Technology for the Jobsite
Finding the Right Tools to Serve a Dynamic Project Team
Not too long ago, one of the biggest questions facing our industry was how ready it was to start utilizing new technologies, particularly mobile technology. With increasing adoption of mobile technologies and growing awareness of the enormously positive impact they have on project team efficiency, business owners no longer question if their team is ready. They are asking instead, what technology is right for my project team and how will I get them to use it?
Companies seek technology that will boost productivity and help teams work smarter and faster. According to McGraw Hill Construction’s recent SmartMarket Report, Information Mobility: Improving Team Collaboration Through the Movement of Project Information, 67 percent of general and specialty trade contractors reported significant improvements to the flow of project information after incorporating mobile technologies for project teams, with 76 percent of them finding they have better collaboration among team members. Nearly 25 percent of contractors reported substantial schedule, cost and ROI improvements. These numbers are important in proving that collaborative technologies save time and money. With the construction sector making up 4 percent of the United States’ GDP, efficiency gains move the economic needle in a real way.
Whether your company hasn’t yet embraced construction-specific software and technologies, or it has, but you’re having trouble with company-wide adoption, there are some simple strategies for helping your project team get on board.
Bottom-Up Technology: It Starts With Your TeamConstruction business owners tend to make one big mistake when choosing technology for their project team: they choose what sounds good “from the top.” In other words, they choose technology that benefits the office and not the field. Here’s why that will never work: if technology isn’t helping the people in the field, they aren’t going to use it. So guess what? It’s not going to benefit the office either.
Tech cannot be forced onto a project team. The first step in choosing the right technology to improve jobsite efficiency is aiming to discover what the pain points are for your team and find the simplest technology platform that resolves those issues. In the case of FieldLens, people come to us because they need an easy-to-use, effective solution to help their project teams communicate more efficiently so that they can work faster and with fewer costly mistakes.
Once you find the technology you think is going to help your project team, test it out. Does it do what it says it will do? Is it relatively simple to use? Will it save your team time? If the answers are yes, do an alpha test with a limited group of tech-savvy users who want to use new technology. If they approve, do a more widespread beta test, and if the new tech or tool passes that round, you’ll ultimately want to start a company-wide rollout. Choose your most tech-savvy users to champion the new technology, and help them develop a rollout program for the rest of your company.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Anytime it comes to changing habits, there are going to be refusers. These are the people who believe they’ve been doing things just fine, and they don’t want to learn how to use something new. On top of that, your team is busy, and asking them to learn a new tool or technology adds another item to an already slammed workday. The refusers are going to be harder to convince, but there are steps to help them embrace a new way of doing things.
The key to turning refusers into adopters is to be up front about what they can expect. Tell them exactly why you’re making a change, and let them know what kind of benefits they can expect (i.e., you’ll be able to do X faster and get home earlier). The next critical step is ensuring they get a “quick win.” Ask yourself, what is the simplest thing I can demonstrate to help this person see how the tool will make their job easier? For example, with FieldLens we encourage refusers to create one post on something happening on the jobsite. This can be as simple as posting a photo or video, or even just a quick comment to share with the team. It’s an easy action showing refusers that using FieldLens will speed up communication with their team. This type of positive feedback immediately helps them experience the value and encourages them to dig deeper. As refusers slowly begin to adopt new technology, make sure your tech champions are there along the way to help train and answer questions, keeping frustration to a minimum.
Bring on the MillennialsFinally, it’s difficult to discuss project team tech adoption without giving a nod to the most tech-savvy employees at many companies — the millennials. As millennials start trickling into the construction industry, business owners are being challenged to help millennials mesh with their more experienced, veteran workforce. It’s important to understand what this group brings to the table and why the construction industry (just like every other industry) needs them.
The numbers prove that the construction industry’s veteran workforce is dwindling as more and more workers head into retirement. The much-hyped skilled labor shortage is reaching peak levels, with 83 percent of construction firms reporting trouble finding skilled workers in 2016, according to the Construction Labor Market Analyzer. Construction is an industry that requires on-the-job-learning, and timing is critical for getting millennials into construction in greater numbers so that they have the benefit of learning from experienced workers.
According to Chip Espinoza’s book, Managing the Millennials, some common millennial traits are as follows:
- They have a dependency on tech.
- They have a preference for meaningful work.
- They seek a strong workplace community.
- They measure success based on how much gets done, not by how many hours are worked.
- They expect a certain level of personal independence.
- They want advancement potential.
Bridging the gap between millennial and veteran workers is actually pretty simple, and starts with setting a baseline of respect. Each age group tends to think the other is the problem, with workplace veterans believing millennials are lazy kids who are better at staring at a screen than carrying on a conversation, while millennials think veteran workers refuse to evolve with the times. Technology is a great way to bridge the gap between the two groups because it teaches refusers and resisters to work and share their expertise with millennials “on their level,” but also allows millennials to teach their mentors the most effective ways to use technology. Using technology for on-the-job-training between industry veterans and millennials is a great way for these two groups to work together in a way that highlights both of their strengths.
Choosing the right tech for project teams and handling company-wide adoption among workers of varying technological and skilled labor capabilities can seem daunting to business owners. It doesn’t have to be. Doing the work up front and effectively driving adoption saves a lot of hassle down the road, and ensures that your company will be able to optimize operations and stay relevant in today’s tech-enhanced world.
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Doug spent more than a decade in the construction industry, managing jobsites of all types and sizes, including public recreation, commercial office, data center, retail, and core and shell projects. As a project manager whose background includes the New York Times Building (AMEC) and 4 World Trade Center (Tishman Construction Group), Doug is well versed in collaborating with large and small construction project teams. The experience of managing diverse construction projects throughout his career proved to Doug that communication problems were consistent throughout the industry, regardless of project size. Determined to develop a platform applying the best of mobile social technologies to construction industry enterprises, he founded FieldLens in 2011.