4 Ways Construction Leaders Can Guide a Mobile Workforce Through Change in 2021

COVID-19 proved the construction industry could adapt to monumental challenges with the help of technology and ultimately emerge more competitive on the other side; here's what you can do to help your company keep that competitive edge

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COVID-19 changed the landscape of the construction industry forever. And while adapting to these unprecedented circumstances has been rocky, there’s a silver lining: the construction industry proved it could weather monumental challenges and ultimately come out better on the other side. But the changes aren’t over yet – and now is the time to get ahead of them.

Change comes in many forms, whether through new business processes, new safety regulations or new technology implementations. The exciting news is that these changes have the potential to bring the construction industry growth and opportunity. That’s why construction leaders need to start planning for how new changes will directly and indirectly affect their company and employees, and take steps to set everyone up for success.

Here are four ways to guide your team through change, ensuring smooth transitions and success in adopting new processes and technologies in the year ahead:

1.Establish trust and secure buy-in

On a recent episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, ProEst Software’s Jeff Gerardi explains that executives have a responsibility as leaders to move their company to the next phase of technology. Indeed, with 2020 in the rearview mirror, construction leaders can and should hit reset and introduce new initiatives to make their businesses run better than ever before. 

After a year of ups and downs, teams may resist, viewing any change at all as daunting. That’s why, before introducing any process improvements, leaders should step back and evaluate how they’ve been managing their team and communicating with them. Is there a trusted management structure in place? Do they feel comfortable voicing their concerns? It’s also important to understand what the change will mean to them and how it will affect their existing workflows.

One of the biggest obstacles to embracing new technology is fear of the unknown. Employees don’t always understand the reasons for implementing new technologies and how they might impact the security of their job. For example, implementing an employee time tracking solution may cause payroll employees to fear job losses. First, the payroll team needs to understand the reasons for automating the payroll process and the potential benefit to their role. Once they understand that they’ll no longer have to spend time manually entering or processing payroll data, they’ll be much more open to adopting the time tracking solution. 

To avoid additional pushback, leaders need to ensure they have their employees’ trust. That starts by making technology users part of the buying decision. The more that all levels of your organization are engaged in technology implementations from the onset, the more advocates you will build to champion the new technology. Then have a plan in place for implementation, including project benchmarks and timelines and check-ins with supervisors. 

2. Prepare the blueprints in advance

Implementing change in the best of times can be a struggle, but after the inherent changes that we all had to make in business last year, it’s going to take some extra encouragement to ensure success. The best way to kick off new business practices or implement new technology is for leaders to roll up their sleeves and get to work directly with their team. They should not only know the new initiative like the back of their hand, but they should also put themselves in the shoes of others. More specifically, they need to know exactly what the requirements will be of each of the key individuals on their team to execute on the plan – and make plans around that. Questions should cover how the team would best receive this new initiative? Do they understand why the change is happening? Do they know their role and what’s required of them in the short and long term to achieve a successful implementation?

If employees feel like their supervisors are out of touch and don’t understand what it takes to get their job done, they will be more resistant to effectively participate. That’s why leadership needs to be in the trenches before they try to change processes, especially when it comes to technology. When leaders invest time in planning and laying out the blueprints for success, their teams will see a plan in place, gain an understanding of their role and trust that the change being made is for the betterment of the company. 

3. Showcase how new initiatives will complement your team’s skills

The first question a team will ask when a new business process or tech solution is announced is, “Why?” Take, for example, a mobile workforce platform with live field data to track things like labor, production, job costs, safety, and overall field reporting. Not only should employees on job sites understand that a mobile workforce solution ensures they get paid for all the hours they worked and whether they’ve reached overtime or not, but back-office workers will also be affected. A mobile workforce platform also has a direct impact on payroll processing and job costing for the project managers and accountants. Just because such a change might make their jobs easier, it doesn’t mean employees won’t try to drag their feet along the way.

Even the easiest to use technology can intimidate people, especially folks who may be less tech savvy. That’s where goal-setting should come in. Construction leaders should enact training or on-site technology mentorships to put employees’ minds at ease. It is always important to invest  time and resources for proper training and goal setting for each team of employees as a part of the implementation. If the employee can see their opportunity for growth as part of the process, they will be active participants and influencers for the change.

4. Be strategic in the rollout (and remember timing is everything)

A new business initiative or technology implementation will only find success once a plan is in place, and if the team has the appropriate bandwidth to take it on. By the time a launch is being scheduled, managers should have a solid understanding of the amount of time it will take to achieve measurable success. For example, if a payroll team is at maximum resource capacity already, an impactful implementation of a mobile workforce solution for their employee time tracking may need to wait until the proper resources can be committed to the project. However, like most process improvements, this type of efficiency has a substantial and almost immediate return on investment. So don’t wait too long. Rollouts on new processes should also be paced out accordingly to ensure teams don’t get overwhelmed with too many changes all at once. This also allows for employees to adapt and ask questions mid-stream, which increases engagement along the way.

Change is happening in 2021, and it’s up to construction leaders to pave the way for their teams to make the best change choices while in the mode. Take the extra steps and ensure that the new technologies and other investments being made are implemented and used. It will ensure the changes in the new year are for the better.

The article is authored by Mike Merrill, cofounder and COO of mobile-resource-management software provider WorkMax.