Workforce management (WFM) is a process every construction company should be putting into place today. A WFM strategy is defined as an organizational approach used to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of employees. 

“The simple way of thinking about workforce management strategy is right person, right place, right time and eventually we get the right plan,” says Brian Witt, WFM Strategist for LaborChart, a construction management software company and Arcoro partner.

WFM includes people management, scheduling, forecasting, data management, analytics and communication. It’s the process that gets you from project A to project B in terms of identifying the personnel available to bring each project to completion. 

“Groups come to us and they have this thought of scheduling and communicating, meaning dispatching, and that’s just one small piece of the pie,” says Witt. “It really is this larger area of the business and the division or practices the business begins to recognize, adapt and enable with people, processes and technology supporting it all.”

#1 Create a WFM Strategy That Works for You 

Witt says every contractor is practicing WFM today but doing so unknowingly or unequipped. For example, companies that spend ours figuring out where workers are supposed to be next. While this is essential WFM, it is the least efficient method. “It becomes a great struggle to look ahead and truly practice WFM or forecasting,” he explains.

Labor is the largest unknown on any construction project and if your WFM strategy doesn’t work for everyone projects become riddled with inefficiencies like:

  • Fragmented labor plans
  • Non-standard labor processes
  • Redundant and retroactive plans
  • High risk plans with low support or security
  • Disconnected and inaccurate data and decisions

Witt notes that spreadsheets won’t solve your WFM inefficiencies because each manager is using his or her own system and they don’t work together.

“For a VP of operations, it’s like coaching a football team from the press box but with the windows blacked out. You’re relying on a runner to go back and forth. It’s delayed, it’s out of date and it’s redundant.”’

The solution? WFM tools, like LaborChart, help create and achieve sustained success by aligning and enabling people, processes and technology.

These tools combine:

  • People: Who is involved
  • Processes: How should it be done
  • Technology: How to enable the people and support the processes

Witt adds when determining which WFM strategy works for you, remember:

  • It’s not just putting a tool in place.
  • It’s recognizing, adopting and evolving a business practice.
  • Identifying, prioritizing and professionalizing WFM.
  • Putting the strategy to work.

#2 Eliminate Paper-Based Processes that Slow Projects Down

Paper-based processes, like time tracking, are a huge time waster for construction companies. Manually tracking time on paper can lead to time theft and lost production.

“Approximately 7% of payroll costs are inaccurate this is mainly due to employees who pad their hours or punch in for a buddy who’s not on the job site yet,” says Lori Lamping, HR Strategist, Arcoro.

Consider the employee who always takes 40 minutes for lunch instead of 30. That 10 minutes a day quickly adds up.

The first step to eliminating paper processes is deciding what your business should automate first, i.e., your biggest time wasters. ExakTime customers have automated:

  • Smart Equipment – 11%
  • Safety Technology – 17%
  • Document Management Software – 27%
  • Project Management Software – 41%
  • Time Tracking Software – 85%

Time tracking software, like ExakTime, is by far updated the most. It makes sense considering the advantages a digital time tracking system provides.

  • No manual timecards
  • Time is collected electronically and the calculations are made for you
  • Reduce human error
  • More efficient time tracking and payroll processing
  • Integrates with scheduling or project management systems

Automating time tracking has provided ExakTime customers with numerous benefits, including:

  • Simplify Payroll – 76%
  • Be More Organized – 65.5%
  • Reduce Hour Rounding – 37.5%
  • Ensure Labor Law Compliance – 26.6%

“For small businesses, payroll can account for more than 50% of your gross revenue so controlling waste can have a big impact on your bottom line as a whole,” says Lamping.

Data is key. Get the data you need to efficiently manage your team and future projects.

“Accurate and timely data is going to allow you to track not only your worker hours but how those hours are broken down through location, tasks and job costing. Then you can pinpoint potential waste or labor shortages based upon what that data is telling you,” she adds.

#3 Automate Time Tracking to Improve Profitability

When time tracking data is captured, performance can be assessed as well as other areas of improvement. And once performance metrics are identified, planning can be adjusted and refined to maintain or improve productivity. One of the biggest detriments to productivity is poor schedule management.

“There are a lot of questions about labor. Who is who? Do I actually know what makes my people unique? How do I track that? Where does that information live?” says Witt. “Succession planning is one of the greatest feats facing the industry right now with so many people retiring and fewer coming in. If that information is not standardized and accessible to the appropriate people, you can’t make use of this stuff.”

Tracking employee data is also necessary for compliance management. Contractors need to place the right employees on the right job site that aligns with their skills and certifications. 

#4 The Importance of Compliance and Tracking Certifications

Compliance and certifications go hand-in-hand, and it all goes back to knowing if the workers you have available for a job are the right people and the best fit for the project. Tracking the certifications your employees have earned is one way to accomplish this.

According to Lamping:

  • 43.7 million people, 16.9% of the population, held a current license or certificate
  • 24.1% of the workforce held a current license or certificate
  • 84.4% of those employed held a job that required the credentials

“Having automated insight for up-to-date information when anything or anyone is approaching that expiration date is essential,” says Lamping. “Making sure you have your records up-to-date and automated to inform you well before expiration dates are approaching are really key here.”

Think about your strategy to manage your employee certifications. “You really want something that puts this information at your fingertips,” adds Lamping. “If it takes more than 10 minutes to find, that’s too long.”

Integrations with your current systems can help you not only stay on top of certifications but also:

  • Save time
  • Access a single data set
  • Better experience for HR, managers and staff.
  • Increase accuracy and security.
  • Flexibility to have a best of breed approach
  • Improve reporting and workforce data analytics
  • Ease compliance

#5 Create Repeatable, Scalable Processes to Ensure Project Success 

WFM is all about having the right person, in the right place, at the right time with the right plan. Scalable processes help you to better manage your schedule.

The PPT framework, standing for People, Process and Technology, is a method used to successfully implement new projects and make organizational change. The PPT framework isn’t new, it’s been around since the 1960s, and it helps companies accomplish their goals by optimizing the relationships between people, processes and technology.

People: Who should be involved. People are centric to the business. WFM as a practice spans the business. This is not a practice that’s just in one division. Witt explains, when we think of where the business is heading, we need company leaders to have real time data. The people part of the PPT framework is key for responsibility, accountability and feasibility of a project.

Process: How should it be done. Standardized processes create predictability, efficiency and effectiveness. Without standardization, process is obstructed and unsustainable. Standardization opens the door to improvements, adaptability and evolution.

“If I don’t have these processes standardized on how people are supposed to be going to and from, people can’t see what’s going,” says Witt. “If I can see the labor plan, now the process is standardized and I can see if the plan worked or if it didn’t, I can see how to improve it.”

Technology: Enable people, support process. The tool must fit the task. WFM technology has been missing. It is now here and established. Remember, boards, spreadsheets and homegrown systems don’t work. WFM technology is designed with people and processes in mind. It works because it makes your job easier with the end result being a more productive company.

Finding success with your WFM strategies comes down to these five steps: creating a process that works for you, eliminating paper-based processes, automating processes, like time tracking, to improve profitability, tracking certifications and creating repeatable scalable processes. 

Arcoro and LaborChart have tools that can help any construction company to become more efficient and productive.