What is construction workforce planning?

What is construction workforce planning?

Construction workforce planning is a key element to any business, yet many people don’t even know what it is! If you don’t know what strategic workforce planning is and, therefore, aren’t using it in your business – you are seriously missing out. In a world where profit and efficiency are critical to a construction company, you obviously want to do everything you can to maximize these and grow your business in the future. Well, construction workforce planning can help you do all of this and more. This complete guide will tell you everything that you need to know about what workforce planning is, why it’s important for the construction industry, and how to implement it within your organization so that you can start seeing the benefits.

What is construction workforce planning?

The first things you need to know about construction workforce planning are the basics – we won’t stop here but it’s definitely the best place to start. Effective construction workforce planning (aka talent management) should consider the following;

  • Is it strategic? It is crucial that construction workforce planning acts as a subset to your organization’s larger strategic plan, and should be done in the context of the different factors that have the potential to impact your project timeline.
  • Is it dynamic? Let’s face it, the construction industry is subject to continuous change as much as, if not more than, other industries. Workforce planning generally takes place in a fluctuating environment, so to add on top of that an industry that is constantly subjected to change reinforces the importance of planning, planning early, and being able to adjust those plans as project and organizational needs change.
  • Is it forward looking? Your construction workforce planning should include the use of current data and project trends to better understand the potential impact to your organization from internal and external forces. General contractors must be mindful of regional trends in their workforce demographics, labor availability, and early indications of any skills gaps.
  • Is it purposeful? Your workforce plan should be structured in a way that it provides a clear line of sight between what workforce capacity your organization has, what it needs, and what it will take to bridge that gap.

If all of that sounds like a big jumble of random words that don’t really make sense, a better way to think about construction workforce planning is that it helps make sure that the person with the right skills is working the right job at the right time. Workforce planning involves seriously thinking about your organization’s future (i.e. succession planning) and trying to identify where gaps in your workforce might come up (i.e. scenario planning). These gaps could come because of retirement (i.e. an aging workforce), returning to school, leaving for a better opportunity because they aren’t being promoted, gaps between project commitments, or a myriad of different situations. You just need to be aware of future workforce needs and have action plans in place in case people leave. For more information about workforce management, check out our guide to construction workforce management.

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What are the different elements of construction workforce planning?

Now that you are familiar with the concept of workforce planning in general, we also need to go over some of the different elements and concepts within construction workforce planning.

  • Demand planning: Demand planning involves determining the headcount that your company needs in each job role for each project. Some questions that you might want to ask when demand planning include…
    • Are we currently staffing against project demands properly? Do we have too many people, too few people, are we hiring too early, are we hiring too late?
    • Are we staffing according to our specific business strategies and client needs?
    • Are there areas that we can afford to under-staff with little to no risk so that we can prioritize other areas that have a higher importance and higher risk?
  • Internal supply analysis: Internal supply analysis involves evaluating whether or not a company currently has enough resources to meet external demand. This involves looking at both attrition and performance when it comes to staffing.
    • Some common drivers of employee attrition include:
      • External economic conditions
        • Local job market
        • Stock market
      • Employee demographics
        • Age and tenure
        • Job type and salary range
        • Commute time
      • Employer actions and workplace conditions
        • Promotions and raises
        • Spans and support ratio
        • Work environment
        • Salary inequality
        • Manager ratio
  • Gap analysis and action planning: Gap analysis and action planning involves a company evaluating its gaps and then figuring out what actions it needs to take in order to close those gaps.

What are the benefits of construction workforce planning?

With all the basics down on workforce planning more generally and some of the specific concepts that we see within construction workforce planning, you are probably wondering how all of this can actually benefit your company. After all, it seems like a lot of work on your end to plan and analyze all these different areas within your workforce. But we can definitely promise you that all the time and effort that you put into workforce planning for your business will be returned exponentially.

