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3 1.1 The Staffing Challenge State transportation agencies (STAs) are increasingly tasked with constructing and main- taining more complex transportation networks with uncertain funding models, new project delivery approaches, and increasing regulatory requirements. At the same time, STAs are faced with changes in agency construction staff in regard to their age, experience level, turnover, retirement, and the increasing use of consulting services to manage STA construction opera- tions. Due to this new environment, STAs need guidance to effectively and efficiently balance construction oversight responsibilities with STA construction staffing resources. Evolutions in the business models that STAs use for the development of highway construction projects are driving changes in their construction staffing needs. These changes are driven by several factors, including: 1. Inconsistent funding from year to year (e.g., lean periods of state funding followed by the influx of federal stimulus funding); 2. Dynamic sources of funding (i.e., changes in how projects are funded) across STA project portfolios (e.g., local vs. state vs. national, publicâprivate partnerships, or any combination of funding agencies); 3. Alternative contracting methods [e.g., designâbuild, quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) practices, warranty contracts]; 4. Changes in traditional job responsibilities (e.g., integration of construction and maintenance departments); 5. Increased use of consultant services to augment in-house personnel (e.g., design outsourcing and construction inspection outsourcing); 6. Changes in project requirements (e.g., increased environmental mitigation requirements for planning and construction); and 7. Advances in design and construction technology [e.g., Global Positioning System (GPS) machine control and three-dimensional (3D) design]. These evolutions occur at a time when STAs are experiencing significant staff turnover. Experienced personnel are leaving STAs through retirement, and they are being replaced by less experienced personnel who are encountering more rapid increases in responsibility earlier in their careers than their predecessors. In some STAs, retiring personnel are not being replaced at all. These changes are affecting all divisions of STA personnel, particularly those tasked with the construction of highway infrastructure. These personnel transitions are also occurring at a time when STA human resources are decreasing as the volume of lane miles managed is increasing. NCHRP Synthesis 450: Forecasting Highway Construction Staffing Requirements (Taylor and Maloney 2013) found that among C H A P T E R 1 Introduction
4 Workforce Optimization Workbook for Transportation Construction Projects 40 STAs, state-managed lane miles increased by an average of 4.10% between 2000 and 2010, while the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) staff decreased by 9.7%. When FTEs were normalized across the managed road system, the responding STAsâ FTEs per million dollars of disbursement on capital outlay decreased by an average of 37.3%. Compounding these challenges are the recent demographics of STA construction staff, which indicated that the most frequent age range of construction staff was 40 to 50 years and that the average years of experience were 10 to 15 years (Taylor and Maloney 2013). This indicates that STA construction staff will continue to experience a loss in knowledge and skill due to retirement. Among other reasons, this is leading STAs to use construction and engineering inspection (CEI) consultants to assist in project delivery. NCHRP Synthesis 450 reported that 96% of STA respondents indi- cated that their agencies were using CEI consultants to assist in executing construction projects (Taylor and Maloney 2013). These dynamics challenge STAs to manage larger volumes of work with fewer FTE construc- tion personnel. Many STAs find themselves in need of tools to (1) improve the effectiveness of construction staff, (2) forecast construction staffing needs, and (3) guide the decision of whether to use in-house or outsourced construction personnel. Examining previous work in these three areas identifies gaps, therefore allowing the team to design a practice-ready guidebook that helps STAs develop a more unified and efficient use of construction staffing resources. 1.2 Guidebook Objectives In light of these staffing challenges and guidance needs, the NCHRP Project 20-107 team was formed to develop guidance for staffing transportation construction projects that (1) identifies current contracting methods and associated staffing used by transportation agencies; (2) identifies staffing strategies; (3) identifies knowledge, skills, abilities, and qualifications required for project inspection and testing staff; and (4) suggests best practices for balancing project oversight responsibilities using agency staff, consultants, and contractors for transportation construction projects. 1.3 Guidebook Development This research operated under a framework of developing a construction staffing guide that is both proactive in helping STAs predict construction staffing demands and comprehensive in helping an STA develop a construction staffing strategy based on successful past approaches. Figure 1-1 illustrates the overall research process for executing this project. The research process began with a video conference with the NCHRP project panel to align project scope, objectives, and deliverables (Task 1). Following the video conference, the team reviewed relevant academic and STA published literature related to construction staffing at STAs (Task 2). Following Tasks 1 and 2, data collection and analyses were conducted using a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Two separate case study efforts focused on construction staffing strategies used on past projects (Task 3) and on agency practices used for forecasting construction staffing needs (Task 4). Staffing case studies informed the research team of broad staffing strategies, including determining what functions were conducted either internally or outsourced and establishing how technologies were utilized in the inspection and manage- ment of the construction projects. Staffing forecasting case studies helped the team identify the processes that STAs had used to accurately estimate future construction staffing needs.
