Volunteering Knowledge During Your Downtime


The economic impacts of COVID-19 have been swift and far-reaching. A recent report from Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) shows construction industry employment declined by 29,000 jobs in March, and that year-over-year March construction unemployment is up 1.7 percentage points (from 6.9 percent a year ago). We likely haven’t hit the bottom, as Federal Reserve projections estimate that Americans stand to lose 47 million jobs due to the current health crisis.

The economic slowdown has left many in the construction sector looking for meaningful ways to make use of their time. It has also cleared many people’s schedules, making them hungry for information that may be helpful. Here are some constructive ways builders can share their knowledge, showcase their skills, and support their fellow contractors during the current crisis.

Host a Free Educational Webinar

Webinars are one of the most effective ways for businesses to convert potential customers because it’s an interactive way to spotlight industry challenges, highlight a company’s programs and services, and showcase employees as thought-leaders. What works in sales also works in information sharing, making webinars fantastic tools to share ideas with like-minded colleagues.

Perhaps your construction business has figured out an effective way to schedule crews during a shelter-in-place order, or has developed methods to maximize productivity while social distancing. Perhaps you’re a contractor with important insights about working and interacting with clients in the current environment. These are all topics that can be shared in a webinar. Web videos are useful, but webinars can provide the feedback and interaction that many people are missing right now.

For video and webinar topics, you could pick three of the top quick repair requests you regularly receive and instruct homeowners on how to tackle it on their own.  A viewer may watch the video and still reach out to have your company come do the work, since you’ve set yourself up as a subject matter expert. Remember: being helpful to your audience helps build brand loyalty.

Set Up a Virtual ‘Campfire’

Another way for builders to share their knowledge is to set up a virtual ‘campfire’ using tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Whereas a webinar pushes an expert’s solution to a difficult or common problem, a campfire convenes a mixture of less-experienced individuals and experts and pulls out solutions through a process of discovery. 

In a campfire, a moderator presents a scenario or problem based on the experiences of one or more persons in the group. Less-experienced individuals are then invited to grapple with the problem and present solutions. More-experienced individuals then expand on those ideas, generating new knowledge.

The benefit of a campfire is that it elicits knowledge yet to be communicated or documented, and transforms it into a shareable artifact. This technique is used to create useful resources such as guidelines, checklists, and wikis. 

It is also a more collaborative way to create knowledge that cascades in both directions. Campfires can save experts in the group time, and engages neophytes in a way that allows them to better internalize the lessons learned.

Put Your Skills to Good Use in Your Community

If traditional construction work becomes more complicated or sparse, you don’t have to look very far to make great use of your knowledge and talents. 

When Boston-based Consigli Construction Company isn’t busy building large commercial structures, they spend their time building beds for Boston-area children who don’t have them. 

In their spare time, members of the Southeast Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association voluntarily inspect, repair, and install HVAC systems for local seniors in need.

While many communities are concerned about social distancing, there are many great ways to make a difference in a virtual environment. Perhaps sponsor a virtual 5K race, conduct a virtual classroom lesson for construction management students, or host an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) for other contractors seeking experienced advice about how to approach a particular construction scenario. These are all contact-free ways to share your knowledge base with others.

Even if contractors aren’t sawing wood, swinging hammers, or drilling screws, they still have value to offer the community, as well as fellow builders. If you happen to have more time on your hands during the crisis, try to find ways to share your skills and experience with other people and professionals.


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