Article written by Betsie Hoyt on constructionexec.com
It’s no secret that people are the backbone of every successful organization. Without a thriving, engaged workforce in place, companies tend to struggle, in both calm and turbulent times. This is especially true in the construction industry, in which human resources professionals not only have their hands full with today’s complex projects, but also with a changing workforce and employee management landscape.
Depending on size and scope, a construction company will typically cycle anywhere from hundreds to thousands of workers through its HR systems each year. From hiring and onboarding to safety, skills training and benefits, construction HR departments are often buried in both work and workers. As economies and businesses cautiously emerge from COVID-19 and begin to reopen, HR teams face additional pressure to keep employees informed, safe, engaged and responsive — all in real time, while also tracking information needed to keep projects moving.
Thankfully, modern technologies and software solutions are helping contractors meet these modern HR needs. But to benefit from them, contractors need to unchain themselves from manual processes.
PITFALLS OF PAPER
Reliance on paper-based processes has been a long-time challenge for contractors. However, COVID-19 has led many workers to shun paper altogether. Manual processes are no match for demanding modern construction needs and new workforce dynamics spurred by the pandemic. Although contractors are ready to get back to work, some workers may be hesitant to handle paperwork in the field or back office. Digitization of the data that keeps work moving and workers safe could soon be a must-do to ensure business continuity.
Some contractors have already started adopting new technology solutions to speed up processes such as time card collection, payroll or the culling of labor hour data for project job costing. These range from full construction ERP solutions to third-party HR software systems and/or mobile applications. While they have certainly helped, many of these solutions still require manual work to enter data between the office and the field or between software solutions.
Perhaps even more amazing is that some contractors, despite the availability of tech-aided HR management solutions, continue to rely solely on paper forms and documents. In today’s modern age, this can lead to several challenges:
Relying on these and other manual processes throughout the construction organization can cost companies and their workers valuable time and money.
BUILDING A CULTURE THAT KEEPS EMPLOYEES SAFE AND UNBURDENS HR
Whether a full HR team, a single dedicated HR professional or members of accounting or operations, human resource functions in construction are adopting technology to automate processes, stay in touch with field workers and save time communicating with employees.
With an integrated HR management software in place, HR teams can provide employees and supervisors with the tools to self-perform HR tasks including time-off requests, reporting labor hours and accessing important HR documents. This modern self-service culture helps keep employees safe and takes the burden off already stretched construction HR professionals. However, effectively doing so requires a cloud-based, integrated construction software suite that provides a single source of HR data truth and extends it out to the workforce in real time.
For example, an electrical contractor that has technicians spread across a wide geographic region will have a single access point where technicians access a web portal from their mobile device and add their hours, request time off, report overtime, view time-off balances, view and download pay stubs and W2s and much more. When data is entered, it immediately populates the back-office systems and is routed to the correct supervisor for approval. And, workers have the information they need at their fingertips, eliminating paper forms and countless calls or emails to HR for updates or personnel documents.
These connected solutions can also help get new projects up and running quickly. As work resumes and contractors look to hire new workers or rehire those that were furloughed or laid off during the recent pandemic, streamlining the hiring and onboarding processes become critical. For instance, a heavy highway contractor setting up a new project for the construction of a bridge in a region it has never worked in before. As part of its contract, the contractor is expected to hire local workers to make up part of its on-site crew. Using an HR management solution, applicants can easily apply online and those digital applications are automatically tracked and routed to the correct hiring managers. Once hired, new workers can access the same portal to receive and sign all of their paperwork, access must-read documents and more. This saves HR teams countless hours of handling these processes for each individual worker.
With changes to how construction workforces are managed in the future, a connected, real-time HR solution is also becoming more important for sharing policy updates, safety information and more. And the need to communicate emergency information in real time isn’t only reserved for a pandemic. Weather events, accidents or active external threats are all incidents in which contractors need to share vital information with their teams in real time via mobile devices and SMS texts.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Construction companies are dealing with thousands of moving pieces, none of which are more critical than people. Whether working with a handful of employees or managing hundreds of workers moving from one job to the next, a human resources manager must ensure everyone is informed, trained, safe, paid and have their specific needs served at all times.
With modern technology in place, HR managers can more easily keep work and workers moving fluidly and contractors can not only go paperless and relieve the typical HR burdens, they can create an environment where employee communication and collaboration are celebrated.