Construction workforce management guide

Summary:

Effective construction workforce management answers three very important questions:

  • Who is available to take on more work?
  • Which projects need more people?
  • How does my workforce strategy look in the coming months/years?

Efficient workforce management tools allow contractors to answer those questions quickly and take action to ensure they’re leveraging their workforce productively. With construction shifting away from manual processes, cloud-based workforce management tools are helping to keep the larger team informed with real-time updates and helping project operations understand the impact on future plans as construction becomes fluid.

With construction labor costs accounting for up to 40% of project costs, having proper construction workforce management practices in place is crucial to the success of every general contractor. So, what exactly is construction workforce management? In its simplest definition, it’s the processes involved in maximizing the performance and capabilities of a general contractor.

In many cases, workforce management for construction is often confused with workforce scheduling. The goal is to ensure that you are monitoring the transition of team members from project to project and preventing overlapping commitments.

High-level construction workforce planning runs deeper than just scheduling your workforce and tracking labor. Construction projects have many moving parts, and managing a productive workforce is no different. On top of scheduling, great workforce planning in the construction industry should include:

  • Data collection and analysis – collecting workforce data and analyzing performance to make improvements moving forward
  • Performance management – tracking team member output against organizational goals
  • Training and mentorships – managing the training of new team members, as well as the career development of current team members
  • Human resource planning – staying ahead of recruitment needs to ensure there’s enough time to select qualified, skilled candidates to achieve organizational goals
  • Forecasting – predicting which employees with what skills and qualifications are to be allocated to current and future projects
  • Human resource management – managing the people within your organization

Why workforce management in construction is so important

CONSTRUCTION WORKFORCE PLANNING LIMITS WORKER DOWNTIME

Nothing will hurt a construction company more than workers not working. That doesn’t mean working while actively on the job site; it also involves a worker’s paid downtime between projects if they aren’t being allocated properly via your contractor workforce management protocols. Sometimes, when construction workforce planning uses a series of error-prone spreadsheets, individual employees can completely fall through the cracks. They can cost their organization thousands of dollars over days, and sometimes weeks, of downtime.

Worker downtime on a project will impact its profitability, but sometimes, it is unavoidable when waiting for materials, designs, etc. However, worker downtime between projects will directly affect the profitability of the organization and every effort should be made to limit it.

Accurate, up-to-date construction workforce planning allows operations teams to monitor individual team member project allocations closely. It also helps to identify gaps of availability between projects and periods of time when team members will either be overallocated or under-allocated. Being able to identify when your team members can take on more work is a key step to significantly reducing the amount of worker downtime within an organization. Construction workforce planning will also help to identify unfilled project roles to allocate available team members. 

KEEPS WORKERS FOCUSED ON DEADLINES

Contractor workforce management tools help increase transparency and align your team on company and project goals. The two most consistent goals for any project are staying on budget and on time. Contractor workforce management allows your teams to visualize project and project phase deadlines. It also helps to understand the impact on the workforce plan should a project’s completion date need to be pushed back.

REDUCES UNNECESSARY EXPENSES

Human resources are the pulse of the construction industry. However, many important responsibilities often lead to administrative errors impacting an organization’s bottom line. Construction workforce management tools allow for the automation of administrative processes, which can help reduce errors, minimize costs, and provide more time for operations management to put out fires and perform tasks to help increase productivity.

Effective contractor workforce management helps to monitor staff reductions, schedules, and forecasting. These can help meet operational demands to boost ROI in the short and long run. These can help meet operational demands to boost ROI in the short and long run. On top of that, construction workforce management helps reduce duplicate work and increase management productivity. With team members having access to real-time, web-based information, there will also be improved communication within the organization, which helps improve attendance, retention, unavailability requests, and time management.

Lastly, construction workforce management can help reduce bench costs and keep general contractors operating efficiently. Real-time information helps closely monitor staffing, labor costs, and utilization rates to ensure continued focus on increasing productivity and profitability.

