Technology has significantly changed the way construction companies do business. For example, architects and contractors have stopped printing thousands of drawings, preferring to create electronic versions instead. Green design initiatives and new building science are transforming the types of projects being built, which in turn require new skills, materials and technology. In short, the construction industry has gone high tech.

Even as construction companies face new trends and emerging technologies, they still face traditional challenges related to their employees, including escalating labor costs, compliance and union issues, and managing remote workers at many different jobsites. These challenges are significant and can’t be ignored; often, they make all the difference in achieving profit targets for a particular project or going into the red.

For example, construction executives need real-time data about their employees in order to perform accurate job costing and prepare favorable, yet competitive, bids. At the same time, they need visibility into field operations to make sure employees are as productive as possible and minimize compliance risks that could result in costly fines or litigation.

How can construction companies achieve these day-to-day benefits and, in turn, drive revenues, improve profitability and gain a competitive advantage? For many innovative companies today, the answer is workforce management technology.

Workforce management technology completely automates employee-centric processes such as time and attendance, HR, payroll and scheduling. Not only does this help eliminate time-consuming manual processes—and the errors that accompany them—but it also provides real-time labor data that construction companies need to achieve business goals.

Workforce management solutions allow construction executives and managers to: increase worker productivity (including remote employees) and control labor costs; improve the accuracy of job costing for future bids by tracking true labor costs for each job; minimize compliance risks by consistently applying pay rules and preserving all data for record-keeping; and empower managers and employees with the information they need to make better business decisions.

Easy to Deploy

Let’s face it: Many construction companies tend to have limited resources (or appetite) when it comes to finding, implementing and maintaining new technology. Executives in other industries have the luxury of turning this responsibility over to seasoned IT departments and staff, but those in construction often have to do it themselves or ask for help from busy employees who may lack IT experience. While a workforce management solution makes good business sense, “decision inertia” often takes over.

However, owning a workforce management system has never been easier. Because most are now delivered as a cloud-based solution, construction companies can avoid installation and maintenance headaches—perfect for small to mid-sized companies that may not have IT staff or bandwidth to manage these efforts. The vendor maintains the technology, performs upgrades and supports programs, freeing up in-house personnel to focus on core business initiatives. And for budget-conscious organizations, these solutions are delivered as software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscriptions with a predictable fee structure.  

Complete Visibility Into Remote Employees

Construction workers don’t stay in the office; they work on remote jobsites and move from project to project. In theory, this should demonstrate that the entire organization can be nimble and effective, but in reality, managers don’t always have full visibility into their performance. Think quick: Who’s working on what project right now? Who’s punching in for whom? Which employees aren’t working at their full capacity? Too often, the answer to these important questions is, “I don’t know.”

Workforce management solutions put information in the hands of the right employees, where and when they need it. For example, using any mobile device, workers can punch in, or they can access labor information such as their time sheets and accrual balances. The system can even automatically track employees’ locations through GPS technology. Managers also can gain visibility into how labor costs are being spent—by site, by trade and by project—in time to make changes and influence results.  

Improve Job Costing

Materials, equipment and labor are the three most significant expenses in construction today. Labor is the most controllable cost and often the largest. Even as the construction market recovers from the recession, contractors continue to face razor-thin profit margins. Having an accurate picture of labor costs is now mandatory for executives to stay competitive.

Workforce management technology can help eliminate typical challenges, such as mistakenly inflating job bids or underbidding a job and then scrambling to make up the difference with change orders. Once a job is won, it’s critical to understand how employees’ time factors in. Additionally, knowing exact labor costs leads to better business decisions (e.g., when to move employees from job to job at regular pay or when to use overtime to get the job done).

With workforce management, construction companies can track true labor costs (by supervisor and by job) so executives have visibility into their labor costs at any given time.  

Improve Safety and Minimize Compliance Risk

When it comes to safety, construction workers face unique on-the-job risks. Companies typically need to staff a job quickly, which means they may not have enough time to obtain employee data or background information. Yet they must still comply with federal, state and local building codes, safety and environmental rules, and specific regulations such as the Affordable Care Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Again, workforce management technology can help. By automating the efforts related to collecting time and attendance data and applying the correct tax and overtime rules, this technology takes care of HR functions, such as providing health and safety information and performing hiring checks. Plus, construction companies can create schedules based on predefined criteria—including employee availability, skills, certifications, policies, union rules and more—so the right person is in the right place at the right time.

Workforce management can serve as a cost-effective solution to control labor costs, minimize compliance risks and maximize employee productivity. In turn, this adds up where it matters most: better top-line revenues and bottom-line results.

Kylene Zenk Batsford is senior manager of manufacturing and construction practice at Kronos Incorporated. For more information, visit www.kronos.com.