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What do Construction and property professionals want from an automated world of work?

By Ferdia White, Senior Manager of Hays Construction & Property team

New technologies are rapidly changing the society in which we live and work, and the increasing prevalence of automation promises to transform things still further. As an industry, construction and property is no stranger to digital transformation, as the integration of Building Information Modelling (BIM) into architecture, engineering and construction demonstrates.

According to our latest research in the What Workers Want Ireland 2019 report, the level of positive sentiment around technological change is high. 77% of Irish employers say their functional area within their organisation is investing in automation or plans to do so, and 78% of survey respondents cite an open mindset towards digital transformation in the workplace. Automation brings an abundance of possibility to an organisation, with a reduction in tasks, a more skilled and knowledgeable workforce and the capacity to add greater human value just a number of the outcomes of the successful integration of new technology.

In order to fully capitalise on the potential of automation, however, construction and property employers must ensure their workforce is adequately provided with the guidance, communication, training and resources required to apply it successfully. So what do construction and property professionals want from an automated world of work?

1. Awareness of their organisation’s technical journey

There is a disparity between Irish employers and employees regarding awareness of the benefits of automation, with 19% of employees saying they are unable to identify any benefits that automation could bring to the workplace in comparison to only 14% of employers. In addition to this, almost a fifth (19%) of employees are unaware if investment in automation has taken place in their organisation or has done in the past.

Construction and property employers should consider how they can improve awareness and understanding of the benefits of automation amongst their existing teams. For example, the potential for automation technology to perform time-consuming tasks for property surveyors such as contract preparation - allowing more time to be spent on strategic consultancy - is something which should be communicated clearly to employees where applicable. Organisations should also look to introduce specific programmes for employees who lack confidence with new technology or are less aware of the benefits, helping to empower them to take ownership of projects and perceive themselves as key players in organisational change.

2. A culture that’s open to change

The vast majority (89%) of Irish employers and employees feel automation should be embraced in the workplace, and being able to demonstrate a positive attitude to change is deemed the most important factor for workers to successfully deal with digital transformation by 75% of employers and employees. It is ranked much more highly than the right skills (24%) and previous experience (1%), but despite this, a quarter say their organisation is not equipped to deal with technological change.

To combat this, construction and property employers should consider hiring change experts, such as change managers or agencies, in order to help create a workplace environment that facilitates transformation, both now and in the future. This will help streamline communications and maximise worker engagement.

3. Learning support

When evaluating where resources should be focused in order to facilitate the success of digital transformation, most Irish employers and employees believe that training staff should be the top priority (40%), although employees (45%) are more likely to attribute significance to this than employers (29%). When looking at the factors that contribute to the success of automation specifically, training is also deemed most important by 44% of employees in comparison to only 35% of employers.

Further to this, only 12% of staff feel their employers are fully preparing them for digital transformation, despite 58% of employees believing the responsibility for upskilling lies with employers alone. This disparity when it comes to learning and development suggests that construction and property employers need to make training opportunities clearer, invest in resources that facilitate self-learning or potentially introduce mentoring schemes to enable digital skills transference.

To discover further insights into how automation is impacting jobs and the steps you can take to prepare, get your copy of the Hays What Workers Want Ireland Report 2019.

About this author

Ferdia joined Hays in 2011. With over 6 years' experience, he currently manages the Construction & Property team in Dublin. Ferdia recruits within the Building Services sector in Leinster.

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