CASE STUDY: From reactive to proactive workforce planning

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One of the keys to success in business is planning. Planning is increasingly important in maintaining ever shorter schedules and keeping up with intense competition.

Background

Gardon Construction is a family-based business in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The 50-person firm was incorporated in 1984 and specializes in providing general contracting, construction management, and design-build professional services.

The company completes 20–25 projects per year at an average of $1 million per project but remains approachable because Gardon never turns a client away: They believe a project doesn’t have to be valued at a million dollars or more to be worth their time. 

While construction is their field, Gardon’s view is that their business is people. They see each client as an individual and their goal is to deliver personal service and reach high-performance standards on each job. Their core of experienced managers and technical specialists enable them to deliver excellent service.

The Challenge 

Jeff Olafson, CEO of Operations at Gardon Construction, used to manage the workforce while balancing the project workload based on “gut feelings.” In the past, construction plans were drafted on paper, which allowed for little communication. Team members would update old files until it was impossible to have an audit trail, which led to frustrations and extra work.

Resource planning was eating away significant chunks of time. “We were talking about labor on a daily basis,” says Olafson. “We would spend an hour a day simply getting a refresher on where everyone was.”

The backward-looking meetings were ineffective, and Gardon was regularly chasing data while pivoting trying to accomplish all they needed to. 

Although operating on gut feelings and instinct worked in the past, the lack of communication was impeding success and stifling growth opportunities. Things came to a head in 2015–2016 when Gardon guessed wrong on workload.  

The Solution

Although Olafson feels the company has an adequate and not overly complicated business model that produced respectable revenue, he was determined to make improvements.

Those improvements started with significant investment in technology. According to Olafson, “technology is helping us better establish our process, better deliver our projects, and move this company in a positive direction.”

Gardon Construction now uses Bridgit Bench, which enables Gardon to communicate better as a team and with ownership. 

Impressed with Bridgit Bench from the start, Olafson appreciated features such as the Expanded Project Gantt, and especially the useful linking of data such as a person’s background or project scheduling.

Since implementing Bridgit Bench, Olafson and Gardon have been less reactive and more proactive. Resource planning meetings are now easier than ever, and predictive. “They’ve changed 110% in terms of looking ahead,” says Olafson.

Bridgit Bench helps with overall organization and predictability. Greater predictability, along with the availability of data/information in real time allows the company to move quickly than when waiting for end-of-month or year-end reports to help the decision process. “This gives me more confidence in the decisions we make,” says Olafson.

Communication has also been improved. “The people I want to share information with can easily obtain access,” says Olafson. “Conversations with departments have become more real, productive, and insightful.” Because Bridgit Bench serves as a single source of truth, everyone is on the same page.

As a company, Gardon has gained more clarity regarding how resources are allocated. The scheduling tool enables them to have a full handle on where staff are and how they are organized. It also offers predictability not just for a day but for the future. “The three- to six-month look ahead gives us the ability to make quick decisions with our estimating departments,” says Olafson.

Although Olafson has yet to put a monetary value or figure on Bridgit Bench’s impact on revenue and profitability, he is certain it is working. One metric that is clear is time. Olafson notes that Bridgit Bench saves an hour a day, maybe even more.

With the extra time, Olafson says, “I can firefight better now. I’m not feeling pressured.” This extra time is used to attend to customers, spend time with trade contractors, and give owners the attention they deserve. 

Olafson is also able to be more involved with the project managers and to address real-time issues. This means fewer headaches, quicker project delivery, and greater customer satisfaction.

Anytime something new is implemented, there is some resistance. While there has been a learning curve getting everyone on board with Bridgit Bench, Olafson notes that he is rolling it out slowly, explaining, “you can’t ask staff to pivot too many times; it causes stress.” He adds, “implementation/adaptation is quick to a certain point, but cultural change takes time.” Ultimately, Olafson believes that as wins keep adding up over time and the returns become more apparent, buy-in will pick up.

Bridgit Bench has enabled Gardon Construction to plan more effectively. The days of scrambling to determine resources, poor communication, and operating by sheer instinct are over. Today, the company feels confident that the technology Bridgit Bench offers helps them utilize their resources to the fullest.


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Case StudiesMallorie Brodie