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Addressing the Construction Workforce Management Gap with Digital Transformation

Digital workforce management in construction can enable organisations to plan site scheduling as well as tracking certifications, skills and background checks to improve transparency on projects.

Many construction contractors are way behind when it comes to workforce management, often relying on inefficient spreadsheets, whiteboards, or paper-based solutions to handle their most important asset. It can be a scheduling nightmare - not knowing the availability of workers, which projects they should be assigned to, and if they are certified to work?

Construction workforce management means getting the right people in the right place at the right time, which in turn creates the right plan. Every contractor is practicing workforce management. However, most are doing so unknowingly and unequipped. This equates to processes that are fragmented, lack standards and high risk. Imagine running your business without an ERP, your projects without a project manager, or financials without an accounting department?

Taking this a step further, there’s no way to identify which employee is an expert or how well they performed on a previous assignment. It creates chaos – and that’s exactly how most contractors are handling workforce management today simply because it’s “the way it’s always been done.”

Redundant and inaccurate workforce information can increase project costs and make work inconsistent every week. A worker could be benched one week while their skills are much needed elsewhere, simply because their supervisor has no accurate vision of current assignments.

With no way to look ahead or behind, contractors have to live day to day, unable to optimize past or present data to inform future projects. A worker could be an expert at the latest fireproofing practices, but the organization has no way to track this skill.

With all this headache, current labor scheduling and management solutions just aren’t cutting it anymore. It's clear a better workforce management solution is needed industry-wide.

Skills Gap in Construction

Construction work is also beginning to stall in the UK because the shortage of skilled workers is becoming very real.

Saffron Grant, managing director at Digital Construction Skills, discusses the crucial support SMEs need to help with their digital transformation journey:

"Rather than having one message (digital tools can benefit your business) to get out to one audience (construction SMEs) we discovered that there are dozens of different sections of the audience, each requiring its own unique language and its own intricate path to reach the right people. In fact, the audience we most need to reach are the ones who are not even in the audience yet.

So as the pandemic unfolded, we found ourselves in the middle of a paradox of trying to support business with adopting digital tools at a time when improved efficiency and productivity were desperately needed but competing with the ever increasing real and pressing need for the day-to-day business survival of construction companies who were coping with the practicalities of social distancing, isolating, the skills shortage and the materials crisis.

We have taken a systematic approach to understanding what support SMEs would like to receive and in what form, what is accessible and appealing to them and what is not and most importantly, understanding the range of access points to suit the needs of each individual company."

The staff shortage in construction continues to bite, the period of April to June according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics suggests  33,000 job vacancies within the construction indsutry. It is the second-highest level of vacancies in the past 20 years.