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Adopting digital transformation

Does the construction industry have the right skills to adopt digital transformation? Richard Gelder, Director of Hays Construction and Property, looks at the issues.

Digital transformation is sweeping across almost every aspect of our lives, generating unprecedented and constant change.

Within construction, there’s a range of different technologies being adopted across the industry, from tools to enable better communication such as cloud and management software, to tech which can facilitate better design and visualisation, such as drones and 3D software.

It’s an exciting time for the sector and in short, the use and application of a variety of tools will help the construction industry become safer, more efficient and more collaborative. However, as an industry undergoing great transformation and change but also facing considerable skills gaps, employers are under a vast amount of pressure to find the right talent whilst ensuring their existing workforce can embrace new ways of working.

Employers are prioritising digital transformation, but their workforce lacks the right skills

In research from our Hays What Workers Want 2019 report, we found that over two-thirds (68%) of construction and property respondents say their organisation’s investment in digital transformation is either a primary or secondary focus.

However, just under half (47%) of construction and property employers say they do not currently have access to the skills to enable them to make the best use of automation technology, and just over half (51%) state that these shortages apply to both technical and soft skills.

Hiring for the all-important ‘open mindset’ towards technological change is a must for employers, and professionals must make sure their openness towards using new technology in the workplace shines through. This will allow both employers and employees to make the most of the benefits that digital transformation and automation can bring. So, what can employers do to address this?

Employers must facilitate more training and support

Close to half (57%) of construction and property professionals told us that training is the most important factor for their organisation to focus on to ensure digital transformation is a success. Positively, employers agree with employees that training should be prioritised, yet not enough employers are offering the right support to help staff upskill.

Over a third of professionals in the industry (37%) told us that their employer isn’t helping them to prepare for digital transformation in the workplace.

Employers need to ensure that training opportunities are appropriate to both the needs of the individual and the goals of the organisation. The importance of culture shouldn’t be overlooked too, as having a working environment that is open to change will help cultivate open discussion around digital transformation and encourage upskilling.

I’d urge employers to review their current training offering and consider whether it is something they should be looking to invest in more. This could be something as simple as providing bite-sized resources to help facilitate independent learning, or potentially introducing mentoring schemes to help enable digital skills transference.

Whatever your approach, it is crucial that employees’ development is supported so they do not feel forced to upskill themselves in isolation and without proper guidance.

Ensuring your workforce possesses the skills needed for a more automated future will enable your organisation to reap the benefits associated with digital transformation.

Skilled workers will be drawn to employers who promote their investment in digital transformation

As the industry continues to face skills shortages and competition from other organisations in attracting staff, employers must promote their investment in digital transformation to prospective staff.

According to our research, less than a third (31%) of employers currently promote their organisation’s investment in digital transformation during interviews, which may well be a missed opportunity given that 41% of construction and property professionals say they would be attracted to work for an employer who is investing in automation and other types of digital technology.

To make this happen, employers need to be promoting their investment at all stages of the hiring process, from job adverts up to onboarding. Additionally, employers should make sure their investment is promoted to their existing workforce to ensure staff are aware of the opportunities this investment can bring.

Is digital transformation helping or hindering the skills crisis in construction?

As the range of roles adapt and change, construction will be competing with other industries for digital talent, and as such employers will need to develop compelling offers to attract staff.

However, employers who are investing in digital transformation are more likely to reap the benefits of doing so quicker, such as enabling professionals to focus on higher value tasks, as well as taking away any admin burdens. In time, this will help ease some skills pressures as well as improving productivity, efficiencies, cost savings and increased opportunities to add human value.

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