Despite an overall downturn in construction activity, industry players are continuing to gear up their hiring of technology-focused professionals. According to a recently shared report from Hub International, "some analysts expect the U.S. construction industry to contract by 6.5% in 2020 and by 2.0% in 2021." Despite that pullback, as we have seen in our benchmarking surveys, BuiltWorlds engineering and construction companies overwhelmingly indicated plans to add to their VDC teams. Further, as recent posts to the BuiltWorlds Job Board make clear, Contractors are going beyond adding to BIM teams, as they add to they add talent to their adoption ranks. Below is a look at four themes in construction technology recruiting and organization strategy viewed through the lens of recent posts to the BuiltWorlds job board.
Trend Number One: Contractor BIM and VDC Departments Continue to Grow
As we have seen through our ongoing construction technology benchmarking surveys program, more than 75% of contractors taking part in the survey planned to add to their VDC Groups last year, and, based on more recent survey results, that trend appears to be continuing, despite the industry pull-back. A case in point is Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois - based, Graycor, which recently posted for full time BIM Coordinator/BIM Specialist, a newly created position reporting to Weston Tanner, who was added to our Adoption Leaders 50 List in 2020. Tanner joined Graycor in 2019 in another newly created position, Director of Construction Technology and Innovation.
Trend Number Two: Forward Thinking Mid-Sized Firms are Creating Officer-Level Tech Positions, Too
A case in point in this investment being made by mid-sized firms, is Palmisano, a fast-growing mid-sized construction company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. As Wesley Palmisano, President and CEO, laid out in our mid-sized and emerging industry CEO's session at the BuiltWorlds Summit last spring, Palmisano is dedicated to leveraging technology as a fundamental element in their growth strategy.
True to the company's commitment to forging new ways of doing business, the newly created role of the Vice President, Construction Technology & Innovation is "to disrupt the status quo by developing and leading the execution of innovative, transformational strategies utilizing the latest technological advancements to design breakthroughs that deliver new value to our clients and partners." While officer-level technologist roles are increasingly common among the industry's largest firms, Palmisano's leadership in creating a vice president-level technology and innovation position suggests that we will see more companies in the mid sized ranks making major human resource investments to help enable adoption in the years to come.
Trend Number Three: Beyond Building Modeling, More Positions Focus on Driving Tech Adoption
Increasingly, companies are realizing that they need specific people in their organizations with specific skill sets to help identify promising technology, test and validate the utility of that technology, and manage the rollout of that technology across their firms. A case in point is Jacksonville, Florida - based Integrated AEC firm, Haskell. Haskell is seeking a Construction Technology Specialist "who will be is responsible for evaluating, piloting, and reporting on new technologies disrupting the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry." Critically, this person will actually be responsible for managing implementation. In the past, contractors may have taken a more ad hoc approach to identifying promising technology and also rolling it out to their organizations. However, Haskell is among an increasing number of companies pursuing a staffing strategy to enable them to become much more sophisticated in their approach.
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Trend Number Four: The Emergence of Professionally Staffed Corporate Venture Arms
While companies may increasingly be making making investments in startups for both strategic and financial return objectives, those investments have generally been made by principles at firms with an interest in tech. While mega firms like AECOM and Bechtel may have engaged dedicated investment professionals in tech investment strategies, the position has still been a rarity in the industry. Boston-based, Suffolk offers a case of one company adding this type of position to its ranks. Suffolk is seeking a full-time investment associate. Among the potential qualification for the candidate, they list investment (VC/PE, investment banking), and while ties to the built world are preferred, they are not necessary.
Diversity and Inclusion Opportunities in Staffing for Technology Adoption
As the posting from Suffolk shows, many of these new, non-traditional leadership positions in construction companies, not only are open to talent from outside of the industry, but, since they are somewhat new positions for the industry, they may actually require talent from outside the industry. That requirement may also create an opportunity for the industry to attract people with new perspectives and experience and also promote more diversity in the in the industry's leadership ranks. In our 2020 Adoption Leaders 50 List published last October, we noted significant diversity relative to the industry's overall demographics, and perhaps it will become another industry trend in the coming years.