Key Results and Recommendations Workshop

Cassandra Ommerli & Dr. Abraham Tsehayae - 30 July 2016

In June 2016, the IRC hosted its Key Results and Recommendations Workshop at the University of Alberta. The event consisted of two interactive sessions led by Dr. Abraham Tsehayae and Dr. Aminah Robinson Fayek, which explored critical findings from two province-wide studies conducted by the IRC on (1) construction labour productivity and (2) organizational competencies and project performance. Well attended by a diverse group of construction owners, engineers, contractors, labour unions, construction associations, government, and university researchers, the Key Results and Recommendations Workshop is part of an ongoing initiative by the IRC to promote the transfer of knowledge and technology between industry and academia. Given overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, the IRC will explore the possibility of hosting future workshops to showcase progress on some of its other project application areas. For those unable to attend the workshop, a brief summary of each session is provided in the sections below.


Construction labour productivity system model formulation

Construction labour productivity system model formulation.


Session I covered findings from an extensive multiyear study on construction labour productivity. Over the course of the 2012-2016 term, IRC researchers collected job site data from several Alberta projects in order to provide construction practitioners with methods for improving project outcomes by identifying the most significant factors and practices impacting construction labour productivity. Most notably, findings from this study suggest a significant discord in the way that project management personnel and trade workers perceive the influence of many factors affecting productivity, particularly those related to crew experience, training, and cooperation, such as fairness of work assignments and treatment by foremen; frequency of accidents; stringency of safety rules; availability of drawings and specifications; availability of required hand tools; availability and quality of materials; and frequency of rework. Collected data on tool time, which refers to the amount of time spent by trade workers doing work directly leading to project outputs, showed mean values ranging from 45% to 60%. The basic assumption that productivity improves with increased tool time was tested for several activities, and results show that tool time alone is not a strong predictor of labour productivity. In contrast, the study found that improving tool time while simultaneously improving factors and practices impacting productivity can yield improvements of up to 1.5 times better productivity. This knowledge will help practitioners to better predict and optimize construction labour productivity in different project scenarios and in turn improve project performance and working conditions for all levels of project personnel.


organizational competencies and project performance figure

Construction organizational competencies and project performance.


Session II covered findings from a study conducted with several Alberta-based construction organizations to identify and compare critical functional competencies (organizational and project practices) and behavioural competencies (people skills) for owners and contractors. These functional and behavioural competencies were then assessed for their impact on project key performance indicators (KPIs), which measure project success against planned values related to cost, schedule, safety, quality, productivity, and satisfaction. Although owners and contractors evaluated the importance of certain competencies differently, they agreed on the relative importance of functional competencies related to safety, engineering and procurement, cost, risk, integration, quality, communication, and human resources, as well as behavioural competencies related to training, consultation, motivation, negotiation and crisis resolution, self-control, reliability, and commitment. Owners showed a higher maturity level in some functional competencies, such as safety, environmental management, contract administration, and commissioning and startup, while contractors showed a higher maturity level in other functional competencies, such as scope management, cost management, time management, and resource management. In terms of behavioural competencies, owners agreed more strongly than contractors that their teams possessed certain competencies.

By modeling the relationship between behavioural and functional competencies and performance (KPIs), the study found that significant improvements in project KPIs could be realized by increasing the level of maturity of functional competencies or by increasing the level of agreement of behavioural competencies. Moreover, it was found that when simultaneous improvements in multiple competencies were made, the improvements in project KPIs were even more significant. The results of this study are intended to provide practitioners with a method for evaluating their projects and teams and for benchmarking their competencies against other owners and contractors. In addition, these results will help organizations to quantify the relationship between project competencies and project performance in order to identify areas for improvement, which will lead to improved project practices and the development of more targeted and effective training programs for a greater return on investments in training.

For more information on the Key Results and Recommendations workshop or either of the IRC studies on construction labour productivity and organizational competencies and project performance, contact Dr. Aminah Robinson Fayek at

This piece originally appeared in IRC KeyNotes Issue 6 (July 2016).