The construction industry has faced a productivity crisis in recent years, with productivity growth hovering around 1% for the last two decades. Managing this crisis is expected to become even more challenging for construction companies due to the spike in pandemic-induced demand and a rapidly shrinking workforce. The extent to which construction companies can create new and more efficient processes will rely heavily on their ability to attract and retain top talent in the coming years. Here are three challenges that the construction industry will have to overcome to close the skills gap and become an attractive industry to work in moving forward.
Barriers preventing companies from meeting the rising demand for construction
As employee demographics change, companies have to adapt to the evolving needs of a new generation of digitally native workers. In the construction industry, this evolution has been woefully insufficient. As a result, the average age of construction workers has steadily increased.
The demand for digital work solutions is not limited to the construction site. Millennials and Gen Z workers are increasingly demanding that companies facilitate flexible work options and adopt the latest productivity software to increase operational efficiency. Approximately 74% of North American employees say they would leave their job if their company did not provide them with the technology they felt is needed to perform well.
Companies are attached to outdated and inefficient operating procedures
Construction projects can vary wildly in their components and this can cause some confusion for business leaders looking to standardize processes and procedures across their operation. Communication and planning may take place on separate email chains, WhatsApp chats, and spreadsheets. In fact, project managers routinely spend over 6 hours a week managing schedules for teams of workers across various projects. A reluctance to adopt integrated software solutions only increases construction companies’ reliance on ineffective and inefficient paper forms, communication platforms, and planning software.
Project management software can help site foremen, supervisors, and project managers to optimize work on processes ranging from scheduling, budgeting, and even supply procurement. This frees team members from tedious and repetitive tasks to focus on more satisfying high-value work such as business transformation and development.
Information silos prevent collaboration among various teams and stakeholders
Even the most basic and routine construction project requires successful collaboration between a variety of stakeholders. Contractors, subcontractors, site workers, office staff, and suppliers have to come together and share information to actualize their vision. However, as digital tools become more common, each stakeholder is likely to have some form of technology that they rely on for their operations. When these processes and technologies are incompatible with one another, they simply entrench the information silos that already exist in the construction industry.
To combat this, business leaders must find a way to bring teams together and encourage collaboration between them. Software adoption and integration are key to helping business leaders bridge the gap between silos and maintain competitiveness in a market that is increasingly adopting a wide range of proprietary digital solutions.
How modern technology can address the skills shortage in construction
Construction businesses are constantly on the lookout for ways to increase operational efficiency. Being such a labor-intensive industry means that there is always scope for technology to fill in the gaps left by human workers. McKinsey & Company estimates that automation and artificial intelligence can help businesses reduce the number of hours spent on physical and manual tasks by 14% before 2030. Considering the repetitive nature of some tasks in construction projects and the extent of physicality inherent in construction work, this number is expected to be much higher in construction.
Moreover, advanced analytics also allow business leaders to view their business as a whole and receive suggestions on the areas of the operation that could benefit from further automation or innovation. This helps construction businesses make full use of their resources and ensure that projects are operating at maximum efficiency.
A culture of technological innovation is highly attractive to Millennial and Gen Z workers
While the previous generation of employees were perceived to be extremely loyal to their employers and were likely to stay in their place of employment for decades, younger workers are less accepting when they feel their companies lack innovative and forward-looking cultures. A recent Deloitte report revealed that 44% of Millennials planned to leave their current job in the next two years.
To attract and retain a new generation of workers, companies are expected to adopt new technology, and also develop a culture of improvement and innovation. Using integrated technology in construction projects allows construction businesses to meet this demand by introducing new technology to their existing stacks without upending established systems and processes.
Modular construction and software sandboxes allow construction companies to share customer demand among themselves
A common misconception among construction companies is that they can only participate in projects when they can undertake the entire job. However, businesses are realizing that they can use technology to conduct early planning and design on AI-based modeling software. Following this, the scope of work can be shared between construction companies who each work on individual aspects of the project. These modular pieces are then assembled on-site by a separate team. The key for companies who wish to engage within their scope of capabilities is ensuring that the technology used for planning and execution is fully integrated and compatible.
Why integration is crucial to using technology effectively
Between modular construction, advanced analytics, and project management software, there are numerous ways technology can help construction businesses find new avenues to increase productivity and operational efficiency. These strategies allow construction businesses to close the skills gap by making the most of what they have while buying time to transform internal processes and policies without negatively impacting operational efficiency.
The key to unlocking the true potential of these technologies is enabling them in a fully integrated technology stack and allowing the solutions to work seamlessly with each other. As the different teams and stakeholders within a construction project are interdependent, so are the digital solutions they use. Companies who realize this and innovate accordingly can expect each project to be completed with maximum efficiency and minimum fuss.