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Maintaining the human touch

Maintaining the human touch

To cope with the changing workforce demographics, engineering and construction companies need to adapt controls to reflect new ways of working, and balance ‘soft’ versus ‘hard’ controls.


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Aerial view of construction workers

Given that welders, electricians and diggers are so fundamental to construction, it’s perhaps little surprise that 86 percent of respondents say that the "human element" significantly influences project delivery. But what are engineering and construction firms and project owners actually doing to optimize this precious resource?

As Baby Boomers approach retirement, new generations of workers are taking their place. According to the professionals participating in our global survey, just 23 percent of their workforces are comprised of BAby Boomers (born 1945–1964), 40 percent of Generation X (born 1965–1979) and 37 percent of Millennials (born 1980–1994).

What are the implications of this generational shift — especially for millennials who’ve grown up in the digital age and, additionally, don’t always have the nurturing hand of Baby Boomers around their shoulders to help them learn the tricks of the trade?

When it comes to understanding the fundamentals of project delivery, more than four in ten respondents are concerned that Millennials are not fully up to speed with skills like scheduling, cost-control, risk management, procurement strategies and earned value. The challenge is even more acute for project owners, with more than half uncertain about Millennials’ knowledge in these critical areas.

Giving younger employees the skills, experience and confidence to manage major projects — and managing and motivating them in an appropriate manner — is one of the most important tasks facing the sector. It’s also broadly the case that the younger the worker, the greater their digital skills and confidence. Millennials are attracted by technology, and engineering and construction companies should recognize that investing in a digital workplace could increase their ability to attract and enthuse this demographic. If they don’t take these steps, then, as we argue on in our section Address the people conundrum, the brightest young engineering talent is likely to opt for careers in more ‘shiny’ sectors that embrace technology.

What is the approximate percentage of your project related work force made up by each of the following (round to nearest 5 percent)?
What is the approximate % of your project related work force? infographic
Do you think the millennial generation adequately understands the fundamentals of project delivery (scheduling, cost-control, risk management, procurement, earned value, etc.)
Millennial generation adequately understands the fundamentals of project delivery. infographic

Charting a career path

When compared with options like entrepreneurial technology start-ups, engineering and construction may not always appear to be the most exciting career for today’s graduates. This makes it more important than ever to find effective ways to recruit and retain the right talent. When it comes to building a career in the sector, our survey suggests that many companies have some way to go.

Just one-third of respondents (33 percent) say their organization’s employee promotion process is ‘very standardized’; i.e. there are defined objectives and requirements for promotion. Twenty-eight percent of survey respondents admit that there is no common approach at all, with promotion typically considered on a case-by-case basis. The responses suggest that project owners from financial services and retail have the least degree of standardization, while industries like natural resources and chemicals, industrial manufacturing, and power and utilities are most likely to offer a standard career path. These latter sectors typically employ far greater numbers of people on capital projects — possibly more than 10,000 globally — and, arguably, have a bigger need for a common approach.

Is your employee promotion process standardized?
Employee promotion process standardized inforaphic
Do you offer performance-based project bonuses, variable compensation or incentive mechanisms?
Do you offer performance-based project bonuses? infographic

The survey also indicates that owners from Asia — especially China and India — are the most likely by some way to offer clear promotion paths, which is in stark contrast to other regions of the world.

Is your employee promotion process standardized? (Regional perspectives)
Is your employee promotion process standardized (Regional perspectives). infograpic

Creating a truly diverse industry

One of the keys to the future talent challenge is to improve diversity in the engineering and construction sector. While a large majority of respondents say their organizations track gender diversity, fewer assess employees along lines of race, disability or sexual orientation. And 30 percent do not track or measure diversity in any way.

What categories of diversity targets does your organization track (check all that apply)
categories of diversity targets infographic

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