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People, Process, and Technology in Infrastructure

For several decades, I have been preaching the importance of people, process, and technology. It is hard to succeed with one without the other two. Now, we see one of the legs of the stool is collapsing, as the worker shortage is surging in all industries including construction, infrastructure, and engineering.

In last week’s blog I began to look at potential solutions to the worker shortage including legislation, guidance and mentorship, partnering with schools, bringing more women into the workforce, and the attraction of technology. This week it’s imperative we discuss in this blog series and dig a bit deeper into technology—and how in order for any digital transformation to be successful, we also need the right people and solid processes.

“Every technology is a people change,” rightly explains Claire Rutkowski, CIO and SVP, Bentley Systems. “It always is. So, it is not just technology change. It is training in empathy. It is training in patience. It is training in meeting people where they are.”

Let’s take a bit of a closer look at this from a few different key perspectives.

Sparking Curiosity

Children and young adults are naturally curious about the world around them, and at some point, that innovation and awe slowly begin to disappear. We need to continue to tap into that and encourage that among our children and our workers.

“We have the curiosity in kids that seems to get stripped out by the world a little bit. We grow up as young kids with building blocks and drawing the future, and then all of a sudden that curiosity and innovation is gone,” says Kat Lord-Levins, chief success officer and SVP, Bentley Systems. “We want to keep that curiosity and innovation alive in those kids and show them how they can actually take the things that are concrete that they are doing with their Lego blocks and turn them into things that will influence the world around them. That is the change we are trying to invoke in people.”

Infrastructure is such a good career option for our youth. They are able to tinker, build, and create. They can solve our world’s problems. Today’s youth is often worried about climate change and our planet. Infrastructure is an industry that solves these problems. These jobs provide clean water, energy, housing—and so many other things that our world needs right now.

One of the best ways to do this is by showing the youth—especially girls—role models. Rutkowski says, “We have so many great women role models. Social media and influencers are a good way to get the word out that you can be a woman, you can be in infrastructure, and you can be cool. You can do all of those things and help do something meaningful to help the world, whether it is providing clean water, or building better roads, or providing better lighting outside so it is safe for everyone.”

Generational Gap

While sparking curiosity and awe for our world’s infrastructure is perhaps one part of the equation, another part is acknowledging that there is still very much a generational gap in the construction industry where a changing of the guard needs to happen in a way that is fluid for everyone on the job.

“Understanding that generational gap is the key to solving it,” says Lori Hufford, VP, engineering collaboration, Bentley Systems. “If you understand that you have that generational gap, then engineering firms can put programs in place that help facilitate closing that generational gap.”

Naturally the gap comes because there are many very mature workers with instructional knowledge about construction and processes that exist in the industry, but some are reluctant to change. At the other end are these young workers that are often curious and eager to change.

Technology can perhaps solve some of these generational challenges that exist. As Rutkowski says, “You don’t have to know how to use a slide rule anymore. You don’t even have to know how to use a calculator in many cases because the tools themselves are capturing some of that knowledge. When it comes to workers who are feeling threatened by change or are maybe making a transition toward retirement, our toolsets can help capture that knowledge, so it is embedded in various different components—component-based design, right—so that when someone comes in it is easier. A lot of the thinking has already been done in terms of that institutional knowledge captured in the tools, which makes that transition, I think, easier for people.”

At the end of the day, the changing of the guard will be key for ensuring that we instill the right people, process, and technology for future generations. How will you proceed?

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