In the drilling contracting industry, that view is a dangerous attitude to express - partially because it has been true for some time. Demographic trends and career goals of new workforce entrants have been conspiring to create a shortage of motivated, qualified contracting/construction workers for the past 20 years. The documented decline of the United States' educational system, the “baby bust” of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the perceived unattractiveness of construction as a career are leaving the industry with a new labor pool that is downright depressing.
People BusinessConstruction is a people business - it always has been and likely always will be. Every aspect of our business is impacted by the quality and skill of the workforce. Getting work controlled by selling and estimating skills. Getting work is controlled by selling and estimating skills and aptitudes. Doing work (profitably) is controlled by the technical, organizational and management skills of our people.
Even keeping score is impacted by the skill, integrity and people relationships of our accounting staff. The key to long-term survival and success in construction is people - finding, training and keeping them. You can have the perfect strategy, be in the best market, have superior financial strength and utilize state-of-the-art systems; but without the right people - correctly organized and utilized - success is uncertain.
Successful FirmsIf construction is a people business, and if people entering the industry are “no good,” then is there hope for the future? The future will be much like the past - some firms will prosper and some will fail. The reality is that there are thousands of competent, qualified and trainable people looking for an opportunity to make a contribution. The successful firms will manage to attract and keep some of those people.
Successful firms also will discover the secret of allowing their entire workforce to contribute to the firm's success. They will realize that every employee has the skill, knowledge and desire to make a difference and to help the company improve. The total quality management movement that became so popular in the construction industry is a way of institutionalizing the process of soliciting ideas for continuous improvement from all employees. Believe it or not, management does not have a monopoly on good ideas.
However, this employee empowerment that holds so much promise for improving performance and job satisfaction does not occur by itself. A special group of people will be required to make it happen.
Leadership FactorWho is the most important person in a contracting firm? Who is the most important person in a school classroom? Who is the most important person on a battlefield? Who is the most important person on an athletic team? That person can be described with a single word - leader. Any group of people with the right atmosphere and the proper leader can move mountains. A special group of highly talented people without the right leader can't even find the mountain. Being able to bring out the best in people - the best effort, the best ideas, the best performance - is what makes a good leader special.
The Right AttitudeWe have seen thousands of examples of management miracles produced by groups of ordinary people. The key ingredient in those successes was an intangible quality in the person leading the group. A saying that we're fond of is, “Profit is an attitude.” One of these attitudes is a basic belief in the ability of other people to make a real difference. Success in the contracting industry always has been - and will continue to be - the creation of the proper attitude through enlightened leadership.
So, do they still make good people? Clearly, the answer is yes. However, only talented leaders will be able to recognize and unlock the potential in these people. Profitability - and survival - in the construction contracting industry, both now and in the future, will be dependent on the firm utilizing the full talents of all employees to continuously improve performance.
Will your attitude allow you to survive and flourish?