Decoding workforce crisis in construction: Innovative approaches and breakthroughs

Financial Express | June 6, 2023 reload
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Gamification is emerging as a powerful strategy to curb this high attrition, offering an innovative solution for reinforcing desirable behaviours among informal workers.

By Kezya de Bragança

For many Indian construction companies, handling a multi-million dollar project often comes with a puzzling uncertainty – the number of informal workers who may or may not show up the next day. Companies in the sector have to replace their workforce three to four times a year, creating a logistical nightmare of massive proportions. But as daunting as this workforce crisis might be, it is also inspiring a new era of innovation and reshaping the industry’s future.

Gamification is emerging as a powerful strategy to curb this high attrition, offering an innovative solution for reinforcing desirable behaviours among informal workers. For instance, consider the case of a construction company introducing a point-based system, awarding workers for punctuality, work efficiency, and adherence to safety measures. The points were redeemable against incentives such as mobile top ups, additional days off, healthcare benefits, and skill upgradation courses. This could go a long way in helping reduce workforce turnover and  improving overall productivity.

The power of recording workers’ actions, often overlooked, is another piece of this puzzle. By documenting the tasks completed by workers, companies create an atmosphere of accountability. This system serves as a double-edged sword – deterring negligence while instilling a sense of achievement in workers. Imagine creating a digital system to track and record worker’s daily tasks.  Where over productive workers are rewarded in monetary terms. This could help improve efficiency, reduce mistakes, and a significant drop in unplanned attrition. 

Stepping into the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to redefine workforce management in the construction industry. Companies can leverage AI to predict workforce requirements, identify potential issues in advance, and ensure seamless project execution. Imagine an AI system capable of forecasting labour shortages based on patterns of absenteeism, labour work history, local events, and seasonal migration. Such anticipatory data could enable firms to recruit additional hands proactively, negating potential productivity dips.

AI also has the remarkable ability to automate complex workflows, especially among the informal workforce, cutting through the thicket of linguistic diversity that characterizes this sector. AI-powered tools are now capable of learning, recognizing, and translating various regional languages, thus simplifying communication and instructions, ensuring seamless execution of tasks, and reducing manual intervention. These advancements are not only increasing operational efficiency, but are also fostering an inclusive environment by eliminating language barriers – a vital step towards a more connected, efficient, and diverse construction industry.

Embracing a strategy found within the realm of simplicity and effectiveness, the concept of ‘wage surges’ emerges as a potential game-changer. The method, which echoes the ‘surge pricing’ model familiar in ride-hailing services, provides a financial catalyst for workers to stay committed during critical phases of a project or during periods of labour shortage. This approach has already garnered interest in Bangalore, where two major building and infrastructure companies have requested its implementation, signifying the crucial need for workforce stability on any given day. By offering these monetary incentives, construction companies can strategically mitigate worker turnover and enhance project continuity.

Leading the evolution of workforce management in the construction-tech sector, industry pioneers are harnessing the transformative potential of AI, implementing innovative gamification techniques, and fostering a culture of accountability through secure digital ecosystems. Through robust platforms that streamline workforce management, they offer dynamic tools for efficient worker management, task tracking and introduce innovative wage strategies. These advancements significantly boost engagement, and ultimately, contribute to industry growth and progress.

While all of these innovations are available to us, we all know that at the heart of the high attrition rate in the construction sector is the persistent issue of delayed wage payments. Establishing reliable, robust financial models that assure punctual payment to workers is a matter of urgency. Such systems should also cater to the financial needs of contractors, who are largely reliant on builders for timely remittances to sustain healthy cash flows. By successfully navigating this double-edged sword – ensuring workers are paid on time while also easing the cash flow burden on contractors – we can pave the way for a more sustainable and stable construction industry.

In this whirlwind of change, the industry stands on the cusp of a profound revolution. A revolution that seeks not merely to solve a crisis, but to redefine the very dynamics of the construction sector. It is a departure from seeing the workforce as a transient entity, towards creating an ecosystem where every worker’s contribution is recognized and rewarded. In the embrace of innovation lies the promise of an industry that’s not just building structures, but also futures. This transformation is a testament to the enduring spirit of adaptability, the hallmark of progress, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and setting new benchmarks for the construction industry. As we stand at the crossroads, we look towards an era of resilience and innovation, an era where technology and human potential converge, forging the path for a more efficient, inclusive and vibrant construction industry.

(Kezya de Bragança is the founder and CEO at Bettamint.)

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