The Role of Technology in Alleviating Labor Shortages

The Role of Technology in Alleviating Labor Shortages

In recent years, labor shortages in the construction industry have reached record highs. According to the 2021 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (CCI), 62% of contractors reported difficulty finding skilled workers, continuing a year-over-year upward trend. The challenge of finding and maintaining a skilled workforce only serves to further create delays in already tight schedules.

In an industry that operates on strict deadlines, minor delays can quickly add up to major problems, leaving your project in the red long before it comes to a close. This lack of a profit margin can severely impact even the most stable of companies, signaling the beginning of the end. But it doesn’t have to.

To combat labor shortages in their workforce, many in the industry are shifting their focus to finding and implementing new technology-based solutions. These can range from facilitating more efficient communications to using artificial intelligence to automate processes, but they all have the same goal — freeing up employees’ time to focus on more vital tasks.

  1. Streamlined Communication

    We’ve all experienced the hassle and frustration of unanswered calls and endless email chains. Fortunately, there are several different types of workforce management tools available that can facilitate faster and clearer communication while on the job. These tools can make it easy to see employee schedules, roles, and contact information at a glance.

    By quickly and effectively communicating within your company, you can more accurately assess your hiring and labor allocation needs. Employees are not only able to work through issues faster but are also able to voice their requests for help more efficiently to those in charge.

  2. Simplified Pre-planning Processes

    Careful planning is key to a project’s ability to finish on time and under budget. Getting an accurate estimation of the amount of materials, time, and hours needed to get a job done is essential. A construction takeoff is vital to determining these things. This process involves looking at the blueprints of a project and determining what materials are needed and exactly how much of each material would be required to complete the project.

    A takeoff can be done by hand. However, many contractors have turned to the use of estimation software to get more accurate figures much faster. That means that instead of individually counting doors or manually calculating how many yards of lumber are needed, the program will do it for you. AI-powered takeoff software specifically can help teams create modern, flexible reports using a collaborative space that’s fully customizable and housed in a cloud environment.

    When it comes time to measure a project, teams are going a step further to eliminate human error in calculations using measurement software. This type of tool allows you to upload your existing blueprints and get an accurate measurement of the materials needed. In doing so, you can be sure that your estimate is accurate when you send it to your client, saving time and money for all involved.

  3. Attracting the Right Talent

    Attracting reliable and competent employees is a vital part of reducing turnover, but having to constantly search for and train new employees slows down production. With so many roles needing to be filled with experienced individuals, it can be a challenge to keep up.

    This is another area where technology can step in. Pairing individuals that have specialized skills such as surveyors, engineers, carpenters, estimators, and foremen with tools that can facilitate and even automate aspects of their duties can expedite these processes. In doing so, you can reduce stress and the overall workload on these key roles which, in turn, can increase employee retention and attract new, skilled employees to these roles.

    For example, offering the use of software for quantity surveyors, cost estimators, and contractors to expedite the responsibilities of these roles can not only increase accuracy but also eliminate workforce misallocation. All of this is a great way to ensure that you get the right employees in the door and keep them for years to come.

  4. Real-Time Updates

    Delays, weather, illness, and other events outside of your control have the power to upend any schedule. By implementing technology that allows for real-time updates, you can stay on top of every aspect of your project’s schedule. This allows you to fluidly update employee schedules, workload, and deadlines as needed, moving around tasks to ensure everything gets done on time.

  5. Improved Training Efforts

    Getting new employees up to speed or training current employees on new tools and methods can be a challenge. With the use of digital training software, however, companies now can personalize training to better fit the needs and role of an employee through custom learning pathways.

  6. Minimization of Human Error

    The average workplace will make around 10 to 30 errors per 100 opportunities. No matter if it’s a typo on a proposal, a mistake in scheduling, or a miscalculation of costs, human error can be a serious issue. Not only is it frustrating for everyone involved, but these types of errors can greatly impact the morale of your workforce and hurt your bottom line. Implementing some of the technologies we discussed previously can almost eliminate human error entirely. This can go a long way in terms of ensuring each project makes a profit and that clients are happy.

  7. More Accurate Data Analysis

    When it comes to projecting labor needs, analyzing trends can help you better forecast how many employees you’ll need, when you’ll need them, and where they’ll be needed. Technology excels at automating data analysis, ensuring that you have accurate information and estimations for any project. For instance, you may have an idea of the time of year you see work slow, but by accurately analyzing the data, you have the numbers to back it up, allowing you to better plan and allocate resources accordingly.

  8. Better Access to Health and Safety Information

    An unsafe and unhealthy environment can lead to countless injuries and illnesses that are detrimental to employee retention. Additionally, the American Society of Safety Professionals states that safety initiatives allow companies to reduce expenses related to medical care, paid time off, litigation, and disaster mitigation.

    Implementing technology in the workplace can help companies achieve these goals in several ways. Most notably, you can create a digital hub of all relevant health and safety information. Furthermore, the use of AI can benefit safety efforts by automating dangerous tasks, helping employees avoid overworking themselves, detecting hazards, and more.

  9. Detailed Remote Inspection

    When you have a limited amount of people to perform certain tasks, it’s not always possible to have them physically travel to each location. One of the biggest ways technology can help to fill in any gaps in your workforce is by helping employees virtually visit job sites.

    According to a report on LinkedIn, remote inspections can help increase daily productivity by 70% using a variety of remote inspection methods. These can include having someone on-site to communicate or live stream the area to an inspector. You can even implement augmented reality to inspect a 3D model with digital measurements and audit tools.

  10. More Channels for Employee Feedback

    Employees are the lifeblood of every business and as such, they often have the best idea of what is going well and what isn’t. If you are looking to get an accurate measure of the workload and stress levels of your team, it’s best to simply go to the source. Creating an online hub for your company serves to create more opportunities for the whole team to express their thoughts on whether there are too many or too few employees and if the current scheduling arrangement is working well.

    By finding ways to implement technology in the workplace, you can help alleviate labor shortages sustainably. In doing so, employee satisfaction and retention can also see dramatic improvements.

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