Workforce planning yields better results

Daniel Thompson, quality assurance/quality control manager of Al Shafar General Contracting, says initiatives to train and develop staff pay off.

DANIEL THOMPSON: Smart companies realise that their workforce is their most valuable asset
DANIEL THOMPSON: Smart companies realise that their workforce is their most valuable asset

Daniel Thompson, quality assurance/quality control manager of Al Shafar General Contracting, says initiatives to train and develop staff pay off.

There is an old proverb: 'Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.' Producing a quality product and successfully handing it over to the client is one thing but the build-up to that process is probably the most important factor, especially if the product is to be repeated and bettered with technological advances and more colourful architectural plans in the future.

Realising that 'a chain is only as strong as its weakest link', all aspects of our company have benefited from a comprehensive review and update to ensure that our systems, processes and departmental activities are all working to their best potential.

We consider our 1,200 staff to be among the best qualified, skilled, trained and knowledgeable within the area. However this statement cannot be made without acknowledging the forward planning that was taken to ensure trained and competent staff.

The company is currently developing an internal division solely to provide training. Comprehensive training programs available to all staff are being developed.

This in-house facility, to be operating by the end of next month, is another example of the company reviewing our past and current situations and devising effective improvements.

Sensible companies appreciate that the workforce is their most valuable asset. By a process of selective employment, formal and on-the-job training and by developing individuals' careers, an excellent basis has been established for forward-thinking personnel.

The current workforce has about 11,000 directly employed individuals, with another 3,000 supplied by subcontractors.

These personnel are responsible for the physical construction process. By developing and caring for them through free housing, free health-and-safety protective equipment, training and monitoring, we have developed a workforce where absenteeism is among the lowest in the UAE and the quality of work is among the highest.

As a further example of the company's dedication to quality, the quality department has almost 50 trained, qualified and experienced individuals, all allocated to sites that reflect and suit their knowledge and experience.

There is a wealth of information within the department which benefits and expands our collective knowledge. We hold monthly departmental meetings at different sites to share individuals' knowledge and experience.

Over the next few months we shall be selecting staff to become internal auditors. By reviewing a different process across all sites monthly, as a unified department we can agree the best solutions for various sites. This on-going process establishes a continuing trend of gradual improvement.

Obviously, creating a process where staff can identify and establish improvements to their own duties is going to be positive. I believe I am correct in saying that improvements to processes in the office and on sites reduce stress in individuals but also save costs in abortive and duplicated actions or in reducing unnecessary tasks.

It is important that being associated with a company should invoke a certain amount of pride. Normally the thought of the company directors descending onto a site would fill a project manager with dread. Nothing could be further from the truth at ASGC.

These visits are seen as a way of showing how well the site is doing. Comments raised are seen as suggestions for improvement and are readily taken on board.

Sometimes views from people not associated with the sites on a daily basis can identify areas otherwise missed.

The communication process becomes a vital tool in the forward planning of works and identifying potential difficulties.

In the following months, a series of standardised pro-forma documents are to be produced which will further assist staff and reduce time and costs.

There will be method statements, inspection and test plans and check sheets; in fact all the principal procedures and forms used daily by all our sites. These documents will also be made project specific where required.

A new costing and reporting process is also being designed and implemented throughout the company.

By capturing real time month-by-month production data from each site and filtering it into a series of financial databases, all departments can accurately forecast their own expenses per project. This data, rather than historical norms, will be used by the estimating and planning departments.

These monthly figures from sites will allow an accurate m2 costing to be calculated per material element, vital in today's ever fluctuating market.

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