Encouraging Adaptability in a Construction Business
By Evelyn Long, Editor-in-Chief of Renovated.
The construction industry is traditionally somewhat hidebound — it is slow to adopt new techniques and technologies and incredibly resistant to change. However, in the face of a pandemic, ongoing industry disruptions and a labor shortage, a lack of adaptability will threaten construction businesses that could otherwise pivot to face new challenges.
Flexibility and resilience are key to growth in today’s world. Here’s how construction company owners can work to encourage adaptability in their businesses and why it’s vital to do so.
Create a Culture of Adaptability
Advice about improving any aspect of a business will likely include a bullet point about creating a certain culture. When it comes down to it, flexibility is no different.
It’s easy to say, “let’s be flexible when it comes to business,” but unless everyone is on board and participating, it’s going to be impossible to achieve. Creating a culture of adaptability ensures it is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It makes it a priority for everyone in the company, regardless of their role, position or pay grade.
Construction managers can achieve this by creating open lines of communication for workers to present obstacles and solutions. What workers may face on the jobsite could elude higher-level management, making this feedback essential for anticipating and adapting for change.
Then, leaders need to make a concerted effort to secure team buy-in on all new initiatives — whether that involves new technologies, safety processes or cultural efforts. There’s no point in purchasing advanced technology if workers are stuck to their old ways in the field. Ensure change is encouraged and celebrated at all levels of the organization.
Encourage Learning and Development
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven, among other things, that clinging to traditional techniques and practices in the construction industry is no longer an option. Companies can’t afford to stagnate while they wait for the world to go back to normal.
One way to avoid this is to encourage employees to improve their skills and learn new ones. This is the perfect opportunity to set up a continuing education program for employees who are interested in seeking new certifications or degrees in their field.
Skilled labor shortages make recruiting and retaining strong workers challenging for organizations. Rather than searching for the candidate with every skill, prepare your current employees for future needs. Investing in growth allows workers to adapt to new technologies and certifications while keeping the organization as a whole primed for change.
Be Ready to Adjust to Customer Behaviour
Construction customers and clients are usually a pleasure to work with, but 2020 and 2021 have been rough for everyone. Even typically even-tempered people might be prone to snapping or other poor behaviour when delays continue to crop up.
Companies need to be prepared to adjust to negative attitudes professionally without offending or alienating the client. Everyone needs and deserves a little bit of patience and compassion as they navigate these stressful and trying times.
Adaptability in client communication requires full transparency and expectation management. Be upfront with clients about the challenges the industry faces and adjust timelines accordingly. When both parties are prepared for flexibility, conflict is more likely to be nipped in the bud.
Look for Service Expansions and Business Ideas
Home builders and construction companies often feel the need to adhere to their specialty. Yet when the market shifts — as it has several times over the past 18 months — how can an established business stay afloat as regular work faces delays or shortages?
Successful construction businesses build service adaptability into their plan. Being able to identify a new venture, assess its practicality and pivot the team toward this effort is crucial to pulling this off. For example, many construction professionals with projects delayed due to the pandemic took efforts to refocus on the needs of their customers — primarily safety management renovations or restoration efforts for reopening buildings.
In an ideal world, specialists could stick to bread-and-butter services. However, don’t let this restrict your organization from pursuing new avenues that could bring in business in tough times.
Consider Networking and Cooperation
The construction industry is fiercely competitive by nature, and while healthy competition can keep the industry thriving, it doesn’t have to completely alienate companies from each other.
Networking and cooperating with other local businesses can help everyone meet their deadlines and keep their clients happy without sacrificing profit or cutting into their bottom lines.The competition doesn’t have to be an ally, but they don’t necessarily need to be an enemy, either.
Struggling to take new projects on with material and labor shortages at hand? Refer business out to other local construction companies.
Adopt Project Management Software
Finally, along with cultural changes come the need for new technologies. Analog data collection and storage may have worked in the past, but the industry is changing, and it’s impossible to keep up with the demand with obsolete techniques. If you’re still working primarily with paper, it’s time to look for a more flexible solution.
Project management software is designed to collect and consolidate all the information and data a company generates, turning it into a useful tool. These programs are infinitely customizable and are created to cater to each organization’s individual needs.
Adaptability Will Carry Construction Forward
No one could have anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic or how it would impact the construction industry. Instead of hunkering down and waiting, companies that want to succeed will seek ways to adapt their processes.
They will make themselves more flexible as the world waits for things to return to some semblance of normality. Once that happens, they will find themselves leading the pack with confidence.