HELPS IN EVALUATING YOUR ABILITY TO TAKE ON NEW PROJECTS

As we mentioned earlier, one of the key aspects of construction workforce management is forecasting. Accurate workforce forecasting can help keep recruitment practices based on data, optimize capacity planning, and clarify the impact of future project bids. 

Having a full project pipeline into the future comes down to sales, but being able to forecast sales for a general contractor can be extremely difficult. Generally, contractors base their forecasting on gut feeling and assume the more bids they participate in, the more projects they will have. Forecasting a project pipeline to gauge your ability to take on new projects is a much more detailed process that will include active projects, workforce capacity, and running scenarios based on the likelihood of winning a bid to see the impact it will potentially have on the workforce plan.

Using your workforce utilization rate for your capacity planning helps clarify the impact of new projects. Operations teams will generally have a good idea of how much work their team can take on at any given time. Construction workforce management solutions can help track team member performance and create a better understanding of their capacity and how much labor will be required to complete each project and project phase. Seeing a dip in your overall workforce utilization means you can likely add another project to the project pipeline. Seeing a consistently high utilization rate throughout a new project means you likely need to bring on more team members to complete the job on time.

There are two approaches to capacity planning for future projects:

  • Proactive means identifying new projects to push your workforce capacity past its peak and getting ahead of those labor shortages. However, investing in proper recruitment for resources you may not need can be costly.
  • Reactive – This approach requires adding resources only after your workforce capacity has peaked. It ensures that you only recruit new team members when absolutely necessary, but it can also lead to rushed recruitment, filling project roles with underqualified candidates. It can ultimately cost more as projects take longer to complete.

Though balancing both approaches can be difficult, effective construction management software for subcontractors can help to shed light on when to be proactive or reactive with your capacity planning based on project specifics and the likelihood of winning the project bid.

How to improve construction workforce management

4 ways to improve construction workforce management

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USE CONSTRUCTION FIELD MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

For the most part, general contractors use a series of spreadsheets to conduct their construction workforce management. Though spreadsheet software can be powerful when used correctly, it can also prevent effective construction workforce planning in the following ways:

  • Human error – Research from the University of Hawaii suggests that 88% of spreadsheets contain significant errors and won’t indicate that they are broken. They continue to show the wrong construction workforce data.
  • Highly personalized application – In many cases, one person builds new spreadsheet systems to replace highly personalized spreadsheet systems because one person built them. Rinse and repeat. In a survey of MBA spreadsheet users, 72% indicated there were no company standards or policies for spreadsheet architecture and maintenance.
  • Stifle collaboration – Projects require cross-functional teams, and the lack of controls around spreadsheet sharing causes operations managers to hesitate when sharing their construction workforce data. 

On top of that, spreadsheet systems take up valuable time. Time to build, update, maintain, analyze, consolidate, and present the data contained within them. This is generally the responsibility of a single team member whose time could be better spent managing the workforce data instead of maintaining the workforce data.

Bridgit Bench project gantt view

Construction field workforce management software offers solutions to the headaches brought on by spreadsheet systems. Tools like Bridgit Bench allow general contractors to fully configure their construction workforce planning to their organization’s specific needs and streamline their workforce planning process.

Every area where spreadsheets fall short is where construction field workforce management software excels. It helps to eliminate human error and create transparency around your workforce strategy to enable team collaboration. It allows contractors to openly share their workforce data by allowing them to protect their systems from unwanted changes. 

Lastly, construction field workforce management software allows contractors to save multiple hours each week maintaining and consolidating their data – hours that could be spent on more productive tasks. Having all their workforce data in centralized construction field management software allows for data-driven construction resource management instead of relying on spreadsheets that ultimately promote gut-feel decision-making.

