Change Management: A Conversation with MCAA’s Sean McGuire
Change is the only true constant in business. You can count on business changing—in both predictable and unpredictable ways—across every industry and era.
Sean McGuire is the Director of Construction Technology at Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). As the organization’s primary liaison with construction technology companies, he has unique insights how to improve technology user adoption in construction trades, including field service.
As part of our Field Talk series, I recently sat down with Sean to ask his perspective on change management and get some tips on driving technology adoption in construction and field services.
Question 1: When you think about change management in construction and field services, what should executives understand first?
Tip 1: Accept that change proceeds cautiously in construction and field services.
[Sean McGuire] “Change management is not unique to the construction and field service industry, but with contractors, the process tends to proceed more slowly than in other industries. I believe that is because anytime you’re worried about building something right, you can’t cut corners. A building has to meet code, certified by engineers and your reputation is ultimately built on your work product. Before you can push the process forward, you have to make sure the quality of work will not be at risk.”
Question 2: What is one change management tool or method that works well in construction trades?
Tip 2: Use nudging to help employees make incremental changes.
[Sean McGuire] “Recently, I listened to a change management talk about ‘nudging’. Basically, it is easier to motivate people to make changes if you break large down change into smaller bite sized pieces for people to tackle one at a time.
An example is getting children to eat apples. When a kid sees an apple, they see it too big to eat at once. However, if you slice the apple into smaller sections, all of the sudden it becomes a lot easier for them to tackle.
If you show people a big process change and reveal it outright, it can be hard to get buy in. Instead, change one little piece at a time and motivate people by making things easier. Nudge them into improving their process or trying a new software or device.”
Question 3: Field workers have a 40% higher age rate than other industries. What impact does the skilled trades gap and aging construction workforce have on change management?
Tip 3: Be aware of generational differences, but don’t dwell on them.
[Sean McGuire] “This isn’t a new problem. Every generation, as it ages, thinks the younger generation doesn’t know anything. And every new generation coming into the industry thinks the elder generation is out of touch.
I hate to classify generations for technology adoption because I don’t think it necessarily holds up. There will always be people reluctant to try something new, at every age.
Figure out what motivates each generation—their strengths and pain points. Work with the strengths in each generation because they all have different strengths. Workers that have been in the industry for twenty or thirty years have priceless experience that can’t be easily transferred. Use whatever tools you have at your discretion to transfer that experience into the younger generations as fast as you can.”
Question 4: What are your thoughts on gamification—creating an environment for a reputation-based economy that injects some fun into the process of using new software?
Tip 4: Make change more fun with gamification.
[Sean McGuire] “In almost all field service companies, employees sit through regular training sessions. They can get their workforce up to speed on new technologies or walk through processes the way that the company would prefer. Some companies do it better than others, but what if you gamified that training? I could imagine plumbing employees capturing photos and stories of the ‘craziest service situation of the week’ and using it for training. Something that celebrates the madness our field techs face on jobsites. Not only to show some of the stranger scenarios off, but to also learn from how they approached and fixed it.
Gamification with small rewards—even just a candy bar—can make things fun. When people compete for anything, they are more motivated. With technology like XOi Vision™, they can tell a visual story and capture interesting features of different jobs while still demonstrating how they performed the work.”
Question 5: Where do you draw the line between asking for buy in and telling workers ‘this is the way we do business now’?
Tip 5: Work to achieve buy in from employees, but don’t accept excuses.
[Sean McGuire] “If management truly sees the value in a technology solution, they should be able to get employees to see it the same way. So buy in should happen if the leaders identify the value and explain why they believe in that solution.
That said, ‘I’ve always done it this way’ is never an excuse you should accept. It means an employee or manager is recalcitrant and reluctant to make any kind of change.”