Rethinking Labour Management in Construction

With projected construction industry growth over the next five years, it’s expected that another 76,000 workers will be needed to meet the demand across Australia. Rethinking labour management has never been more important.

The construction industry directly employs almost 1.2 million Australians and supports almost half a million other roles. It plays a pivotal role in driving the job market.

The top five occupations of Australia’s construction workforce are currently tradespeople and construction managers.

OccupationNumber Employed (Four Quarter Average, 2020)
Carpenters and joiners105,000
Construction managers92,900
Building and plumbing labourers53,000

New technologies are changing the way buildings are constructed and projects are delivered, shaping the construction jobs of the future.

A planned approach to building your workforce and effective labour management begins with a clear understanding of the broader construction market needs and emerging skills and technologies.

You’ll need to consider the gaps and opportunities within your current workforce and how to position your offering to attract people who will benefit your business into the longer term.

New and emerging technologies will need specialised staff

Failing to implement the tools, training and skills that make work easier, faster and more accurate costs businesses money—not only in lost production time but also in fixing mistakes and losing staff to competitors doing it better.

Adopting new technologies isn’t just for large companies. A range of technologies are available to construction businesses of all sizes, meaning industry leaders will need people with the skills to ensure their business is competitive. The key emerging skills areas are digital, technical and collaborative abilities.

You can automate your workflow and administrative functions to boost productivity. While you may need less office-based staff, you can use the savings to invest in skilled people who harness the power of 3D printing and digital collaboration. You can also tap into training and development to help your people stay up to date in the fast-paced digital world.

Technical skills are shifting as a result of the introduction of new trends such as modular construction. People and teams need skills across digital design, estimating, offsite manufacturing, logistics, site management and integration and onsite placement and assembly.

Geospatial engineering is now also an important element of construction projects, helping to map through GIS along with aerial/drone/satellite imagery and other technologies. A geospatial engineer needs the skills to map, collect and analyse geographic data using mapping technologies such as GIS and GPS.

Sustainable building methods will require new skills and innovative thinking

Sustainability is much more than a buzzword. It is all about taking up opportunities to work smarter and more effectively to deliver better outcomes, whether that be using digital tools to improve estimations, save wastage with materials or to construct buildings that are energy efficient.

Public and private sector clients are also now expecting to see proposals that demonstrate how you embed sustainability into your business across design, planning, materials, construction and in your administrative functions.

Sustainable construction is also about building in ways that improve our broader global goals of preserving our environment. Meeting challenges of building orientation, while also sourcing efficient materials, water management systems and more requires soft skills in lateral thinking, innovation and complex problem-solving. These soft skills are just as important as technical skills and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Upskilling the workforce will need strong leadership

The one constant in today’s world is change, and successful change begins with leadership that walks the talk.

Introducing new ways of working, building capability into your workforce and mobilising new technologies sometimes creates uncertainty in teams—not knowing what this means for their futures as well as the challenge of ongoing learning. All roles are changing—from your bookkeepers and marketing personnel to your designers, engineers, project managers and tradespeople. Creating a culture of learning and innovation will empower your teams to see change not as a threat, but an opportunity.

Firstly, identify where the gaps are in skills needed across the team. Then, identify who in your team needs these skills and work with them to help them grow their expertise. Learning can be formal, with dedicated long or short-term courses; it may be about reading local trends and doing online or offline workshops, joining industry forums or taking part in conferences and networking events.

Staying connected with peers across different businesses—even in different industries—can help your people stay on top of new and better ways of doing their job.

Two final things to consider when building your construction workforce:

What are the skills and attributes you need long-term?

Think beyond just the obvious daily tasks. How will the people you hire fit into your business in the longer term? Are their skills adaptable or sought after? Are they a “cultural fit” for your team? Do they have initiative?

Understand the value of the people you’re looking for

When taking on a new person, your offer to them reflects how you value their experience and their qualifications. Your offer, which is beyond simply the weekly pay packet, will influence who applies to join your workforce and how long they will stay.

Think about how you’re building a team that is productive and loyal to the business, and that is a team that wants to stay and help you achieve greater outcomes.

A workplace that values staff through recognising achievements, celebrating successes, investing in training and development and that also makes sure that their people have the tools at their fingertips to make their job easier will always be attractive to potential new team members.

Construction leaders are studying the principles of change management