Tips for Overcoming 16 Challenges of Human Resource Planning and Management on Pipeline Construction Projects

In this article, we’re going to focus on how to overcome the challenges of planning and managing the most important resource of them all — your people.

January 28th, 2019

Environmental

Health & Safety

With pipeline construction projects, the word “resources” encompasses a lot of factors including equipment, facilities, funding, and everything else required to carry out the project successfully. In this article, we’re going to focus on how to overcome the challenges of planning and managing arguably the most important resource of them all — your people.

Planning

Challenge #1: Determining project scope

The first step to determining the number of workers you’ll need for your project, and with what skill sets, is defining scope. However, pinning down an accurate project scope is quite the undertaking, and easier said than done.

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Challenge #2: Creating emergency plans

When you’re determining resources on a large-scale environmentally sensitive construction project, you must consider the possibility of emergencies.  

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Challenge #3: Risk management planning

With every project comes risk. Imagine that, despite your best efforts, a dig goes awry and you’re set back for an entire week due to infrastructure damage. Or a whole team gets the flu. Or an off-season snowstorm throws you off track. The list goes on. It’s these risks that may or may not occur that can derail a budget and schedule — and you still need to document ways to circumvent these problems.

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Challenge #4: Navigating the time between project greenlight and official kickoff

Chances are, you’ve been in the loop about this pipeline construction project for months, if not years. While it’s great to know about projects so far ahead of time, you’re also left to decide when to begin the resourcing process.

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Challenge #5: Overcoming tunnel vision

When you’re resourcing pipeline construction projects, it’s important to keep an eye on the big picture. But when you’re in the thick of planning, examining every little detail in front of you, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. It’s still important to pay attention to small details, but don’t get hung up on granular items that won’t impact the final outcome.

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Challenge #6: Writing RFPs

Creating RFPs can be daunting. Forget one small detail and you risk eliciting unfit responses (not to mention, looking a bit silly… no pressure, though). You might not be directly responsible for drawing up RFPs, but it’s still beneficial to learn the ropes and recognize what will yield the best responses from contractors.

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Challenge #7: Competing for resources during peak construction season

Kicking off the bidding process during peak construction season makes it easier to count on pleasant weather, but it does put you in a bit of a pickle when it comes to resourcing. Because as the saying goes, good help can be hard to find. Do your part to win over top contractors and you’ll have a better chance of building a dream team for your project.

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Challenge #8: Planning for tasks that aren’t resourced yet

Resourcing a major project is like putting together a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle — and you might end up with some missing pieces just when you think you’re finished. The lack of clarity is challenging, but there are some strategies to help bring everything into focus.

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Challenge #9: Appointing the right leaders from your internal team

Strong leaders are especially vital during environmentally sensitive projects like oil and gas pipeline construction. You want people who hold an excellent reputation within the company, are great at managing contractors, and can keep spirits high while also pushing workers when needed.

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Challenge #10: Determining right-fit contractors

Perhaps the most demanding part of resourcing projects is finding the perfect mix of contractors. They need to vibe with your company, be aligned with your business and project goals, and have a proven reputation and track record — and those are just the cultural aspects. While there are endless ways to vet contractors, here are a few solutions to this issue.

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Challenge #11: Balancing cost with quality of work

An article on resourcing wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the delicate balancing act of finding high-quality work at a price point that won’t bust the budget.  

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Challenge #12: Avoiding the risk of professional conflicts

Making everyone happy when you’re planning anything, especially a large-scale construction project, is a pipe dream. That said, it’s always best to try to avoid conflict when you’re booking resources.

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Managing resources

Challenge #13: Getting to know your resources

Depending on the scope, pipeline construction projects can go on for months or years. But once the project kicks off, opportunities to familiarize yourself with your contractors might be few and far between. Getting to know who you’re partnering with on such a large project is not only good for team morale, but it can also help you identify if you want to work with any of them long-term.

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Challenge #14: Communicating expectations

Two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their employees — a precarious position to be in during projects where every detail matters. At the same time, aligning everyone on expectations is key for smooth and successful day-to-day operations.

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Challenge #15: Avoiding overallocation

Spreading yourself or your workers too thin is one of the biggest mistakes you can make on any construction project. Imagine this scenario: you’re behind schedule on clear-cutting the pipeline ROW. To eliminate the risk of falling behind even further, you ask a small team of five to jump in to help after their daily tasks are completed… and also on the weekends. While you might get the clear cutting done and get back on schedule, it’s likely you’ll pay for it in decreased employee morale, lower productivity, and waning quality of work.

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Challenge #16: Maintaining a positive morale

Construction projects sometimes require putting in long hours, working in less-than-ideal weather, and making quick decisions under pressure. All these factors and more can quickly deplete energy levels and morale. In a management position, having some morale-boosting tricks up your sleeve can save you from consequences including workplace conflicts, plummeting productivity, and absenteeism.

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