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How to Turn Non-Utilized Talent into an Engaged and Effective Workforce

No matter how well a company’s processes are designed, how up to date its equipment is, or how many customers it has, if its most valuable resource – people – aren’t being utilized to their full potential, it will be inefficient and ineffective.
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No matter how well a company’s processes are designed, how up to date its equipment is, or how many customers it has, if its most valuable resource – people – aren’t being utilized to their full potential, it will be inefficient and ineffective. In this continuation of our lean construction series, we’re shining a light on an all-too-common issue in construction: the waste of non-utilized talent. 

In a recent blog post, MacroFab stated, “Human potential can also be wasted when there are barriers to innovation and invention.” One of the typical obstacles to people using their skills to the fullest is scattered and opaque communication. Workers can’t apply their expertise if they’re unsure of which jobsite to be at, when, and what they’re supposed to do when they get there. And project managers are unable to do their jobs well when subcontractors aren’t reporting successes or setbacks in a timely manner so that next steps and project timelines can be adjusted accordingly. 

More commonly, there are holes at both ends of this process. Talent is misallocated or not applied at all because skilled workers like roofers, framers, and electricians don’t have clear instructions, while site supervisors aren’t sure what exactly is going on in the field. As a result, both onsite workers and the people trying to manage them waste an inordinate amount of time on manual tasks related to miscommunication. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that productivity in the construction industry has fallen by at least 50 percent in the past few decades, according to research by The Economist cited by Construction Executive

Using Communication to Unlock Human Potential

Muddled messaging is at the heart of the non-utilized talent waste. A worker might check his or her email or texts regularly, but a message about today’s tasks could come in from one of the several other applications commonly used in construction. As a result of missing this message, the worker either performs the wrong task or ends up sitting around for a long time waiting to be told what to do. 

This can also create extra work for project managers, who must field calls, emails, and more from subcontractors wondering what they’re supposed to be doing. And when one task isn’t completed on time, it can have a knock-on effect of delaying the next step in the process and the project as a whole. As a study published in the journal Work rightly put it, construction is usually a “mélange of order and chaos.” 

Clear, concise, and current communication makes it far more likely that the right people will be sent to the right place at the right time, and that the tasks they perform when they get there will be in line with the project scope. It’s also essential that only correctly credentialed workers are sent to perform a particular job so that it’s done correctly and to a high standard. 

All too often in construction, subcontractors end up doing things that they have no expertise in to save time. Or a general contractor ends up pitching in to keep progressing when a subcontractor doesn’t show up or a task hasn’t been finished. If there was a way to combine clear communication with some kind of credentialing, workers would only be responsible for tasks that they’re qualified to do well. 

Another benefit that overhauling communication would have in the construction industry is organization of labor. We’re not talking about unionization but rather breaking up the workforce into structured and skilled groups that are able to complete appropriate tasks on time, to a high standard, and in the correct order. The widespread adoption of a single, effective communication platform would also allow project managers to reallocate labor in real-time. 

For example, if thunderstorms were forecast to hit a certain jobsite, they could reassign affected workers who were supposed to pour concrete, install wiring, or do other tasks requiring dry weather to another site. Project deadlines and next steps could then be reevaluated accordingly. Such efficiencies are only a possibility when communication channels and processes are aligned and unified. 

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