Uniting HQ and Jobsite Operations Is Essential
In a time with an historic shortage of workers, Construction executives need behaviors to change in order to realize essential productivity benefits. The HQ and Field divide must be closed. A recent Trimble/Dodge report implies that it is easier to unite project owners, designers, and financers with HQ than it is to unite a contractor’s HQ functions with its own construction jobsite management.
As discussed in this blog sequence, construction firms are late and slow adopters of advanced digital technology. Risk aversion is part of the reason why, because contractors manage a wide range of risks, and safety is always an issue. But risk aversion cannot be the primary reason, because technologies that reduce risk are resisted as well.
We believe that the cultural divide between HQ and jobsites is what stands in the way. HQ personnel are largely knowledge workers working with data at a desk computer. Jobsite workers do not, and don’t want to. More importantly, field workers often see themselves in opposition to the desk workers with college degrees. Jobsite knowledge is largely experiential and acquired over years of work — it’s decided not book learning.
To unite HQ and the field, construction executives and jobsite management must incentivize change — and discourage resistance.
Jobsite Management “Carrot” Approaches to Spur Adoption
“Carrot” incentives generally work better than negative “Stick” approaches. We suggest you use 80% Carrot and no matter how frustrated you get, limit yourself to 20% or less of stick tactics. Here are some possible “carrots”:
An Innovation OKR (Objectives & Key Results) for Performance Reviews
Sometimes praise is all the incentive people need. Construction executives should single out for both private and public praise individuals that contribute to the innovation program with:
- Participation in the firm’s innovation program
- New ideas they research and share,
- Adoption of new digital tools on their project,
- Increased use of existing digital tools by sharing tricks and techniques,
- Advancing their knowledge of and use of software platforms like Procore or Viewpoint.
Display a Leader Board of Innovations
Making digital achievements visible to everyone may be enough to spur usage. Make innovation a social norm and your employee’s natural competitiveness may kick in as well. Potential achievements by project teams could include:
- Demonstrating digital leadership via group membership,
- Digital tool/equipment suggestions and evaluation,
- Information/article/link sharing,
- Completing a digital instruction or training course,
- Adopting distributed team collaboration tools,
- Adopting BIM tools or techniques,
- Adopting AR/VR methods,
- Adopting digital video or drone apps,
- Adopting digital check ins and automating daily logs,
- Creating Digital worker profiles,
- Adopting Digital safety apps,
- Adopting digital tool or equipment tracking or usage apps,
- Participating in the Digital Center of Excellence,
Encourage behavior changes from all jobsite personnel by spurring competitive juices to win a symbolic or team reward, such as an offsite event or meal.
Use Economic Incentives with Stakeholders
Business ecosystem partners –subcontractors, project owners, designers, technology vendors – may not change without an economic incentive. Look for ways money can incentive change. For example, when bidding, show a price reduction based on reduced project overhead through the use of digital workflow tools.
Incentive Bonuses for Supervisors and Salaried Employees
Jobsite management are usually compensated by salary and project profitability. But they may require an economic bump to make a change that benefits the entire firm, not just their projects. Bonuses are simpler to administer than profit sharing in a services firm, so simple cash bonuses are best. Union contracts and hourly wage agreements may not allow such incentives, however.
Jobsite Management “Stick” Approaches to Spur Adoption & Usage
While we recommend staying positive by default, sometimes disincentives need to be used as well. The strongest will be contractual — enforcing an economic penalty for non-compliance.
Contractually Require Subcontractors to Use Digital
The HQ/Field divide includes not only trade employees, but trade subcontractors as well. Many project owners now want their projects to be 100% digital and the subcontractors need to comply as well. Whether required by the project owner or not, the list of digital tools you use on all projects should be part of their agreement as well. And include a clause giving you the ability to change the list or adopt new tools along the way.
Delay or Discount Subcontractor Invoices
Nobody wants a legal dispute, so, as with employees, encouragement is always best. But there’s nothing wrong with enforcing some kind of penalty for non-compliance. Just delaying payment is often enough to get a subcontractor’s management attention. Specific penalties, such as a reduction in compensation, are justifiable as well for blatant non-compliance, especially if the digital tool is the project owner’s requirement.
Ding Performance Reviews To Overcome Resistance
While most employee performance OKRs should be for doing their job competently, if someone is actively resisting change without good reason, ding their evaluation.
I’ve been told by some in the industry to not bother with anyone older than fifty, since older employees may be the most entrenched and resistant to change. Be clear that it’s OK not to be enthusiastic, but it’s not OK to actively undermine your innovation program.
Performance reviews can be used with subcontractors too by assigning subcontractor “star ratings” as part of a project close-out, whether it’s for poor results, poor personnel, or refusing to use digital workflows.
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