REGULARLY EVALUATE YOUR WORKFORCE

Evaluating your workforce allows contractors to weigh team members’ contributions to the organization. This helps to develop powerful and efficient project teams. Evaluating your workforce will take time and energy, but the benefits outweigh the challenges. 

The goal when evaluating your workforce is to quantify a team member’s contribution to the workforce, obtain a high level of the work produced (quantity and quality), and create a system to provide and receive feedback from your team members. Regularly evaluating your workforce within construction job management software will also help to sustain your team’s performance. Evaluating your workforce will include:

  • Identifying your performance measures – If you have job descriptions for each position, this is a good place to start. It can help to create qualitative and quantitative goals for each task listed in the job description. Be sure to include subjective goals as well (ex., How do they work with their team?).
  • Standardize your evaluation – This helps to ensure your evaluations are conducted consistently, objectively, and fairly. Your assessment should keep a narrow focus to keep the evaluations meaningful and relevant and include areas like knowledge and skills, quality and quantity of work, and attitude and work habits.
  • Clear guidelines for feedback – This helps to keep feedback balanced, create clear expectations around areas of improvement, and encourage feedback from your team members.

Evaluating your workforce performance can happen on a project-by-project basis for shorter-term projects or regularly scheduled throughout the year for general contractors whose projects span multiple years. Setting an evaluation schedule will help ensure all contributors (supervisors and managers) consistently meet evaluation deadlines and show your team that you value their contribution to the organization.

Evaluation data can be used to inform your project teams. Creating custom fields for construction workforce planning will allow you to keep your performance evaluations on hand high when creating your workforce strategy. It allows you to create balanced teams to ensure project success based on performance and allows high-performing team members to lead by example.

AUTOMATE CONSTRUCTION WORKFORCE PLANNING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

Workforce management in the construction industry has a lot of moving parts. Coordinating these parts manually can be very time-consuming, and it is a poor use of resources. Automating the workforce planning process using construction job management software is a great way to gain efficiency with your core operations.

Automating your construction workforce planning comes with a long list of benefits, some of which include:

  • Data accuracy – Reducing manual data input helps to reduce the risk of human error and inconsistencies significantly.
  • Data consolidation – Data-driven construction workforce planning allows you to assemble strong project teams for high-value projects and create balanced workloads for your team members. 
  • Labor management and projections – Construction workforce management software helps to inform leadership decisions about the future direction and strategy of the business. Construction field software also helps predict staffing needs to meet your business’s forecasted demand. It also helps to identify future skills gaps to strategize internal development and external recruitment.
  • Cost reduction – By automating workforce management using dedicated construction job management software, organizations can reduce costs due to data inaccuracies and save time carrying out administrative duties.
  • Stronger project teams – Automating your process allows you to track team member skills, project experience, and certifications. Allocation filtering for construction workforce management allows you to identify the best-fit team members for every project.

Learn more about construction workforce planning.

ENCOURAGE COLLABORATION ON CONSTRUCTION WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT

Construction workforce management amid COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of working to improve collaborative efforts. A recent Procore survey found that 75% of respondents believe there will be an increase in the use of collaborative construction technology following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Improving collaboration requires a focused effort on encouraging input and communication from and amongst your team. Encouraging collaboration on construction workforce management can help to:

  • Increase engagement with your workforce planning
  • Keep stakeholders aligned on strategy
  • Increase meeting efficiency and productivity
  • Uncover new methods of problem-solving

Encouraging collaboration can also positively impact your bottom line. In a survey done by Google and Raconteur, when asked what organizational changes would have the greatest impact on profitability, 56% ranked collaboration-related measures at #1.

Effective workforce management for construction should be a focus for any general contractor looking to maximize their workforce productivity and performance. It’s a process that involves consolidating all relevant information to enable strategic, data-driven decision-making to reach organizational goals.

Effective construction workforce management is a challenge. However, with construction field workforce management software, general contractors can automate many manual processes, encourage high-level collaboration, and stay ahead of their workforce strategy to gain an operational advantage.