  • One benefit of workforce planning is that it allows you to maximize the efficiency of your project teams. Construction workforce planning helps you avoid under allocated projects which can lead to mistakes, a decrease in quality, and potentially overworking your workforce to the point where they are just burnt out. 
  • Another benefit of workforce planning is that it allows you to maximize your business’ profit. Construction workforce planning helps make sure that you always have the right employees working at the right time so that you can eliminate all the money that is wasted on overstaffing and mitigate project risk due to short-staffing.
  • A third benefit of workforce planning is that it can actually help you improve employee retention. In a world where employees are such a huge investment for a company, you want to make sure that you get the most out of your investment instead of wasting money on recruiting, onboarding, and training just for them to leave because they are overworked and unhappy. Construction workforce planning can allow you to be proactive when it comes to any issues with your current employees, address them ahead of time, and plan ahead for your future workforce.

What are construction workforce planning best practices?

Moving from the theoretical to the practical, here are some workforce planning best practices so that you can take those next steps towards increasing the efficiency of your project teams and manpower meetings:

  • Before you embark on the mission to implement workforce planning or a workforce strategy in your business, you need to take the time to consult with your entire team. This includes both executives as well as project-level employees. It’s always a good idea to get their ideas ahead of time so that you can incorporate them into your construction workforce planning software and allow for greater collaboration from the site to the office. Then throughout the process, you need to always keep them in the loop and communicate your progress, any adjustments that need to be made, and overall make sure that everyone is on the same page. If you don’t feel qualified to spearhead this transition on your own, it might be necessary to appoint a specific person, maybe from human resources, to manage this process and act as the point person for any questions or issues that come up within the team.
  • Another best practice when it comes to construction workforce planning is to utilize a great tool at your disposal – technology. While workforce planning would still be important if you were to do it manually, you can increase your efficiency tenfold if you utilize a construction workforce planning system instead of doing it on your own with a spreadsheet or whiteboard system. Whatever amount of money you invest in this system, you will easily make back in terms of increased profit and increased organizational efficiency.
  • The last best practice when it comes to workforce planning is to actually keep up with all the data. While construction workforce planning is a great investment, it’s an ongoing process that requires constant attention with no real end. You need to be really diligent and keep up with your workforce planning because things are always changing in the construction industry– between employees, the company, and even the market in general. These are all reasons why you need to constantly adjust your workforce planning strategy so that you are always prepared for the future.

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How to implement construction workforce planning?

The last thing that you need to know is how to actually implement workforce planning into your business so that you can begin to see the benefits in terms of profit and efficiency. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be hard and you can get started right away! There are three basic steps:

  • The first step that you need to take when implementing construction workforce planning is to look at your current workforce. Utilizing some of the indicators of attrition mentioned above, you can begin to plan for the future of your workforce. But you shouldn’t just look at demographics, you should also look at things like skills, strengths, and weaknesses of your employees to see how they line up with the direction that your company is going in the future. The last thing you need to do is look outside your company to the potential hiring pool and see what they have to offer in terms of skills and talent.
  • The second step that you need to take when implementing workforce planning is to consider what your company will look like in the future and think about how your staff can help you meet your future goals. Odds are that your current staff won’t 100% meet all the requirements for the future right now – and that’s fine, that’s what workforce planning essentially is! So you need to think about if you will be able to train existing employees with the new skills that they need or whether you will have to find people with these skills externally.
  • Finally, the third step that you need to take when implementing construction workforce planning is to create a plan to actually fill in the gaps that you have identified in your planning process thus far. Some things that you can do is to start a new training program so that your employees are ready and able to grow with the company, or you can actively start recruiting for new hires to fill these gaps instead.

You are not alone!

If you are a part of the team at a general contractor and are taking the steps to improve your construction workforce planning, you should know – you are not alone in this. At Bridgit, we’ve worked directly with countless clients that were previously organizing their workforce planning with a series of static spreadsheets, whiteboards, and yes – Post-it notes. The reason is simple – construction is hard – every project is slightly different than the last. Whether it’s clients, design, materials used, location, or any number of differentiators the construction industry stands alone when it comes to workforce planning. Bridgit Bench was built specifically to fit the unique needs of the construction industry to provide a holistic view of your entire workforce plan in relation to your project timeline. Construction workforce planning can be a big undertaking, but with industry specific solutions available like Bridgit Bench it can be much less complicated.

Lauren Lake

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.

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