“It is the first time that a number of 100-plus-year-old construction firms are waking up in a cold sweat and saying, ‘We might get Uber’d.’ Instead of innovating to improve productivity, there is a sense of urgency and need to innovate to survive, let alone thrive.” — Darren Bechtel, Founder, Managing Director, Brick & Mortar Ventures (as told to BuiltWorlds)
“One of the biggest risks today is not leveraging technology, or refusing to be an early adopter of the ‘next big thing.’ There will be major technological disrupters in this market, and the company that’s slow to pick up on them is essentially diminishing its position in a very competitive industry.” — Patrick O’Connor, Vice President of Risk Management and Counsel, The Walsh Group (as told to FMI Corp.)
Declarations like these are not hyperbole, nor are they specific to the AEC industry. Leaders in almost all business sectors—if they are half-way competent—operate their organizations with a sense of angst and a healthy dose of paranoia, preparing for what’s around the corner.
Well, there is plenty around the corner these days, and AEC firms are scrambling to adjust to the coming “new normal” of commercial design and construction.
Are we ready for technological disruption? What tools and processes can we employ to gain efficiencies and eliminate waste? Who are our future leaders? What skills are required for the next generation of practitioners? What are the short- and long-term needs of our clients, and their building assets? Is Google going to take our jobs? (No joke. I’ve heard this one more than once.)
These are among the litany of considerations that AEC firms must address to future-proof their organizations.
But while talk of the disruptive nature of technology and innovation captures the headlines, what’s really keeping the leaders of the nation’s largest general contractor and construction management firms up at night is people.
In a new survey by FMI Corp. of C-suite and risk management professionals at GC and CM firms, 80% of respondents identified a “limited supply of skilled craftworkers” as a top risk for 2019, and 44% cited a “limited supply of experienced field supervisors” as a primary concern. Exacerbating the talent shortage is the coming mass exodus of baby boomers as they reach retirement age.
In response, firms are placing priority on bringing craftworkers and design professionals in-house; strengthening training and development programs; and bolstering talent recruitment efforts by giving HR managers a seat at the executive table. Is it enough? That remains to be seen, but it’s a good start.