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Over the past two years, the pandemic has continuously challenged the workforce status quo across all industries. Much of the focus of this shift centers on large corporations and traditional office environments, and it’s easy to say classic sectors—like construction, farming and manufacturing—don’t have the same luxury of adapting to new workflow trends given their daily business practices have centered around human labor for centuries.

While jobsite employees still constitute a core segment of the construction industry’s workforce, the sector is particularly well-positioned to adopt hybrid workflows and improve collaboration between on- and offsite teams. In fact, contractors are already tasked with managing segmented workforces and streamlining stakeholder communications, especially since it’s rare to have all parties present on a jobsite at the same time, during every stage of the build process.

With the help of emerging technologies, today’s construction leaders can not only bolster their remote collaboration capabilities between on- and offsite staff, but also diversify their workforce and attract much-needed technical talent to the sector.

Find and Deploy the Right Digital Solutions

Faced with high-stakes development projects with little room for error, contractors and site managers must focus on applying the right solutions to the appropriate use cases to solve an immediate workflow problem, rather than impulsively adopting the newest, shiniest technology on the market. The iPad is the perfect example of a “first-generation” innovation that has already transformed processes and seen adoption on virtually every worksite. From streamlining cross-team communication to tracking build progress and productivity, iPads allowed the modern contractor to transition away from analog records and toward a connected worksite, no matter where individual managers, surveyors and excavator operator specialists are located.

More recently, the rise of digital twin technology further enables project planners and managers to conduct business offsite. While the construction sector traditionally operated under a “trial-by-fire” approach—planning as best they can, digging and then checking progress after the fact—each part of this process can now be modeled, reconfigured, and optimized via digital simulations before ever breaking ground on a new project. Not only does this mean less mistakes and better communication throughout the build, but the team in charge of worksite planning and progress tracking can develop these models completely offsite and easily share their digital twins with a variety of stakeholders in different regions.

Similarly, drone technology helps surveyors eliminate bottlenecks and empower worksites with the data needed to build 3D models. As opposed to spending days manually walking a worksite, surveyors now use drones to capture highly accurate aerial images of the project and then aggregate that information into a shareable survey in just a few hours. Team members on the ground can then independently conduct regular flights above the worksite while the project’s head surveyor aggregates the data and tracks build progress from a remote office. In this way, digital twins provide an indisputable, single source of truth to unify employees working on- and offsite at any given time.

Use Technology to Recruit a New Generation

The “great resignation” and the preference towards hybrid work significantly contributes to the construction industry’s ongoing labor shortage. A recent report found the industry needs to hire an additional 2.2 million workers over the next three years to keep up with the current demand, and a failure to adopt more flexible workflows could be detrimental to the sector.

By embracing a hybrid model, firms broaden their applicant pool beyond the local market. If site planning, model building, progress tracking and more can all be done remotely with the help of new technologies, contractors can hire for these positions solely from a skills standpoint, removing limitations due to different time zones or in-person site visits. Notably, firms experiencing an “off season” due to local weather restrictions or other environmental factors, can now lend their staff to projects in other regions, better using human resources and providing access to a wider pool of industry experts across the country.

Beyond enabling certain roles to operate offsite, new tools like digital twins and drone surveying technology also help firms attract up-and-coming talent. Today’s college graduates are enticed by cutting edge technologies, and adoption of these advanced tools on worksites helps to reframe the industry from one that’s antiquated to one that’s constantly innovating and pushing the envelope when it comes to modernizing operations.

Classic industries, like construction, do not have to wait for the equivalent of machines from sci-fi movies to make it to market before transitioning to more tech-backed operations. Instead, today’s intuitive tech tools can unify fragmented worksites and address the staggering labor challenges. With hybrid operations on track to become a long-lasting fixture of the modern workplace, there’s no better time for construction businesses to lean into their existing remote-friendly operations.

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