Technology has always been a part of the construction industry. If you think about stud finders, nail guns and handheld engineering calculators, these are all innovations that were readily adopted in their day. Some endure even to the current jobsite. If you look back now, you’d have to say it was a “no-brainer” to use those innovations.

Today, when we say that technology adoption is surging, that’s an understatement. Not only is construction innovation pushing the industry forward to meet demand, the workforce is required to adopt that innovation or get left behind. Some people are excited about innovation and jump in with both feet. Others are hesitant about assuming new unfamiliar – and uncomfortable – roles in the current business climate.

From owners to subcontractors, being essentially forced to adopt technology in order to remain in business has been a challenge but with positive results. Online meetings and adoption of collaborative software are just two examples of rapid adoption of technology. Collaboration is the way to ensure that new innovation is being put to its best use. While an innovative tool by itself is good, putting it into practice on a broad scale requires collaboration and feedback about how it functions in the real world on a real construction project. Relationships and mutual respect are important in this process. What works, and what doesn’t? This can be one of the best ways to stay informed on the jobsite.

So relationships are key. But often people get so busy doing what they need to do on the job that there’s not much time left to focus attention on the other human beings who are the workers. The things that contribute to relationship building are “soft” skills – things like listening, paying attention, offering advice. Those are different from the “hard” skills of solving problems and getting the work done. In actuality, you need the soft skills to get better at the hard skills. Through the sharing of information, a mutual respect can be developed.

Features of a good collaborative environment include communication first of all, because delivering a project is a team effort. Management needs to lead by example and foster and encourage that give-and-take. The ideal scenario is to have a collaborative component built into the contract. Taking into account everyone’s contribution helps prioritize conversations around the project.

A great opportunity for helpful collaboration is connecting with experienced trades workers. They have a lot to offer to the job overall, not just in their specialty field. They’re seasoned.

We’re going to see a need for companies to leverage technology in order to remain competitive. It’s becoming more important to incorporate aspects of advanced manufacturing, prefabrication, modular, and lean construction into conventional projects to remain relevant into the future.

This is not necessarily a generational thing. Sometimes the older, more experienced workers understand the importance of innovation, and they are open to doing things more efficiently. Tying the older and newer generations together is a way to knit together the different features on a project and rejuvenate the project as a whole.

In episode 35 of the Bridging the Gap Podcast, Graham Thiel joins me to talk about the importance of combining soft skills and hard skills as you adopt innovative technology in the construction industry. Listen to our full conversation today.

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