Creativity During Crisis
“In our decades of doing business, we thought we’d seen just about everything—from natural disasters to recessions, to terrorist attacks. But COVID-19 has been like nothing we’ve seen before. Innovation has been critical to helping us, our clients, and our industry find ways to move forward.” – Jim Donaghy
As many of our locations limited or stopped construction activity, we took the opportunity to step back and think about the incredibly smart people we work with every day—how can we leverage all of this expertise to address the challenges in front of us? Several years ago, we launched a set of Centers of Excellence & Innovation (CEIs) within the STO Building Group to help us continue to bring new ideas to the table in operations, estimating, and the client experience. With that structure already established, we asked our CEIs to focus specifically on the challenges of COVID-19:
Workplace safety: The health and safety of our workers was our number one priority. Our CEIs pored over guidance from OSHA, the CDC, local governments, and industry best practices to develop a working set of guidance for precautions and safety measures on our jobsites and in our offices. We’ve continued to evolve these protocols as circumstances have changed, and have even begun to offer our services in helping our clients update their own.
Tracking the impact: To do our work, we rely on our trusted subcontractors, vendors, and other partners. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve been in close communication with them to see how COVID-19 has affected their businesses and, our projects.
- Supply chain. We continue to regularly check in with our subcontractors to find out about factory closures and shipping delays and the impacts those issues are having on the subcontractor community in different geographies. We’re tracking the data we glean from these conversations to inform project decision-making going forward.
- Procurement. Based on that data, we advised many of our clients to have the materials for their projects produced in full and to store them in locations close to the jobsite so they were readily available as projects restarted. We also developed projection reports on how these circumstances would affect estimating in the near and longer terms.
Focus on learning: With activity slow in some regions, we figured now was the time to take advantage of training opportunities—both for our own staff and for our clients and partners.
- CARES Act. Nearly as soon as it was announced, we engaged ML Strategies and KMPG to lead a webinar for our subcontractors on the US CARES Act, which provided financial support to small businesses. In New York alone, over 150 of our partners attended.
- Thayer Leadership Institute. We partner with West Point’s Thayer Leadership Institute to provide leadership training for our employees. In April, we were able to extend access to their expertise to many of our clients. The exclusive, three-session series included some of the US Army’s most prestigious leaders sharing lessons on everything from managing change, to working in extreme conditions, to doing the right thing in all circumstances.
- Learning 360⁰. Our internal training hub, STOBG University, has always provided training and development opportunities to our employees. But throughout COVID-19, we stepped up our offerings significantly. We worked with our trade partners to offer virtual training on subjects such as audio/visual coordination, off-site prefabrication, staircase design-build, and MEP coordination using virtual construction, among other topics. In May alone, we delivered over 4,500 training sessions to our staff.
Design impact: We also spoke with our design partners to learn more about the long-term effects they expect COVID-19 to have on the built environment. Since then, we’ve become a go-to resource for many global clients and partners in helping them in-spect and modify their facilities to integrate the health and safety measures this new normal calls for.
And we’re not stopping there! We continue to mine our in-house expertise and that of our network of partners to explore new and better ways of working. In fact, we created an organization-wide initiative, Innovation 360⁰, to cultivate and organize those efforts. We’re looking forward to sharing more on what we’re doing—and hearing from you on how we can work together to move our industry forward together.