range of knowledge bases. Some clients might be well-versed in technicalities, while others may not. Managing and aligning client expectations with the reality of the work, especially when projects are highly technical, is crucial for client confidence in your team.

Coordination with other trades and general contractors:

A contractor can’t work in isolation since construction is so collaborative, especially on large-scale projects. Coordination is key, especially between specialty contractors and general contractors. 

While specialty contractors focus on specific tasks, general contractors look at the bigger picture. Fitting into this broader timeline, especially when there are unforeseen challenges, demands flexibility and clear communication from specialty contractors to ensure that the overall project remains on track.

For the specialty side, this means you have one more constraint on your workforce planning strategy. You need to be able to put together viable teams and timelines quickly. Of course, the only constant in construction is change, so you need to adjust your teams and timelines just as fast. Managing dozens of projects simultaneously can be difficult, especially with outdated workforce management systems.

Planning down to the hour

Unlike general contractors, where overarching project timelines might stretch over weeks, months, or even years, specialty contractors grapple with much tighter schedules that demand acute attention to detail.

Imagine orchestrating a ballet where every leap, turn, and pause is timed to perfection. That’s how specialty contractors must approach their tasks. With multiple projects running concurrently, you can’t afford the luxury of simple weekly or monthly schedules.

Instead, schedules shift daily or hourly. It’s important each crew member knows where they need to be and what they should be doing at any given time. This precise planning ensures that the right expertise is always where it’s needed most, reducing downtime and maximizing efficiency.

With such granular planning, what happens when unforeseen challenges arise? Adjusting an hourly schedule on the fly is like rearranging the pieces on a chessboard during an intense match. It requires quick thinking, clear communication, and reliable systems to play effectively.

Crew movement

A key difference between how general and specialty contractors plan their workforces is that the latter generally assigns crews and individuals to a project. 

Think of these crews as specialized task forces. Each member brings a particular skill to the table. Still, it’s their combined expertise, experience working together, and understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses that make them a formidable team. The challenge comes in tracking these attributes to ensure your people are with the best team possible and also improving their weaknesses. 

Moving crews as a unit can present logistical challenges. Coordinating the simultaneous movement of several individuals, along with their tools, equipment, and even specialized vehicles, requires meticulous planning. There’s also the challenge of aligning project timelines so that as one project wraps up, another is ready to commence, ensuring the crew isn’t idle.

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Getting a grip on these challenges

Traditional methods used for workforce planning, such as spreadsheets, whiteboards, or pen and paper, are too limited compared to the complexity of the projects you’re taking on.

Although versatile, spreadsheets are susceptible to human error and lack real-time updates. As a result, they’re hard to scale and integrate with your wider tech stack.

Specialized workforce planning software, like Bridgit Bench, caters specifically to the needs of specialty contractors. You’ll get a detailed view of each member’s skills, certifications, and work history. This information promotes informed decisions about labor allocation and gives you insight into potential issues with your workforce plan. 

Bridgit Bench also assists in predicting future labor needs by allowing you to analyze your labor capacity and project and pursuit demands. Forecasting helps you set realistic business goals, improving your chances of winning bids and delivering projects on schedule. As an added advantage, software like Bridgit Bench can integrate with various platforms, such as CRM systems and HR software, improving workflows and reducing double data entry. 

You’ll easily navigate these challenges by effectively planning your workforce and laying a foundation for sustainable growth. As the industry evolves, being proactive in adapting and scaling your workforce to the complexity of projects will be a hallmark of the leaders in the industry.

Nemanja Simic headshot

Nemanja Simic

Nem is a content writer at Bridgit. He started his career in business development, where he spoke to contractors daily, providing him with a deep understanding of the problems around workforce planning in the construction industry. Using this insight, Nem developed an approach to provide digestible, data-backed advice to help contractors get the most out of their workforce strategies.

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