The construction industry is full of technology. From proven systems like telematics tracking and total stations to newer opportunities including wearables and virtual reality, advancements have been remarkable. Considering the technology adoption rate in the last five years is the highest ever in the industry, it appears there’s more to come, and the companies that embrace and adopt these opportunities have a strong competitive advantage over the ones that don’t.
While the advantages are clear, there are challenges that come with implementing technology. There are many company leaders who would love to adopt more technology opportunities, whether BIM software or UAVs, but most don’t feel they have enough people or time to implement. What separates the companies that want to be technology leaders from ones that are? How can a company interested in adopting more technology into the business succeed and gain that competitive advantage?
Creating a Culture
Being a technology-minded company doesn’t come by chance and it doesn’t happen overnight. Those serious about adopting this focus must engage in a full culture shift – and it all begins with people. Because, at the end of the day, it’s the people in an organization who are the game-changers; the ones who learn the tools and systems, work with them every day, and deliver the benefits to the business, other team members, and, most importantly, customers.
A successful culture that supports a technology-minded company and people begins with a philosophy of continuous improvement and ends with a mission to avoid complacency. It must be driven from the top, with executive-level leadership, and continue to management, through the rest of the team.
Culture is the foundation that supports a major shift in a company. Next, the building blocks of a technology-focused company can be put into place.
Building Block #1: Engaged and Empowered Employees
With people at the center of implementing and delivering technology, it’s only natural to evaluate, early on, employees who will be instrumental in the effort. While all will eventually adapt and embrace technology, start by selecting key employees to pioneer and champion the effort – keeping in mind the most important traits for these employees might not be the ones that first come to mind.
Of course, the leading employees must have a baseline grasp on technology, and the capacity to grow their knowledge as the industry changes. But more important than those inherent skills are the qualities that separate ordinary employees from extraordinary. Think passion, drive, and engagement.
Once those leader employees have been identified, they can be empowered to take ownership of a natural strength or key area of interest to them. Have an employee who’s analytical and enjoys numbers? He or she might be a great data specialist, someone who can organize and simplify data in a way that helps management make actionable plans based on the overwhelming amount of data that comes with most technology offerings.
A lot of leaders believe they don’t have enough people to stay on top of and implement new technology opportunities. But the truth is, it’s not the number of people, it’s having the right people.
Building Block #2: A Sound Strategy
The idea of being a more technology-focused company is exciting. The possibilities are seemingly endless. But a company can’t do everything at once, nor should it try. Employees, no matter how extraordinary and technologically inclined, can’t become experts in everything, and the ones who try will burn out quickly.
For the employees’ and company’s sake, focus on the key technology opportunities that will make the biggest impact, not the ones that everyone else is doing or seem the most cutting-edge. Figure out what makes workflow easier, what helps produce better and faster results for clients, and what makes the company more competitive.
Building Block #3: Training – Today and Tomorrow
Even the strongest, most knowledgeable employees need proper training to establish their area of technology expertise, as well as sharpen their skills. But it’s not enough to simply tell them to seek out training and keep up with new technology. A strong culture of continuous improvement will help encourage them but they need some of this delivered and tailored to them, especially early on.
With initial training, a great place to start is the strategy and key areas identified. Look for intro-level classes or YouTube videos on equipment technology features from manufacturers. Find out if relevant industry associations offer articles, classes, or other resources. Seek out third-party companies that offer high-quality training and host lunch-and-learns. There are a lot of resources to get a starter program established.
The only thing constant about technology is that it’s constantly changing. Whether an upgrade to a software system, an add-on feature to a machine, or a brand-new tool, there will always be something new. At technology-minded companies, people must be thinking a step ahead – anticipating what’s coming and, of the latest and greatest, identifying what’s going to be right for the company to invest in. Leverage partners, third-party specialists, and internal subject matter experts to develop regular, ongoing technology learning opportunities for all employees.
The value technology brings to the equipment industry can’t be overlooked. Oftentimes, having that latest technology is what’s going to obtain or retain a competitive advantage; it’s what’s going to separate one company from the next. And companies who aren’t embracing and adopting it may find themselves in a challenging position to survive.
After reading this, some may feel ready to go down the path of implementing a technology culture. Others, however, might be thinking the company isn’t in the right place to invest in this type of shift. If the latter, it doesn’t mean missing out on technology opportunities and competitive advantages.
An option is to find a reputable, trustworthy partner. Most companies already have confidence and trust in their local equipment dealership, and leading dealers, like RDO Equipment Co., are invested in technology and team members. Upon finding a partner, it’s as simple as a company wanting to embrace the technology – call it a mini-culture shift – and relying on the experts who focus on it day-in and day-out.
About the Author
Chris Cooper is COO of RDO Equipment Co. headquartered in Fargo, ND.