Why employee involvement can be invaluable when planning a renovation or new construction project
by Heather Waice
When deciding to move forward with a commercial construction project, an organization is typically spurred by a specific reason(s). Their current space is outdated. They’re looking to expand their business. Their existing facility no longer accommodates their operations. Whatever the reason, once the decision is made to move forward with a renovation or construction project, the wheels are set in motion. An architect is hired, followed by a CM (or both together if design-build), and in-depth discussions about design, cost, and schedule take place.
In everything that gets talked about during this process, sometimes one of the most critical pieces of information that gets overlooked is the end-user’s input. True, an organization’s decision-makers are accountable to shareholders, and are responsible for ensuring that the project produces a high return on investment, but these individuals may not actually be using the space, at least not as frequently as the company’s employees. So, while leadership clearly has a large stake in the project, end-users are also affected by the decisions being made, and their opinions should matter. Here’s why.
- Familiarity. Employees are the closest to the space and the activities being performed in it. They can tell you why a specific design or material may not work, or share considerations you may not have otherwise thought of. This type of information is extremely valuable, particularly during the project’s design phase when potentially costly mistakes can be identified and avoided.
- Strength in numbers. Soliciting input from end-users can produce interesting results. You may not have considered a certain design element to be important in the new or renovated space, but if enough employees inform you that it actually is critical, it’s probably at least worth discussing. Speaking with multiple employees can also produce different ideas for accomplishing the same goals. What if there’s a better product that can be used, or a more efficient way to do something that actually ends up being cheaper than the original plan?
- Morale booster. Almost everyone likes to be asked their opinion on how to improve a situation. For a company considering a major construction project, asking employees for their thoughts can be a simple way to build morale. It’s a little thing, but it goes a long way. At JM Coull, one of our clients recently made a concerted effort to reach out to their employees for their feedback when deciding whether to renovate their current space or build a new facility. Our customer made it a point to get their honest opinions on topics such as design and aesthetics, building use and efficiencies, and any challenges they face within the existing building. Simply including employees in these types of discussions can increase morale and help decrease turnover. Of course, it’s impossible to accommodate every request, and asking too many folks for their input could invite unreasonable or impractical suggestions, but it’s still worth getting end-users involved, especially early in the process. The payoff is usually bigger than any potential headache it may cause.
Heather Waice is a Project Manager at JM Coull, Inc.