Technology has transformed our personal lives. At home, we expect to be able to order the weekly shop, book a doctor’s appointment and check the weather at the click of a button. These experiences have also impacted our expectations at work; most employees today expect to use technology to make their job easier.
However, on construction sites it’s often a different story because of our continuing reliance on paper. Paper drawings create issues like admin and even mistakes on-site, with serious impacts on employee engagement and productivity. At a time when Brexit may further heighten the construction skills shortage, our Digital Foundations report explores firms’ challenges with talent and how technology could improve workers’ lives.
Talent is the biggest challenge
UK construction firms are experiencing acute talent challenges. In fact, two-fifths (38%) of construction professionals say that talent is their biggest concern for the year ahead. Shortages of workers are already impacting business outputs, as nearly half (46%) say lack of resource most limits their productivity.
Unfortunately, it looks likely that these talent shortages will only worsen. At present, over 8% of construction workers come from the EU and Brexit may limit this stream of talent. Moreover, the Farmer Review predicts that the industry will need to gain 700,000 workers in the next decade. Attracting and retaining workers has never been more important to businesses’ success.
The problem with motivation
It’s clear that getting the most out of the workers on-site is critical, but professionals point to ongoing challenges relating to outdated working practices and the persistence of paper. Nearly a quarter of firms (22%) say all projects are entirely paper-based, with one in ten making minimal or no use of technology. As a result, over a third (38%) point to an inordinate focus on administrative tasks in the business.
But critically, paper documentation can also lead to inaccuracy and even mistakes; two thirds of professionals (68%) say that rework is the main cause of unnecessary time on projects. Errors harm the profitability of jobs and the motivation of workers – issues that construction firms can’t afford in the current landscape.
Technology on the site
Digital tools can significantly improve the efficiency of construction sites. Digital drawings can be shared with the whole team instantly to ensure that everyone is working from one set of plans, reducing mistakes and frustration caused by outdated information. Users can mark-up notes and changes on tablets, significantly reducing time spend on administration. Importantly, technology can also support the standardisation of processes, so that everyone can follow best practice with ease.
New tools are simple to use and can support the engagement and productivity of workers of all ages. Providing the best tools for the job can help firms attract talent at a time when competition is fierce. Importantly, digital tools will also help firms to attract the next generation of talent into construction to provide much-needed workers for the future.
Companies with foresight will look to recruit from other industries, bringing in employees with experience of technology solutions to help boost productivity. It’s undoubtedly a challenging time for talent in construction, but with technology, and a few digital champions to drive change in the sector we can improve our productivity today and for the future.