The construction industry is evolving rapidly with the advent of new technologies. From BIM to drones and augmented reality, these technological advancements have the potential to revolutionize the way construction companies operate.
However, integrating new technology into construction requires skilled and knowledgeable employees and many contractors find themselves unprepared. In fact, the top two concerns cited by specialty contractors for new tech integration are training and education, according to a recent survey by Dodge Data and Procore.
Procore recently met with Misty Lauer, VP of accounting at Willmar Electric Services, to discuss this very topic. In addition to Lauer’s finance duties she also oversees implementation and employee training on new tech solutions. A known thought leader and expert in new tech training and adoption, Lauer’s shares her best practices across some of the most common challenges specialty contractors face with technology implementation and adoption.
Overcoming the Tech Knowledge Gap
A significant challenge across specialty contractors is the lack of technological skills and experience among many construction workers. Many employees may not have previous experience with advanced technology or possess the necessary digital skills to utilize it effectively. This knowledge gap can hinder the adoption and implementation of new technology within construction projects. To combat these challenges, Lauer suggests a combination of meeting team members where they are with their tech skills and their physical location.
“When we train in the field, the first thing we do is take into consideration the type of computer they’re using. Are they using Android, iOS, Windows? We also then take into consideration their internet connection or how that device is going to operate offline or online,” explained Lauer.
“The second thing we do is we build a kind of a committee around that training. So it might be working with a superintendent or an apprentice or an electrician in our case and getting them together and talking about where we need to train in that software and how we’re going to do it. Then we bring that training to them as much as possible. If we can go to the job site, we go to the job site and do the training there,” Lauer added.
Tech Training Can Actually Be Fun
In addition to making training accessible and convenient for teams, especially the field, Lauer believes having the right incentives are also very important. In her experience, having reward systems in place doesn’t always equal success but instead she has seen success in making training and education engaging and actually fun.
“We really put our energy into making sure that implementation, training and development of the users and their continuing education program has a high level of energy and engagement. So we use a lot of gamification in our training materials,” explained Lauer. “Whether that’s using something like Kahoot, or we even created a Procore Jeopardy game. Those are the types of things that make it fun for the users to be learning. Nobody wants to sit in training for even a half hour if it’s boring.”
Getting Past The Resistance to Change
One of the primary challenges construction companies face when introducing new technology is resistance to change. Many employees are comfortable with traditional methods and may be hesitant to adopt unfamiliar tools and processes. This reluctance can stem from various factors, such as fear of the unknown, lack of awareness about the benefits of new technology, and concerns about job security.
“When I think of the biggest challenges for implementing new technology, two things come to the top of my mind. The first one is reducing the fear of change in our employees. And the second one is advancing the usage after the implementation process,” said Lauer.
To overcome resistance, companies must create a culture that embraces innovation. It’s important for leaders, and technology providers, to demonstrate how technology actually makes their jobs more efficient, easier, and more enjoyable. Developing a culture of technology should demonstrate a company’s willingness to invest in their employees, not as a way to replace them or make their jobs more difficult. This commitment to using technology to enhance the employee experience rather than diminish it is exactly what Lauer is doing at Willmar.
“I think culture is very important. At Willmar Electric, early on in my hiring process, one of the things that they spoke frequently about is investing in our employees. And still today, many years later, one of the top priorities year after year is for us to focus on education and training our employees, investing in them so that they can identify the potential they may not be using today and help them see that path for development and growth in their professional careers,” said Lauer.
By fostering an environment that encourages curiosity, collaboration, and continuous learning, construction companies can motivate employees to embrace new technology. Providing comprehensive training programs and clearly communicating the benefits of new technology can also help alleviate resistance and build confidence among employees.
Successful Scalability and Standardization
Specialty contractors often face challenges when scaling the implementation of new technology across multiple projects and sites. Maintaining consistency and standardization in technology usage becomes increasingly difficult as the organization grows across projects, regions, and offices.
To address this challenge, specialty contractors should develop standardized training programs that can be easily replicated and customized for different projects and sites. However, due to limited resources not all specialty contractors can budget for dedicated construction technology specialists that can ensure standardization of tech usage across all sites.
To address this problem, Lauer has developed creative and successful solutions. For example, when implementing new tech, Lauer recruits internal employees who she refers to as “super users.”
“Identifying the super users in the different departments is important early on, so that way they can help with the implementation process or the training that needs to be carried on after the implementation,” Lauer advised.
Super users are not only primary users of tech they are also internal advocates and trainers. Being comfortable in training situations is a key component to her selection process of super users.
“Most important of all things is finding out their comfort level to help somebody else with technology. Not everybody’s comfortable with presenting, so we don’t want to put somebody in an uncomfortable position when it comes to training their coworkers,” noted Lauer.
In addition to recruiting internal users that can aid in training and implementation, regular feedback loops and continuous improvement processes should be established to identify and address any training gaps or challenges that arise during the scaling process.
Investing in Tech is Investing in Your Team
Training employees on new technology presents several challenges for construction companies. Overcoming lack of experience with new tech, addressing resistance to change, and ensuring scalability and standardization are critical to successful technology adoption. By creating a culture of innovation and providing comprehensive training programs, specialty contractors can equip their workforce with the necessary skills to embrace new technology.
“We’ve found that if you invest in the employees’ training and development, you also reduce their stress at work because they know how to use the tools they have, which helps them do their work a little bit more productively and with less frustration,” said Lauer.