A worker at construction site fixes a structural form
Operational Excellence

Addressing the Construction Labor Shortage with Technology

Written By: Joe Demski
June 1, 2023
6 min read

In a recent podcast appearance, Kevin Morris, VP of Finance for JBPA Developments, commented on what is at the heart of the employment crunch in construction trades

“Most people doing the work in terms of skilled trades are 55-plus, and they're retiring out fast. If you took just the stats of how much work there is coming for Ontario and how many people are retiring, the trades would need 70,000 more people to do that work. The other scary stat is that every five people that retire from the trades have only been replaced by one person. So, with all this work and with fewer and fewer people doing it, the only answer unfortunately, besides prices going up, which they have, is you have to become far more efficient doing it.”

These concerns aren’t merely anecdotal or exclusive to large metro areas. Reporting from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Associated Builders and Contractors found that 1 in 4 construction workers are older than 55, and that report also asserts that the construction workforce is short by more than half a million workers. These jobs can’t be filled by just anyone either. Retirements are putting a particular strain on the skilled workforce, as 40% of new construction jobs filled in the last decade have been for entry-level laborers.

While the demand for residential construction has dipped, demand continues to grow in large-scale construction projects for industries like energy, manufacturing, infrastructure, and data centers. Construction firms are backlogged with major projects, but not enough skilled labor to get projects done.

So, What Are Builders to Do?

Leaders in construction, like Kevin Morris, see technology as the means to bridge the gap for builders.

“So, with all this work and with fewer and fewer people doing it, the only answer unfortunately, besides prices going up, which they have, is you have to become far more efficient doing it.” Morris states, “Technology I see has been very basically adopted so far. There's been some very interesting things that have come along. But the industry is in its very early stages of what's possible to really transform the industry to make it something really more exciting to people in it and get those projects built that we need to get built. There's way more needed than we can possibly do today.”

Technology has the potential to make the way construction projects get done more efficiently and cost-effective. To this point in time, builders’ systems are totally ill-equipped to respond to current demands.

But how can firms actually address the labor shortage with software? Better project management, supplier and vendor connection, and scheduling reduces waste and allows builds to complete on-schedule even with labor constraints. While the big picture labor market is largely outside of the control of organizations, ensuring project management processes are efficient and optimized for your teams is entirely up to you. It's one of the most important actions builders can take right now to address uncertainty.

Adopting a Dynamic Work Platform to Address Hurdles in Construction

Just bringing any new software into the fold isn’t an actual solution. In fact, a study on technology use by Quickbase found that businesses rely on nearly 7 different applications to get work done each week. This proliferation of disconnected platforms has grown so large that it is increasing the complexity of work today. The best possible solution to addressing labor shortages is a dynamic work platform that connects your data and processes and makes how your teams work more efficient.

Adopting a dynamic work solution to maximize your existing workforce begins by defining that problem then auditing the existing way projects get done. In that audit process, identify our workflows, systems of record, and anywhere data is stored. You also need to play close attention to any hiccups that cause delays, points where handoffs occur, or processes that require a lot of manual work from a project manager or other stakeholder.

From there, consider what your optimal process would look like to minimize any waste or repetitive efforts. An example of this might be a handoff that is marked in a project management app, but then also requires an email with duplicate information to be sent. This is a classic example of an area where wasted effort is occurring which pulls teams away from actual project work or creates delays in the building process. Addressing this means integrating those disconnected systems into a single location and automating notifications so project information is always up-to-date in your system of record. A defined ideal state should also account for critical existing systems and how they need to connect to one another.

In order to bring that optimal process to fruition though, a dynamic work management platform, like Quickbase, is a must. A dynamic work platform will collect all your necessary project tracking data and insight into a custom single source of truth for all stakeholders. Building a single source of truth keeps project teams connected and prevents details from falling through the cracks. A one-stop shop for construction projects ensures teams stay on the same page and projects remain on schedule. Improving project management and information-sharing also allows teams to proactively address any potential hurdles like vendor shortages or scheduling conflicts.

Importantly, your dynamic work management platform needs the flexibility of low-code to be easily adaptable as projects change and evolve. Many platforms claim to be all-encompassing but require heavy-duty development backgrounds to customize or change to fit your needs. Low-code platforms enable project managers or other team members with minimal development experience to easily create dashboards and workflows that fit how project teams operate and surface information that project leaders are interested in.

Solving Today’s Problems Can’t Wait

Improving recruitment, retention, and vocational training are all key initiatives construction organizations must support in order to tackle overwhelming building demand. But those things take a great deal of time. Right now, there are many projects in the pipeline that need solutions at this very moment whether the labor pool is strained or not. The answer lies in affecting what you can by making sure technology is adopted efficiently and effectively.

A low-code, dynamic work management platform may not fill your organization with more skilled tradespeople. However, a properly deployed solution will ensure those key folks aren’t wasting time waiting around for instructions or schedules, and which in turn, will keep your projects on time and within budget.

Joe Demski
Written By: Joe Demski

Joe Demski is an Associate Content Marketing Manager at Quickbase.

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