What construction workforce management is and how to execute it well
December 10, 2021
4 min read
Founder at Buildr
WFM is a bit of a construction buzzword (buzz-acronym?) which is astounding if only because even the pandemic-induced preferred definition “work-from-home” was somehow de-crowned in a major American industry. It’s likely because it’s tough to build a building remotely, but we digress.
It can be assumed that construction workforce management has picked up steam in the last decade for 2 reasons:
1. An ever-evolving emphasis on Human Resources at construction companies, and
2. The banging of the optimization-gong by tech companies.
The first reason is sheer cause-and-effect. Historically unprecedented (and more so by the day) labor shortages tip the balance of power to the workforces. Of course, workforces prefer to be treated well if they’re going to choose one GC over the thousand other GCs happy to have them. General contractors oblige their team members, and wouldn’t you know it—GCs benefit financially to be more personable and strategic in their workforce management! A win-win.
The second reason construction workforce management took off is innovation (and the loudspeaker innovation always carries with it). Technology seeped into every crevice of a tech-starved construction industry when that infamous 2016 McKinsey report decrying American construction as the Stone Age (our words, not theirs) acted like a 49er prospector shouting “there’s gold in them hills!” This caused every Silicon Valley hopeful to come out of the woodwork ready to move to Construction Town, USA.
Based on our very educated estimates, there are somewhere between 100 and 1,847,099 different companies providing similar solutions for every microscopic function in construction. Workforce management is one of them, and for good reason: it’s a workflow of construction that makes perfect sense to optimize with a tech solution. Humans are best at interpersonal minutia but need help doing it at scale.
So how does effective construction workforce management happen? Before we get into the how, let’s first get into the what.
Construction workforce management is the job-assigning process a general contractor uses to propel a project team—and thus, the project—to its maximum efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness. In a nutshell, it’s the way in which a GC staffs its projects to maximize profits.
There are 4 main aspects of a general contractor’s construction workforce management process:
Strategy: How construction cash flow intelligence and pipeline forecasting feeds into educated team member assigning.
Communication: The manner in which assignments are communicated internally and externally as clearly and swiftly as possible.
Data Collection: How person-specific workforce data is collected, stored, and made accessible to the right people.
Engagement: How workforces stay motivated, loyal, and progressive in their respective fields when it comes to up-to-date skills and certifications.
Construction cash flow and forecasting (both project and revenue) are what determine the clarity in which the general contractor can assign workforces to projects. In-depth understanding of one’s project pipeline for the foreseeable future allows general contractors to make informed decisions about their staffing. Gaps need filling and team members at profit-desiring general contractors worth their weight can’t sit idle for any amount of time.
Efficiency in communicating present and future assignments to other administrative team members and the assignees themselves is usually dependent on the method of construction workforce management that the general contractor has adopted. The more manual, the more hellish (see also: time-consuming) this communicating process becomes.
The team member data points that are most helpful in aiding assignments are organizationally dependent. Below are some common attributes in modern construction workforce management:
Availability and skills are the obvious ones; is this person on a job? No? Great. Do they know how to supervise a residential build? Yes? Great. Background checks are legal safety nets and predictably industry-agnostic.
While on the granular side, project histories are a bit like trophy cases for that extra decision-making oomph. Location is foundational and too often ignored: does this person live in an area commutable to the project? Hint: if it’s two podcasts away, that might be too far for them.
Rating will be extremely GC-dependent. How do you fairly evaluate the quality of a team member’s work, is the evaluation standardized, and where is the evaluation recorded? On the other side of the coin, the team member deserves to be kept in the loop so that they can repair their reputation if need be while not becoming discouraged.
Certifications (and noting certification expirations) are important in instances where certifications are mandatory for specific functions in the field. Here are some common construction certifications that may be tracked by general contractors when assigning roles to projects:
Certified Safety Manager (CSM)
Aerial Lift Training
Crane Operation Certification
Associate or Bachelor’s Degree
Buildr Newsletter subscriber (okay, this one’s a joke. Very few GCs track this)
An aspect of Human Resources, the quality of a GC’s method of construction workforce management (or WFM) is symbiotic with that organization’s true commitment to the well-being of its team members. In other words, the better a general contractor is at empowering and humanizing their workforce amidst assignments, the more affirmed, loyal—and in most cases, effective—that workforce is bound to be.
An engaged workforce benefits more than just the workforce: 60% of HR leaders believe “building a company of engaged workers is most important when it comes to meeting their organization’s long term, bottom-line goals.” Companies don’t dangle infinite vacation days, Massage-Wednesdays, and a snack bar that includes the incredible blueberry overnight Mush just for kicks. It’s to engage its workforce!
Ultimately, technology is what best aids the highest quality construction workforce management, separating the fading and the here-to-stay general contractors. While construction workforce management software progresses towards becoming a prerequisite for general contractors, there are still many that forgo certain aspects (streamlined data collection and forecasting, prominently) for various reasons including the popular “it’s how we’ve always done it.”
If you’d like to see how Buildr can give your construction workforce management the boost it deserves while connecting to your CRM and informed by your construction cash flow, be sure to schedule a demo with us today.
Seriously, you should sign up to be a construction insider. Everyone will be so jealous of you.