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Focus - Embracing staffing & technology challenges

image Patrick Kunz, President, Halff Associates Inc., Richardson, TX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - It’s a good time to be in construction and engineering/ architectural design in Texas.








    The state’s population growth continues to soar, and the private and public sectors are building the infrastructure necessary to support that growth—everything from office buildings and retail to commercial spaces, industrial developments and public infrastructure.
    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dallas/Fort Worth gained 146,000 new residents in 2017. Meanwhile, six of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the United States reside in Texas.
    Despite a healthy business increase in recent years, there are a few challenges we, at Halff Associates, wrestle with today: staffing and quickly changing technology.
    Many Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are now at retirement age, and the smaller Generation X population (1965–1980) can’t fill that void completely. The real key is getting Millennials (1981–1996)—which the U.S. Census Bureau predicts will outnumber Baby Boomers in 2019 with more than 73 million people—the necessary experience to succeed.
    What it really means is we need the people on the fringe or the upper end of the Millennial generation to get experience fast because there are a lot of opportunities for them to fill positions. Specifically, it’s difficult to find quality mid-level managers—people with 10 to 15 years of experience or maybe even up to 20 years.
    Much has been made about Millennial thinking in society and the workplace, but Halff plans to embrace it.
    You hear things such as they don’t want to work and don’t have a work ethic. I don’t buy that at all. They want to do meaningful work. They want to know that somebody appreciates the work they are doing, and the market is such that they can demand that.
    I don’t believe that this younger generation is much different than my generation was. The only difference is today, companies are embracing that and giving this generation attention. They are helping them understand how doing even a small task fits into the bigger picture and why that is meaningful work—and how that is going to help them in their career growth. The firms that are doing that and showing a genuine interest in people moving up in their careers are the ones that are going to be successful.
    Halff is conducting more development training courses to help young professionals grow as quickly as possible and remain engaged in their work. We are also focused on improved communications, so employees know what is happening and what career opportunities exist.
    Technology is another hurdle in the sense that it has a significant impact to the firm’s overall cost to operate.
    As software improves, you’ve got to hold on to the legacy software. Those IT costs are continuing to grow as technology progresses. We do embrace it, and we’re bringing it into our designs. On one hand, it’s helping our designs, processes and implementation be more efficient and effective. But on the flip side, there is a significant cost associated with continuous investment in future and new technology.
    Digital delivery of plans and specs—moving away from hardcopy plans in the field—is another change that has occurred within construction administration and management.
    Digital technology will only continue to grow. 3D design is here in architecture; MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineering; structural—as well as starting to come into civil. The larger building construction contractors are walking around with an iPad and have a 3D model of the building to see where there are conflicts during the construction process. That’s real.
    Keeping up with those day-to-day challenges and solving our clients’ problems is our ultimate reward.
    Everything we do touches and affects people’s lives.

    Halff Associates Inc. is a full-service professional firm in Richardson, TX. -cmw

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