How Construction Companies Can Navigate Resource Planning During COVID-19

construction covid-19By Michel Richer, product marketing and content manager, Bridgit

The construction industry has been on quite the rollercoaster ride throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with state-wide lockdowns going into effect in late March and projects across North America being shut down. The construction industry, which has already been faced with skilled labor shortages, suffered from massive layoffs. According to the Association of General Contractors, 40 percent of construction firms reported layoffs due to project cancellations caused by the economic impact of COVID-19 resulting in 1 million construction jobs being lost in April.

Then in May, states began slowly reopening construction sites and urged the construction industry to safely return to work and the industry added back half of the jobs lost only a few weeks prior

Through the last few months, the construction industry became a tale of two different sectors:

  1. Homebuilding and non-residential niches are thriving and have added just under 35,000 jobs in the last month.

  2. Heavy and civil engineering and specialty trade contractors are down over 21,000 jobs.

According to Anirban Basu, Chief Economist for the Associated Builder and Contractors, the reason for the decrease in non-residential construction jobs is the result of tighter financing conditions, lingering uncertainties, and project postponements and cancellations.

The ongoing uncertainty paired with the decline in construction jobs has left the industry with the challenge of maintaining their project pipeline, ensuring ongoing worker safety, and doing so with less available resources. But how? Let’s take a look at three ways North American general contractors can face those challenges head on.

1. Embrace cloud-based technologies

As you already know, construction projects are either set up for success or failure during the planning phase – a phase that can be negatively impacted by miscommunication, siloed leadership, and a number of complications that arise as decision makers begin working remotely.

Cloud-based technologies allow you to centralize your decision making data and keep your team on the same page. Construction resource management tools are helping general contractors maintain high levels of accessibility while ensuring all relevant stakeholders are able to make informed decisions, even when working remotely. Hardison/Downey, out of Phoenix, Arizona on cloud-based construction resource management during a global pandemic:

“[It] has been an exceptional resource. Our personnel are able to garner easy access to the software and its respective tools from anywhere. It helps us properly manage our resources which is the key for overall profitability.”

Cloud-based resource management tools also help you understand the impact when project dates shift, which can be critical when optimizing your resource plan during uncertain times. 

2. Expand your workforce data collection

Improving data collection for decision making has been an ongoing process for contractors. However, the coronavirus pandemic has helped shed some light on the importance of utilizing your workforce data to not only track your team member’s performance and career development, but also now to further ensure worker safety and mitigate new risks to your construction projects.

Workforce data collection should be expanded to include team members working remotely and also employee health and safety in regards to COVID-19. Resource management tools for construction have been critical for companies tracking jobsites and individual team members that have potentially been exposed to the virus. Software that allows you to customize your workforce data can help to nip potential jobsite outbreaks in the bud and better monitor team members that are self isolating.

After the ups and downs of projects starting and stopping over the last few months, the last thing you’ll want is to have to shut down a project because you weren’t on top of potential cases and which team members have come into contact.

3. Improve collaborative efforts

There are a number of benefits that come along with improving your team’s collaborative efforts when it comes to resource planning. During a pandemic though, two of these benefits stand above the rest.

  • New methods of problem solving – Aside from the financial crisis, the construction industry hasn’t been faced with halted construction on this scale in decades. New problems require new methods of problem solving. Getting your team more involved in planning your resources and letting them drive decision making (when possible) can help uncover new methods of dealing with the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

  • Identify new leaders – Inviting more of your team to participate in resource planning will also help to uncover team members that might be well suited to take on more of a leadership position in your company. 

How can you improve collaborative efforts today? Send your team an agenda for your next manpower meeting. Include key projects that will be discussed and outline expectations for participation in your meeting. Actively asking your team to contribute forces them to better understand your decision making process and the language used to communicate those decisions to the team. If you use data to support your decisions, make sure your team understands your process so they can replicate it when presenting new ideas, with data to back it up.

Michel Richer is the product marketing and content manager at Bridgit. Bridgit builds construction software solutions to help general contractors streamline their core processes, with an emphasis on construction resource management and workforce planning. Bridgit’s flagship product, Bridgit Bench, also helps general contractors with capacity planning, demand forecasting, and skills and experience tracking.

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