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Headed into the 2002 season, Billy Beane, general manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, was forced to rethink his team’s strategy for player recruitment. Due to ownership not having the financial punching-power of the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers, Beane introduced the now famous "moneyball" method to give the Oakland team a competitive edge despite limited financial resources at their disposal.

Back then, popular recruitment techniques in MLB involved chasing players based on the scouting department’s gut feel and players with high home run and batting statistics, but this often came with extremely high salaries. Beane and his staff adapted their recruitment approach and instead of attempting to compete financially in a league they couldn’t afford to compete in, the Athletics began pursuing players with undervalued skill sets and statistics (e.g. high on-base percentages and pitches faced per at bat). This allowed the team more effective salary control based on what they knew were undervalued player attributes, which directly correlated into better team stats (wins) and a happy ownership group.

Contractors might ask, “What does this have to do with us?” As the built world becomes increasingly challenging, tracking workforce analytics serves to increase business and financial performance, due to an increase in workforce optimization. Sisense wrote about the importance of workforce analytics, explaining that a company’s workforce management system is not only important, but that “the organization’s human capital is its most important asset.” How does that system look today? In most cases, workforce management will be housed in a series of spreadsheets, mainly because that method is free. Free, in this case, doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost. The lack of transparency and data integrity often leads to costly miscommunications, not to mention the countless unproductive hours spent maintaining a manual data-entry system.

Similar to a potential investor seeing suboptimal growth due to improperly investing their capital, an organization without proper workforce analytics should also expect to lag behind as other general contractors invest in optimizing operations and gaining that competitive advantage. This article will take a look at what workforce data is, why it is used and how investing in it can give contractors, willing to level up their workforce planning, a leg up on their competition.

What is Workforce Data?

Workforce data uses business analytics and other techniques to analyze people-related data. This data allows construction business leaders to make better decisions and improve overall business performance, talent management, employee retention and client satisfaction. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, at the end of 2010, “workforce data” was yet to be included in business terminology and certainly wasn’t being searched on Google.

Fast forward to today, and the search for “workforce data” results in a slight increase of just over 158 million pages. Contrary to popular belief however, workforce data focuses on much more than just “hiring and firing.” It also concentrates on the return on value for every hire. Most importantly, it highlights specific data that identifies workplace trends such as potential risk factors, satisfaction with company and project-level decisions and strategy, skill gaps and project requirements that aren’t being met.

Why Do Contractors Need to Start Tracking Their Workforce Data?

Without a doubt, successful general contractors spend countless hours ensuring their workforce is composed of the right people, on the right projects, at the right time. What separates many successful companies from the pack is finding the answer to the question, “Why do we do this?”

Leadership teams across multiple industries have a tendency to stick with common practice because it has always been the status quo. Companies that adopt workforce analytics are not only able to identify high performing individuals and projects that best suit their skill sets, they are also able to identify areas of focus to increase productivity and the best course of action in regards to succession planning and promotions. Here are just three of the top reasons general contractors need to use start leveraging their workforce data:

1. Optimize workforce planning for the long term.

Having accessible, accurate workforce data can have a major impact when operations are piecing together a workforce strategy into the coming months. It allows them to match build-type experience and other people-characteristics with specific projects and create well balanced teams to drive not only productivity, but client satisfaction.

Workforce data also helps to better understand team utilization and ensure contractors are getting the most out of their workforce. Construction workforce planning tools also can identify project allocation issues that arise and provide an opportunity to remedy the issue before it becomes a conflict for the project, or the organization.

2. Improve employee retention by understanding their needs and satisfaction.

In an age where quality labor is scarce and turnover is extremely costly, construction specific workforce management systems and people analytics will help a company understand their team members’ psychology. More specifically, they can identify reasons for individuals that may be performing above or below company expectations.

Employee retention continually ranks high as a best practice for cost effective and long-term success. The goal is to uncover factors affecting performance and engagement and to overcome them by fostering better conditions. Contractors can also easily track team member experience more accurately and allow for new project experiences to optimize teamwork and productivity. This enables continuous learning for their team, and forecasting opportunities for growth down the line. And of course, contractors don’t want to lose those resources that their clients ask for again and again.

3. Create a better criterion for hiring the right new staff and a better hiring process.

Talent management is always complex, regardless of a company’s size or scope. Workforce analytics helps to identify skill sets that are required from new hires based on active team members in similar positions, their success, and company and project needs. More importantly, they can better understand new candidates based on historical data to determine whether or not they would be a good fit for their organization.

How do companies use workforce data?

Workforce data can also be used to evaluate more than just existing staff by analyzing the trends that surround employment. According to an article published by ADP, two interesting ways companies can utilize workforce data include:

  1. Benchmarking. Insights from third party organizations to benchmark where a company stands in the industry either regionally or nationally; and
  2. Forecasting. Real time oversight into making informed project decisions regarding talent productivity/availability is only possible with rich data and select tools.

In order to create quantifiable metrics for production and forecasting, the construction industry has adopted a statistical concept commonly referred to as construction key performance indicators. This dataset measures a team’s performance with statistics and allows for additional metrics or targets that provide relevant information and visibility regarding the company’s performances in various categories.

In a tight talent market, company leaders utilize construction workforce planning tools to provide clear visibility of their workforce data. This helps to better understand their workforce, its trends and how to use it to unlock a competitive edge. Being able to identify high performance individuals, or “diamonds in the rough,” will allow companies to easily shift them into business-critical roles and start developing their skill sets as soon as possible.


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