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Don’t Skimp on Training with Your Tech Tools

Conley Smith, Sr. Business Writer, On Center Software by ConstructConnect

Don’t Skimp on Training with Your Tech Tools

Posted: March 27, 2020 | Tradewinds, Estimating

If you’re a busy contractor, odds are you may be losing sleep over where to find more craft workers for the field or how to improve your bid-to-win ratio. But did you know your chief estimator or project manager may be tossing and turning over their IT budget?

Historically, contractors spend less than 1% of their annual sales volume on hardware, software, and IT staff, according to the 2019 JBKnowledge ConTech Report. Only 20% of those surveyed for 2019 reported spending 1%, and 12% reported spending 2%.

Not only do tight budgets impact the ability to invest in new tech tools, but they also raise the question of how to get funding for software training. A typical question when dealing with a tight budget might be: “Where will the money come from to get that junior estimator trained on the new estimating software?”

Let’s face it, outdated systems can impact any contractor’s ability to find, bid, and win the right projects — whether it’s your ERP or estimating software. Additionally, once your construction firm is ready to upgrade or replace tech tools, you should never try to adopt and roll out new technology without investing time and resources into training. Otherwise, you’re just asking for your team to churn out bad work faster, or even worse, never fully implement all the features and functionality of the new equipment.

Start by Researching Tech Options

If your construction business needs to upgrade or add new tech tools, you should probably have a process in place to thoroughly evaluate your options. Once you’ve been given the green light, you should create a list of software requirements and objectives, especially if you’re looking to streamline and modernize systems or workflows.

For example, a 2017 McKinsey & Company report noted the importance of checking out more than just the software when researching new construction technology. Before you get management buy-in, you should have a clear understanding of how new tools are supported, and how they integrate with other tools, i.e. whether new tech and legacy systems will play well together.

Another way to ensure due diligence is to make sure you test out any new tools by requesting demos and free trials. This allows your team to weigh which features and functionality are most needed for success today, and which ones could sustain them into the future. Once the pros and cons are considered, your team can make a recommendation and move toward implementation.

Estimators who still do takeoffs by hand will be excited to learn how new digital estimating tools could drastically cut takeoff and estimating time. They may think that long nights and weekends spent in the office will finally be a thing of the past. Meanwhile, leadership will likely be eager to see a quick ROI on their investment, and may not be interested in investing more resources into implementation and training.

Invest in Training for Success

For some contractors, having the resources to manage and update software and train employees can be a struggle — especially when they have a small budget dedicated to these efforts.

What’s at risk when you skimp on training? Without the proper training and experience, an estimator could introduce risk by failing to calculate costs correctly. If an estimator forgets to calculate indirect or direct cost accurately, your construction business could be in big trouble. Think what would happen if your bid didn’t include office overhead and rent, or the accurate cost of portable toilet rentals, trailers, and fencing.

More than just an increase in errors, there is also the issue of lost productivity and dissatisfied employees. Training has actually been shown to pay off. An HR Magazine report noted that companies that invest at least $1,500 in annual training have a 24% higher profit margin than companies who spend less on training.

Go Beyond Basic Training

Many contractors invest in a mix of online and in-person training to ensure they are getting the most out of their new tech tools. Consider the case of a construction firm hiring a young college grad to fill a junior estimating position. This situation will require a more serious commitment to ongoing training and mentoring by senior employees.

Don’t be satisfied with training that only covers the basics. Your construction business will no doubt reap the rewards of more in-depth training that provides shortcuts, tips, and tricks — so the team can more quickly deliver ROI.

It’s interesting that the 2019 ConTech Report found that many of those taking the survey felt they got the IT support they needed, but the majority rated the training they received a “5” out of “10”. The comments were telling, with one noting: “Training is available. Are employees given the time to take advantage of this training? That is another story.”

Training for Productivity and Profitability

Remember, your construction business will always benefit when it invests the time and resources to train and certify all employees. An IBM study revealed that employees who feel they cannot develop in the company and fulfill their career goals are 12 times more likely to leave the company.

Experts also note it’s important to identify key individuals who can take a leadership role if you’re rolling out new technology. Having your go-to people in place can increase everyone’s commitment to using new technology. If leaders and mentors can demonstrate how much easier life is with new software and systems, your business will see a faster, smoother implementation and adoption of new technology.

Knowing which estimating tools are right for your construction business isn’t easy. Check out On Center’s easy-to-follow, step-by-step eBook now. You’ll learn how to pick the right tools to increase bid volume and improve accuracy.

About the Author: Conley Smith is a senior business writer with On Center Software by ConstructConnect. She has been writing about technology and its impact on business for more than 15 years.