Introduction 5 Simultaneously, the research team assembled a project performance database through coordination with individual state contract administrators (Task 5). This database was used in developing and administering a project-based survey to gauge the relationship between different construction staffing strategies and project performance. First, it allowed the research team to develop a project survey with completed project performance data (Task 5b), which helped relieve the administrative burden of project managers (resident engineers) that completed the survey. Second, it allowed the research team to target the survey to projects with varying levels of project performance (Task 4). The project-based survey collected data on each projectâs context, type of strategy used, technology used among the construction staff, and perceptions regarding the effectiveness of the staffing strategy and technologies used. The database was constructed with project data from 305 individual projects completed across 16 different states. Finally, results of the survey (Task 6) and collected best practices that forecast construc- tion staffing needs (Task 4) were used to develop an STA construction staffing guidebook (Tasks 7 through 11). The guidebook was reviewed by panel members and subsequently validated through an in-person workshop that included 22 participants across 14 STAs. When Tasks 3, 4 ,6, and 10 were completed, a total of 26 states had provided input, as shown in Figure 1-2. 1.4 Guidebook Organization After this introductory chapter, Chapter 2 identifies key positions filled by construction engineering and inspection staff. Positions are classified into four categories: resident engineer, inspector, surveyor, and administration staff. Detailed work descriptions and skills required to perform specific functions are also discussed in Chapter 2. Task 3a Conduct Staffing Case Studies Task 4a Task 3b Task 4b Task 5b Task 5a Task 6 Administer Survey Tasks 7-11 Conduct Kickoff Meeting & Literature Review Task 1 & 2 Develop Project Performance Database Conduct Staff Forecasting Studies Collect Forecasting Best Practices Develop Construction Staffing Guidance Prefill Survey Tool Collect Staffing Strategies Figure 1-1. Framework of research tasks.
6 Workforce Optimization Workbook for Transportation Construction Projects Chapter 3 identifies major work types in highway construction. These work types are ranked in order of decreasing risks associated with inadequate construction staffing, which provides basis for STAs to prioritize staff assignments among construction projects and activities. Chapter 4 introduces the Construction Staffing Strategy Matrix. Strategies that can help STAs alleviate staffing shortages are listed in a table organized by staff functions and work types. An electronic version of the matrix is discussed in Chapter 5. Detailed descriptions and additional resources on each strategy included in the guidebook are located in the appendix. 1.5 How to Use the e-Workforce Optimization Workbook The e-Workforce Optimization Workbook (e-WOW) includes three modules (see Figure 1-3): 1. Module I determines the required staffing level at each position (project engineer, surveyor, inspector, and administrative staff) on a project-by-project basis according to survey data collected by the research team. Project characteristics such as project type, size, complexity, location (urban/rural), staff âs union status, and use of CEI consultants are taken into con- sideration. If an STA has established its own standard project staffing levels, users may skip Module I. 2. Module II allows the user to import a list of scheduled construction projects. Required construction staffing, calculated either by Module I or defined by users, can then be loaded into project schedules. The module then calculates month-to-month construction staffing requirements by aggregating all scheduled projects. Peak and nonpeak staffing requirements can be identified given individual project schedules, which allow STAs to shift projects with flexible schedules in order to effectively use available staff. Figure 1-2. States included in research tasks.
Introduction 7 Figure 1-3. Process for using the e-WOW.
8 Workforce Optimization Workbook for Transportation Construction Projects 3. Module III contains the electronic version of the Construction Staffing Strategy Matrix. Regardless of whether there are shortages in construction staff or not, an STA can use the matrix to maximize efficiencies in the use of staffing resources based on the relative level of risk for each function/work type because the matrix provides a framework to help make decisions based on what level of risk the agency is willing to accept. In case of staffing shortages, users can locate potential solutions to reduce required staff by targeting specific functions or work types. Users aiming to reduce staffing for a given work type within a project can locate the work type in the rank-ordered table of risk-based work types.