According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth for cost estimators is projected to increase by 11% by 2024. With the average job growth across all occupations being 7%, that’s well above average.
Not only is the demand for expert cost estimators high, but the supply is low, and the market is competitive. Should your best estimator leave for greener pastures, you will need time to find a replacement. Given the high demand, this could take longer than you can afford. Once you do find a replacement, it will take even more time to train them—particularly if you don’t have a clearly documented process or a way to easily transfer knowledge.
There’s no denying that the resignation of your best cost estimator can be a significant loss that slows down your business. But you can minimize the impact and get in front of the problem now by following these three tips.
1. Standardize your estimating process
When you have a standardized and repeatable estimating methodology, you’re not that dependent on any single individual. If you do lose a senior estimator, you’ll recover faster. If you don’t, you’ll still be able to produce estimates more efficiently, and with the people you already have.
If you’re relying on Excel spreadsheets, you’re at even greater risk. Excel spreadsheets don’t provide a uniform or consistent workflow. Worse, they make mistakes far too easy. In fact, it’s estimated that 9 in 10 spreadsheets contain errors, and the risk only increases with the size of the spreadsheet. Considering construction estimates contain hundreds of individual cells, that leaves a lot of room for error.
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A standardized estimating process, on the other hand, minimizes mistakes. It allows you to leverage your estimators’ best practices, effectively protecting your intellectual property.
When you capture the expertise of your best estimators in a standardized process, you create consistency across all of your estimates. This provides a number of benefits, including making them easier to review and making you look more professional. A repeatable process will accelerate your workflow, so you can complete more estimates with the team you have, plus gain time to value engineer those estimates for greater value. And should you need to hire new or replacement employees, it will make getting them up to speed a whole lot faster.
2. Create a central cost database
Developing a central cost database comprised of common assemblies is yet another way to capture and leverage the experience of your best estimators. The backbone of a standardized estimating process, your cost database is where you’ll capture your estimating best practices, tried-and-true cost formulas, and the vast majority of items needed to produce a thorough and accurate estimate.
Having a cost database that’s informed by your previous projects won’t just save time when creating estimates, it can also reduce your error rate. Giving your estimators the ability to choose items from a database, or better yet, a dropdown menu simplifies the estimating process further, making it easier for everyone.
Your cost catalog ensures that less-experienced estimators don’t forget to include all of the costs associated with tasks. For instance, the database will help you to remember the wire mesh required for a concrete pad, or if you need to pull special permits for certain projects. This takes the pressure off of your estimators to remember or already know everything, while also helping them learn.
When you have a central cost database, you’re able to apply the knowledge gained and lessons learned from past projects to inform project decisions. This tribal knowledge no longer resides only in the minds of your most experienced estimators. Now, your whole team can benefit and use this knowledge to produce more thorough and accurate bids.
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3. Take a team approach
No matter the business, no team lasts forever. People come and go, and roles change. A team approach minimizes your firm’s reliance on any one individual and supports the professional development of less experienced team members.
A team approach facilitates the transfer of knowledge from your senior estimators to more junior ones. When you can support multiple estimators working on the same estimate, it also empowers each individual to contribute their personal expertise. This allows all of your estimators to learn from each other, improving the effectiveness of your team as a whole.
Unfortunately, spreadsheets don’t make it easy. On the contrary, when you have multiple people working in an Excel estimate, it’s hard to keep track of the most current version. When there are several contributors, your estimators are more likely operating in spreadsheet silos, leaving someone the miserable job of trying to consolidate the work later.
Spreadsheets also make it nearly impossible to track changes made. Should someone make an error in a formula or mistakenly delete one, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it. When you can’t easily review estimators’ work, you’re unable to evaluate competency or identify areas where additional training is needed.
While the team approach to estimating holds many benefits, you’ll be limited in your ability to implement it if you’re relying on spreadsheets. The good news is, you don’t have to. Database-driven estimating software is purpose-built with these features.
Ease the Pain with Estimating Software
Losing your senior estimator may never be painless, but it can certainly be less painful. You can minimize the impact by standardizing your estimating process, creating a central cost catalog and taking a team approach to estimating.
But doing so will be tricky if you’re still working in spreadsheets.
Database-driven estimating software has the capabilities you need to reduce your reliance on any one individual. In the event you do lose someone, it makes onboarding a replacement easier. And if you don’t, you’ll have the tools to drive better performance from every estimator on your team, helping them produce more accurate estimates more efficiently than ever.
Losing a key employee is just one of the challenges that can impact your ability to produce and win more estimates.
Looking to identify and overcome obstacles before they occur? Take a look at this FREE guide to learn more.