The industrialization of construction presents challenges for management
Of course, people are essential to the success of any business, but as the infrastructure industry evolves, the engagement, training and development of its employees will be of paramount importance.
Facing new challenges and new opportunities will require an adaptable leadership team that is as adept at traditional high-quality team and project management as it is in the business, strategic, technology and media skills needed to manage heightened expectations. new and existing stakeholders.
The challenges are often the most obvious and include a potential conflict of incentives, shifting from a short-term to a longer-term perspective, and managing employees of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and skills. Management must be prepared to address talent shortages, adapting and using technology and engaging with a much wider and more diverse range of colleagues and consultants, as well as public opinion.
The successful entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future will be those who can think strategically, who can lead by example, and who can educate and engage both the workforce and the communities whose their projects will benefit.
The leaders of the future
The shift to modular construction and manufacturing methods is massive and will require innovative thinking. While traditional leadership teams typically feature a “chief operating officer” or other technology-focused role, they are unlikely to already have the kind of in-house board-level expertise required for a real transformation.
Many construction companies will need to look to other sectors, including technology, manufacturing and aerospace, to fill these skills gaps, and a “talent rush” at senior and executive levels is likely. Lendlease, for example, appointed Bill Ruh, formerly of Cisco Systems, as general manager of its digital team in January 2019. Companies can also seek to make strategic acquisitions or enter into joint ventures (JVs) with technology companies. with the necessary expertise – although joint ventures present their own challenges.
Characteristics that this next generation of leaders should embody include:
The approach the management team has taken in the past to winning and delivering large infrastructure projects may need to evolve. Leaders must be able to consider all available options with a long-term, sustainable mindset, and engage with the best and most innovative ideas.
Decisions may need to be based on different metrics and values, different financial environment, more efficient technology, and greater public and workforce influence to best develop and optimize the strategic vision of the organization. business.
Cooperation and commitment
Current leaders cannot be expected to have all the skills and experience required to embrace the new environment in order to deliver major projects. Instead, they must be able to partner and collaborate effectively, with experts and capabilities across the organization as well as with external consultants.
The leadership team should put topics such as effective use of technology, industry evolution, decarbonization and social impact at the top of the list. They will be expected to engage and inspire colleagues and consultants across a much wider range of disciplines and skill sets than they have in the past.
Infrastructure leaders must be able to educate and engage on the themes of industrialization and decarbonization, and the opportunities they create within the sector.
The team should lead by example, both in their language and in their decisions, when it comes to technology opportunities, reputational influence and financial impact. Given the direct impact of infrastructure projects on communities, leaders must be in touch with public opinion and be able to communicate and educate effectively through public and social media platforms.
Infrastructure companies have a fantastic track record when it comes to promoting colleagues within the organization. However, the management team will increasingly have to consider strategic and diverse recruitment. This will likely involve recruiting from outside the sector where appropriate, and recruiting people from different backgrounds, with different characteristics and different international experience.
Increasing talent diversity is necessary in an industry facing change on multiple fronts. There will be an increased demand for change management skills, technology experience and legal experience. The sector will need to reposition itself and the range of careers it offers to compete with other sectors looking to increase their own digital skills.
Diversity of departments
Another option for changing the business is either to create a new leadership role within the organization or to make a strategic acquisition of the relevant business or technology, either through a simple acquisition or through the through a joint venture agreement. Both options are something the management team should actively consider and consider.
Incentive to change
Employers will need to reinvent how to engage the entire workforce to prioritize the industrialization of the sector within the workforce and encourage employees to embrace innovative ways of working and to focus on innovation in their functions. This could be based on career development opportunities, changes in job descriptions and key performance indicators, the development of values and an organizational objective related to industrialization and sustainability and, of course, reviewing the way financial and compensation benefits are determined.
Developing the talents of tomorrow
Management teams will also be responsible for attracting and retaining more junior talent with the right mix of leadership and technical skills to build the business for the future.
The construction industry is already facing a general skills shortage due to the attractiveness of other industries, including technology. Recruiting, retaining and developing staff with the right mix of skills will depend on their ability to compete in these sectors. Opportunities for career growth and development, a strong mix of benefits, and alignment with people’s personal values will all need to be considered.
One of the most effective ways to attract top talent to this industry has always been to have the best projects to work on. Being seen as a leader in decarbonization and innovation could in itself be one of the best ways to ensure that the company is able to attract and retain these talented people.
Change the culture
Achieving all of this will also require a cultural change within the company, on which the management team will have to play a proactive role.
Implementing the required cultural change could be as simple as incremental internal policy changes regarding how compensation is determined and bonus policies implemented – including through long-term incentive plans, linked to decarbonization commitments – and the allocation of budget to areas of the business that help drive its evolution.