Building a Remote Precon Team? Here’s What to Consider

remote workers connected to each other and the company

The construction industry has faced a labor shortage for several years now. If your company has struggled to attract top new talent, one way to appeal to younger workers is to offer remote options.

Remote work was already growing in popularity, and in 2020 and beyond it’s a practice that will only continue to expand.

Are you ready to take the leap?

Why Go Remote

Many in the industry were forced into unplanned remote work situations when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, a nightmare scenario for a lot of businesses. But if your company has weathered the storm well, it might be time to make this a permanent choice for your staff. Why?

• You can broaden your search to get more applicants. When remote work is an option, you’re not limited to your geographic area. You can even target other locations near universities with strong construction management programs, such as Missouri State and Auburn.
Hire only the very best candidate for the job. Casting a wide net will result in a more diverse range of applicant experience and qualifications.
• Remote and flexible work options are attractive to younger workers who are comfortable communicating via technology.
• Having remote capabilities allows your company to handle crises, both large and small, from public health emergencies to inclement weather to children’s doctor appointments.

Remote Work Logistics

When you’re setting your company up for remote work success, think about these basic necessities and give careful consideration to how you’ll engage fully remote precon team members.

Interviews & Onboarding

You’ll need to decide how you’ll conduct interviews for final-round candidates. Initial interviews can of course be done via phone or video conference, but do you feel comfortable making a hiring decision based on a video interview?

There’s no wrong answer, but if you need to meet a candidate in person before making an offer, you’ll need to streamline your interview process and be as certain as possible that the candidate truly wants the position before investing travel dollars on them.

Similarly, how will your company onboard remote new hires? If you have the budget and ability, bringing them to your physical office for a week or two of immersive activities and meetings is a great plan – just consider hotels, meals, and after-hours plans.

If in-person onboarding is not an option, however, a fully remote training program is possible and can be successful with some planning. Think about:

Equipment: Ship the necessary computer and other tools well in advance of the new estimator’s start date with instructions on how to log in so they can be set up on time.
Connections with other employees: Who should the new hire meet with? This should not just be HR and their immediate coworkers, but who else within the organization will have insights they should understand and valuable company knowledge to share?
Live vs. preexisting training sessions: Include a mix of video calls with staff and any manuals or other training documentation the new hire can peruse on their own to break up the day. You can even look into training offered by software platforms you use to take some of the load off your own staff.
Mental health: Check in with the new hire regularly to ascertain their level of comfort and any roadblocks they’re noticing, especially for those without remote work experience.
Team activities: Gather your full team on a few video calls and allow everyone to introduce themselves, get to know each other, and, if it fits with your culture, participate in ice breaker activities or have a virtual happy hour.

Cohort Hiring

If your company is large enough to have multiple jobs posted at any given time, cohort hiring is a great way to help your new hires feel welcome and get integrated into the team more quickly.

Hire in groups – the new staff members don’t need to all be part of preconstruction department – and connect those new folks via email or chat platform and encourage them to interact with questions and observations as well as socially. These new hire “classes” often form bonds and can help increase cross-departmental communication.

Day-to-Day Operations with Remote Estimators

After your remote new hire has completed the training period, you’ll need to establish what daily tasks and responsibilities will look like. Set your remote estimators up for success with clear expectations and the right tools to do their jobs.

Remote Work Expectations

In addition to their responsibilities for completing takeoffs and estimates, you’ll need to outline for remote employees what you expect their workday to be like.

• Are there set work hours when they must be at their workstations, or is there room for flexibility as long as they put in the right number of hours?
• How does your team and your company as a whole communicate with each other? When should the new hire use email versus phone versus chat?
• How will progress be measured and/or time tracked?
• Will the estimating team need to collaborate on projects? If so, what does that process look like?

Find more tips on managing your remote team.

Access to the Right Tools

When everyone is in an office together, it’s not always necessary to put much thought into the tools an individual new hire might need, but remote work is a different story.

Hardware: Beyond a laptop, will your workers need an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse? A printer? A company smartphone or tablet for field work?
Software: If you use desktop-based software, you’ll install all licenses before sending the employee their computer, but what about software updates? Consider choosing cloud-based services and platforms for remote employees to avoid adding unnecessary burdens to your IT department.
Utilities and supplies: Do you require employees to have a certain internet speed? Will your company reimburse for any typical office expenses, such as internet, an ergonomic chair, or standing desk?

Remote Work Culture

One of the biggest considerations for remote work environments is the culture. It can be harder to cultivate with remote workers, but it’s worth it. Remember that culture is not about the perks of an office, but about the people and what the organization stands for.

• Create strong, visible values that are meaningful for your business and that resonate with all employees.
• Make sure your leaders are dynamic and inspiring – you should live the company’s values as an example.
• Hire high achievers and trust them to do their jobs.
• Foster an environment of collaboration and inclusion.
• Consider opportunities for spending time in person, face to face – be that for training, team building, or milestone celebrations.

Tips for Remote Teamwork

A few ideas for helping remote employees stay connected and feel part of the team include:

General social interaction: Create a watercooler chat channel on your chat platform, host virtual happy hours, or pair up coworkers from different departments with discussion prompts.
Equality in meetings: During video calls, have each employee join the meeting from their desk, no matter where they’re dialing in from. This puts everyone on a level playing field and prevents a group in a conference room from forming side conversations that leave others out.
Employee recognition: Create a “shout-outs” channel in your chat platform to recognize outstanding performance or do virtual cheers or toasts for big achievements, like winning a tough bid.

If you need more guidance on putting your remote work strategy in place, Zapier’s comprehensive guide is a great place to start.

Ready to move forward with the right tools for remote takeoffs and estimates? Schedule a demo of STACK’s preconstruction platform.

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