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Implementing New Technology on the Jobsite: Challenges & Opportunities

One of the hardest parts about upgrading technology within a construction firm is getting employees to use the new tools. This can be especially difficult on the job site. Because in-office employees are used to working with computers and software technology as their primary tools, the introduction of new technology should be less jarring. While tech upgrades in an office environment require employee training and workflow changes, it’s still easier than implementing software solutions into work environments where digital technology has been mostly absent.

Mobile technology has a lot to offer, and if workers can be convinced of its usefulness, construction firms can reap the rewards of a more connected, collaborative job site. But, construction companies embarking on digital transformation must be sure that the new products they purchase won’t go to waste. To create a BYOD job site where workers wholeheartedly embrace mobile construction apps, firms must overcome a few challenges.

Challenge #1: Dispelling Myths Around Older Employees & Technology

It’s a common misconception that older generations are not technologically savvy, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology has been embraced across generations, regardless of age. According to the PEW Research Centre, 87% of adults aged 50-64 are online and 87% use social media. Even seniors have embraced the digital revolution, with 6 in 10 using the Internet regularly. As far as mobile technology goes, 74% of adults aged 50-64 and 42% of seniors own a smartphone. Millennials may be been raised with cell phones, computers and the Internet, but older generations are catching up quickly.

Successful implementation of new technology is about training. And regardless of age, construction firms must assess their employees’ skill levels and design a training strategy that will build technological competencies, reduce fear and build confidence.

Before designing a training program, it can be useful to assess where employees are on the spectrum of digital readiness. The following digital readiness categories have been adapted from the PEW Research Centre’s report on online learning:

  • The Unprepared: They lack confidence in their technological skills & need significant help when using new devices.

  • The Traditionalists: They use technology to some extent, but are attached to tools and tech that have worked in the past.

  • The Reluctant: They have more advanced digital skills that The Unprepared or The Traditionalists, but technology is not a big part of their lives.

  • Cautious Clickers: They have a lot of technology available to them and are comfortable with using it.

  • Digitally Ready: They are confident in their ability to use technology and have regular access to many different types of technology.

Determining the digital readiness of employees on the job site can help managers and executives design appropriate training programs that will ensure that every member of the team is taking full advantage of company technology.

Challenge #2: Finding Tech for the Office AND the Jobsite

When a construction firm embarks on a journey towards digital transformation, there are a number of people and needs to satisfy because many different employees across all departments will need to use this system every day.

Smart construction executives talk to their team and create a functionality wish list. Unfortunately, after meeting with their team, many execs become overwhelmed with the long list of requirements. Their project managers are looking for a platform that prioritizes collaboration, onsite workers are looking for expect mobile software to act as a digital multi-tool, accounting wants to streamline client invoicing, and IT wants to minimize the security threat profile.

Balancing this many needs and wants can certainly be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Software that’s been created specifically for the construction industry allows firms to find functionality that will meet the needs of all their team members. Another way to ensure that everyone will be satisfied with the new software is to choose an ERP platform that’s connected to a single database. ERP construction software has a suite of applications for departments across the organizations, but each application is connected to one another using a single database. ERP allows for data to flow freely from one department to another, creating greater connectivity and making collaboration a whole lot easier.

Challenge #3: Overcoming Internal Politics & Resistance to Change

Even with tech-savvy employees and a software system that everyone agrees on, there can still be internal issues within a construction company that make employees reluctant to embrace change. Teams may disagree about the right way to approach an issue, there may be negative chatter about the direction of the company or employees may have fears about the risks associated with change. Whatever the nature of the internal conflicts, it’s important to diagnose and solve them before they become an obstacle to digital transformation. Here are three ways to overcome political challenges and convince employees to embrace change:

1. Get Buy-In

Employees are more likely to feel positively towards tech changes if they’ve played a role in determining what the changes will be and how they will be implemented. Involving all team members in the decision-making process can boost morale and create a greater sense of ownership over the changes made. It can also be hugely beneficial for construction leaders to talk to employees at all levels about their challenges and concerns – they may discover inefficiencies in places they’d never think to look.

2. Show Don’t Tell

Instead of demanding that employees use new tools, show them why it’s in their best interest. As more and more software benefits become evident, employees will start to see that the payoff is worth the effort.

3. Look for Change Evangelists

To help inspire your team and create a shared sense of purpose, look for the individuals in your organization that are eager to embrace new technology and can help convince others to do the same. Change evangelists often have incredible influence over their colleagues and can be an invaluable resource during times of transition.

For more advice on managing change, check out A Case for Change: Company Cultures & Digital Transformation.