Attendees of the Construction Writers Association (CWA) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, this past May were advised that paying attention to the “human factor” is the quality that will give firms an edge in the 21st Century, CWA announced. “People, not companies, design and build buildings,” explained John Tarpey, president of Centex Construction Co. “A company’s culture is the most important factor in determining how well those people will perform.” Tarpey’s presentation, “Human Capital: the Next Competitive Advantage,” focused on a number of interrelated trends that are forcing construction companies to reassess their cultures, processes and approach to business. Those trends include:
- Uncertainty and inconsistency in planning, materials and people.
- A shift to team-based delivery methods. “Project owners want to know who is working for them,” Tarpey said.
- A “war” for talent.
- A shift in corporate mindsets. “Younger employees want to work for a company that reflects their values,” Tarpey said. “Their priority is on growing personally and professionally, not a long-term job.”
- Globalization of the marketplace.
Tarpey said that to address these trends, companies need to focus on creating a corporate culture that promotes leadership and process management, while balancing the interests of the stakeholders. And, to maximize a firm’s human capital, Tarpey recommended that firms couple their culture—structure, processes and people—with the client’s need of cost, schedule, quality, and most important, service. One of the ways a company can achieve this culture change is by placing a stronger emphasis on training and developing leaders from within the firm, Tarpey said. Establishing a shared cultural mindset and organizational identity is also important, as is creating a structure for growth and conditions by which employees can be fulfilled, Tarpey said.