With the UK construction sector making tentative steps back to normality, Peter Harte, VP EMEA at Kronos Incorporated, discusses how accurate labour forecasting will be critical to adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach.
As the housing and commercial building markets reboot and the construction industry returns to work, many industry leaders and government officials are thinking longer-term, beyond the current lockdown and social distancing measures.
Most larger construction companies are beginning a phased return to work, following recent announcements from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, outlining a new series of measures to get the country building homes for the future.
However, with so much uncertainty at present, protecting employee and organisational wellbeing is the fundamental goal for construction companies over the coming months. Accurate forecasting plays a huge role in both of these elements but is also something that has never been more difficult.
This is where the need for the right technologies and tools to provide the most accurate insights come into their own. The latest workforce management and human capital management (HCM) technologies leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) forecasting algorithms to create optimal schedules, enabling site managers to accurately forecast demand and align labour accordingly. Additionally, insights are provided into how many employees are scheduled, where they will be and at what time, to ensure adherence of safety guidelines from governmental and health officials.
Safeguarding employee wellbeing in a time of crisis
Employee wellbeing should be at the top of the agenda as the construction industry retools. The huge disruption to both firms’ and individuals’ lives caused by Covid-19 demands that employers are more aware than ever before of employees experiencing physical and mental fatigue and burnout.
Employees all have different personal struggles right now, including caring for extended family members, facilitating childcare, or emerging from total isolation. Emotions are high, and schedules are thin, so there needs to be an even more flexible attitude to scheduling than previously. Frontline employees are giving their all right now, under stressful and unprecedented circumstances, as the massive uncertainty over the future of work and major disruptions to thousands of construction projects in the pipeline has taken its toll. It’s consequently crucial that employers now consider each and every employees’ needs and preferences wherever and whenever appropriate. With continuing uncertainty over childcare for example, there is a need to be flexible and agile when it comes to scheduling work and organisations must therefore invest in the right tools and know-how to enable them to combat this very real danger of burnout. Without doing so, construction companies run the risk of exacerbating the problems associated with an unengaged, burned out workforce.
As an industry, construction is also uniquely positioned in the health and safety guidelines it already has in place. Ensuring an employee’s mental health is in line with safety regulations should fall under this umbrella, with employees being both physically and mentally fit for work.
As the world starts to open up, companies need to take all steps possible to ensure their employees are truly engaged and inspired to get back to work, despite the personal hurdles they face. Accurate forecasting has a pivotal role to play in this.
Protecting the bottom line while ensuring compliance
With no real ‘end’ to the complicated situations of late, it is critical that construction companies are compliant and operating as efficiently as possible. This is essential for not only protecting employee wellbeing, but also the bottom line over the coming year.
As the old adage says, time is money, deadlines are strict, and demand is incredibly hard to anticipate manually. This is where the best modern HCM solutions are proving most beneficial to construction companies looking for faster, more efficient and far more profitable digital, cloud-based tools to track labour cost, performance and efficiency in real-time. Ultimately, the insights provided through the right HCM technology can mean the difference between project profitability or loss.
Obtaining accuracy at a time of uncertainty
The latest workforce management and HCM solutions allow construction firms to use the most accurate forecasting algorithms, helping them to achieve compliance and operational agility in a number of ways.
Accurate forecasting ensures that employee schedules can be created to meet demand, as well as providing an insight into the workforce at a time of so much uncertainty. Workforce management technology can keep track of hours worked, ensure adequate breaks for employees and run safety checks such as conducting random drug tests when employees clock in and out.
These are also essential technology tools to provide the real-time data needed to ensure the construction industry as a whole is doing everything it possibly can to help the UK avoid a potential ‘second wave’ of Covid-19. Accurate real-time workforce data provides insights to help companies make quick, vital decisions in times of crisis, helping them to closely control margins, meet project timelines and, most importantly of all, ensure an engaged, safe and happy workforce.
For example, if and when any further government restrictions are enforced, companies need to be able to know if they need to put an immediate halt on a project or speed them up to ensure they are completed in time. By having a workforce management solution in place, companies can understand who they need, when and where, as soon as possible.
With no real end of the current crisis in sight, using real-time labour data to manage current projects also gives managers the insight and analytics needed to avoid under or over-pricing future projects, thereby helping to control margin and be competitive.
In summary, the next couple of months are not going to be an easy ride for any sector and the construction industry is no exception. Many construction companies are going to be eager to hit the ground running as soon as possible, but it is critical that employee wellbeing and compliance are at the top of business leaders’ agendas if they are going to weather the current storm.
Achieving margin, meeting project timelines, ensuring an engaged workforce and regulatory compliance requires real-time data about employees and their activity — whether they are working in an office or out on site.