The labor shortage has for months been among the most excruciating pain points for U.S. companies. No sector has felt the sting more than American small business. In September, the National Federation of Independent Business reported 51% of small business owners acknowledged being unable to fill job openings. That’s more than double the 22% historical average.
Real estate has been among industries plagued by dearth of job candidates. The field, which makes up 18% of the U.S. economy, suffers a labor supply-demand mismatch in posts from frontline hotel service to construction workers. By some estimates, the nation needs 1 million more construction workers, including skilled tradespeople. That unmet need spurs high inflation. The Case-Schiller U.S. National Home Price Index has soared 18.6% over the past 12 months, the fastest ascent in the series’ history.
The good news? Technology startups are beginning to use innovation to solve and manage the scarcity of qualified candidates. Among them is Bridgit, a workforce intelligence construction technology firm, whose mission is to optimize workforce management and workflow.
The cloud-based platform’s selling point is its ability to assist in hiring by delivering direct input on the availability of workers. Based on a company’s slate of present and future initiatives and projects, its human resources team can leverage Bridgit to gain a greater understanding of how to meet its hiring needs.
“As we make the rate of tech adoption across real estate more like the pace of advancement within consumer electronics, there will be substantial impacts across the economy,” said Mitchell Schear, executive partner at Camber Creek, the venture capital firm that recently co-led the Series B round for Bridgit.
“This will lead to cost savings in housing, safer construction worksites and more environmentally friendly buildings.”
The majority of data in construction goes uncollected and unused, says Lauren Lake, Bridgit chief operating officer and co-founder. Workforce planning is no exception. The field sees a continuing shortfall of skilled craft workers. But many contractors also have openings for project managers and engineers. Not only are these roles crucial to completing work, they impact the capacity of contractors to simply undertake projects.
“By collecting their workforce data – including skills, experience, certifications, project histories, current assignments, [and more] – Bridgit Bench helps contractors gain better insight into their team’s project allocations and utilization rates, and forecast project demand to better predict recruitment needs,” Lake explained.
Most of the time and energy currently going into the workforce planning process is consumed in maintenance and updating of spreadsheet data. Bridgit helps firms instead take a proactive and long-term approach to workforce strategy.
“We’re giving contractors their time back, so they can focus on managing their workforce effectively, and providing the analysis and insights they need to shift to a winning, people-first strategy,” Lake says. “The average amount of time we save our customers varies from company to company. The average we’ve heard from our customers is between seven and eight hours per week of prepping and consolidating workforce data, or just under the equivalent of a full day’s work.”
Bridgit Bench has also helped halve workforce planning meetings, aided contractors in forecasting pipeline demand and recruitment needs, run scenarios with specific project pursuits to understand impact, and created more efficient planning processes.
Ryan Companies, among the nation’s top 50 contractors, had been managing its labor resources across 30 different spreadsheets, which bred confusion and uncertainty. “Bridgit Bench allowed us to consolidate our resource planning into a single platform,” says Barry Sullivan, vice president of construction operations, Great Lakes, for Ryan Companies, adding the impact on his company has been remarkable.
“The functionality allows us to flip between the resource and project data quickly, in a way that is much more agile than our former spreadsheet setup. For us, bench strength and hiring were always lagging indicators. Now in 2021, with the help of Bridgit Bench, we are going to be able to turn those lagging indicators into a true performer.”