It’s the start of a new year, which means now is the perfect time for contractors and construction professionals to step back, reassess their daily work lives and make necessary adjustments. From management style to charity work, it’s all about making 2017 a successful year. Here are five New Year's resolutions for construction pros this year.
Advocate for career training
The construction industry has been wrestling with the impact of skilled labor shortages ever since workers were forced to seek other jobs during the recession. Looking ahead, the aging-out of many workers is on the way, and there aren't enough young people coming into the industry to fill the ranks.
That's where career technical training has so much to offer. These programs provide a career option for adults or for high school students who are not college bound. However, it can be difficult for some institutions to lure people in, and industry pros can make a big difference.
Some of these schools are desperate for construction experts to help recruit students by sharing their experiences and lessons about entering the field. Construction pros can also convey the realities of the industry, as well as potentially provide internships for future leaders.
Contractors can turn the new year into an experment in efficiency though the incorporation of Lean principles into construction management practices. Books and seminars on the topic abound, but those resources sometimes offer conflicting takes on Lean.
However, Mike Stark, executive director of knowledge programs and building markets with the Associated General Contractors of America, put it simply when he told Construction Dive last year that "Lean tries to maximize value and minimize waste." At the heart of Lean are the Five Ss:
- Sorting (doing away with nonessentials)
- Setting things in order (organizing)
- Shining and sweeping (keeping physical space clean)
- Standardization (developing routine work processes)
- Sustaining (maintenance of the first four steps)
Even though the steps seem straightforward, developing and sticking to a new way of doing things, especially on an often-chaotic job site, is never easy. Fortunately, groups like the AGC, the Lean Enterprise Institute and the Lean Construction Institute stand at the ready with resources, workshops and other educational opportunities about Lean practices.
Take flight into the world of drones
Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration opened up a world of possibilities for the construction industry by publishing its first-ever rules for commercial drone use. Construction-related businesses were already big users of drones, but contractors — and anyone else who wanted to take advantage of the technology — had to deal with strict rules and file for individual exemptions.
The new FAA rules do have some restrictions — such as banning flying at night or using a drone over 55 pounds — but companies can apply for waivers from these and other requirements. Waiver applications are also providing the foundation for future rule changes as the FAA fine-tunes them for best practices.
Even though the drone market will change in response to new technology and regulations, now is the time to get started. Drones can give contractors a bird's eye view of the job site and even send data to building information modeling systems for constant monitoring of progress and as-built design. With prices for entry-level drones at reasonable levels and a license for anyone over 16 relatively easy to secure, confronting 2017 with the help of a drone can help construction professionals keep schedules and budgets on target.
Spearhead a charity initiative
Having just come out of the holiday season, many companies — construction and otherwise — could be feeling that they have made their communities better as a result of employee charity initiatives. But it's never too early to start planning for next year, and there are plenty of organizations that need commitments all year long.
Hungry families, sick children and people without adequate shelter are consistent issues, and contractors can establish year-round programs to supplement annual giving. If a company doesn't currently support a charity, the United Way, Habitat for Humanity and Shriners Hospital for Children are great places to start.
Keep an eye out for troubled coworkers
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control issued a blockbuster report that laid out a sad truth for the industry: the construction workforce is at a higher risk for suicide than almost any other industry. The report found that construction had the second-highest suicide rate of all industries studied, and, in 2012, its suicide rate was more than four times the national average.
The CDC also revealed something that should come as no surprise to contractors: Those workers at risk often don't seek help because of the stigma attached to mental illness. But here's where contractors can make a huge difference. Groups like the Construction Financial Management Association — which launched the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention — have the resources necessary to train management and employees on methods to spot at-risk coworkers and employees.
Suicide prevention activists have emphasized that the onus is on industry leaders to implement real change within their companies and within the sector, rather than brush the issue aside.