“A meeting is an event at which the minutes can be kept and hours can be lost.”
Workforce planning meetings are one of the most important processes your operations team will undertake regularly. These meetings are scheduled to discuss and decide on a strategic workforce plan to improve overall workforce utilization and mitigate project risk in the coming weeks. For years, these meetings were centered around multiple spreadsheets or whiteboards generally created and overseen by a single team member. For the most part, centering meetings around a spreadsheet or whiteboard was considered “good enough.”
Good enough, never is.
It’s an interesting turn of phrase, good enough. It’s not something you’d generally want said about many things in your personal life. If you missed a patch of hair when shaving your face, you wouldn’t look in the mirror and say, “Good enough!” and head to work. The same would apply if you knew your shirt had been buttoned down incorrectly. Good enough essentially means – there’s room for improvement.
In this article, we’re going to explore three strategies that every operations team can take:
Streamline their meetings
Create a strategic workforce plan
Take your workforce planning meetings from “good enough” to great
1. Get out of spreadsheets
There’s no denying that spreadsheets can be a powerful tool for storing and analyzing data. They are a blank slate for you or someone in your organization to create, update, and analyze a database to center your construction workforce planning around. However, looking at spreadsheets through the lens of “good enough,” you can identify ways they will fall short immediately.
Maintaining your data takes forever – Spreadsheets will often be created, updated, and maintained by a single operations team member. That team member will often hesitate to allow access to the workforce and project spreadsheets simply out of fear that someone will make an unwanted change. On top of the hours it would take to isolate and fix unwanted changes, this team member will also spend countless hours weekly keeping spreadsheets up to date.
“It was super tedious to update each spreadsheet and analyze one in conjunction with another, and projecting future work was very difficult. The overall process [of resource planning] was time-consuming.”
— ERIC LIBBY, PROJECT EXECUTIVE @ WISE CONSTRUCTION
They stifle collaboration – Have you ever needed to analyze data in a spreadsheet built by someone else? They generally become highly personalized applications that few people outside its creator can comprehend.
There’s a reason that the team member responsible for maintaining your spreadsheets hesitates to share them. With strategic workforce planning becoming a more collaborative team effort, the controls around sharing spreadsheets haven’t kept up. If your team can’t take an active role in updating and monitoring your project and workforce data, it means you’re starting from scratch every time you sit down for a workforce planning meeting.
No visibility – 90% of spreadsheets are used for data analysis – a major part of that is picking up on trends to better predict company needs in the future. For construction, that means being able to visualize, in an instant, where a new project can fit in with the company’s timeline and the impact it will have on their workforce needs. It also means being able to see the impact of changes made to current projects and how that will affect day-to-day processes and allocations. Spreadsheets offer a place to store data, but unfortunately, seeing the impact of that data clearly and concisely is where those systems fall short.
Getting out of spreadsheets is a strategy? Well, no. You shouldn’t abandon your data altogether. The second part of this strategy is to consolidate your project and workforce data and migrate it to construction-specific software designed to fill the gaps that spreadsheets can’t. Tools like Bridgit Bench were built from the ground up for construction workforce planning and provide a highly visual, accessible “workforce hub.” It allows users to assign different permission levels and engage more team members in your workforce planning without the risk of unwanted changes or human error.
“Before Bridgit Bench, everyone would leave personnel meetings exhausted because we were dealing with relatively fixed resources. Now, everyone is more engaged.”
— DAVID DILTZ, OPERATIONS MANAGER AT COMPASS CONSTRUCTION
2. Set a meeting agenda and communicate your desired outcomes
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”
— Benjamin Franklin
Your workforce planning meetings are meant to be purposeful and productive. Having an agenda that clearly outlines discussion points and desired outcomes should be communicated to your team ahead of each meeting.
Your agenda should include:
Projects that will be discussed and which team members are expected to contribute to the discussion
The timeframe and desired outcome for each discussion point
Expected updates in the workforce planning software and which team members are responsible for updating
Metrics you’d like to be updated on
The goal when improving construction meetings isn’t simply to reduce the time spent in them. Improving the effectiveness of your meetings involves improving communication and creating a better understanding of your strategy and metrics. An agenda isn’t meant to limit the discussion around projects; it allows relevant stakeholders to present their thoughts and ideas. Putting a timeframe on the discussion points nudges your team members to communicate more concisely.
Your meetings are only as good as the actions that they result in. Outlining desired outcomes ahead of your meetings can help to drive the conversation towards those outcomes and allow for new ideas and strategies to be centered around a specific goal. Once your team has reached a consensus, follow up with written confirmation and indicate how you want progress to be tracked.
3. Look back and plan ahead
If you’re taking the steps to track progress and specific metrics, it’s valuable for your operations team to gain insight into what’s working and what might need to be adjusted from meeting to meeting. The follow-up from the previous workforce planning meeting is a good place to start. You can review decisions that were made, metrics that were decided on, and the progress that’s been made. This can act as a subtle reminder that helps keep your team aligned on strategy and also helps to increase accountability as metrics and progress become a regular topic of discussion. Everyone is better prepared to share their input on how and why some strategies are working and why some aren’t.
As important as it is to reflect on previous meetings, it’s equally important to look into the immediate and distant future of your project timeline to ensure:
You can take on new projects.
You have enough projects lined up to keep your team working at full capacity
You are managing project allocations to stay ahead of scheduling issues
You are aware of timeframes that may require you to bring on new team members
This brings us back to migrating your project and workforce data into a software solution designed specifically for construction. Bridgit Bench allows you to map out your future projects, allocate your workforce, and better understand your workforce utilization into the future.
“Because we have greater clarity about what stage in the project we are on and when resources will be available for another project, we can be confident regarding recruitment decisions.”
— Grace Paladino, Director of Human Resources at SKYGRiD Construction
One of our clients put it best when he said “Projects are won or lost in the planning phase.” At Bridgit, we feel the same way about your workforce plan. A strategic workforce plan is dependent on having effective workforce meetings that align your team and help to create a clear path for success.