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Creating Job Descriptions for VDC-BIM

By Bruce Cousins, AIA on September 27, 2010

It is widely accepted among HR professionals that effectively written job descriptions are communication tools that are significant in your organizations’ continued success. Creating a successful company is dependent on communicating the Company’s expectations of an employee’s job duties for both the employee and the company. Senior management needs this so they may understand how the employee contributes to the company’s strategic plans and the employee needs them to understand what is important for them to achieve and also offer a career path forward.  In larger firms these are created by professionals and memorialized by the HR department.  In smaller firms they are informally communicated when a new hire is made, but often never reviewed or updated as the employee matures in the position.

As Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) become more widely accepted firms large and small are looking for job descriptions that they can use to both hire new people and evaluate people already in the VDC-BIM role.  As the Senior Manager of Virtual Design and Construction at The Weitz Company, I was responsible for the formulation of job descriptions for VDC-specific positions, as well as beginning to integrate VDC into existing traditional roles within a construction company.

To start our initial formulation of VDC-BIM job descriptions, we began by asking VDC colleagues their companies approach to authoring job descriptions and searching for emerging industry-standard templates that used descriptions in relationship to our strategic plan, with a priority to define them as they related to the development of the VDC capabilities we were evolving within the firm and not something generic.  This meant that it was important to work with senior management to understand and agree to what the “deliverables” of VDC-BIM were and how they would fit into the existing project delivery paradigms.  But there is problem with this, there were few if any precedents and we were evolving the deliverables as we prototyped and tested them in real time project management situations.

It has been several years since the industry began to consider the issues of job descriptions.  I have taken this opportunity to revisit several with VDC colleagues both their companies strategic use of job descriptions in planning and how they will integrate VDC and BIM modeling at the project level as well as, the day to day uses of job descriptions is hiring and employee evaluation.  May of these Managers have generously offered to share their companies Job Descriptions with me for this Article.  Several important considerations are answered in these interviews.

To start your formulation of Job descriptions your firm needs to ask and answer, how do you and your management team plan to deploy VDC-BIM on projects?  Some firms look at BIM as a drafting activity meant to provide project teams 3D modeling services. Taking this view they would create a BIM department that would likely be staffed with specialized CAD users.  Alternatively, other firms focus on integrating 3D technology into each project teams’ management skill set.  Thus the development of Job descriptions would be different for each management strategy.

The distinction between the specialized CAD manager approach vs a project management that is specialized in model management requires a unique job description for each position.

Interviews

Chris Allen, Manager of Virtual Design and Construction, The Weitz Company

The Weitz Company views expertise in VDC processes as an extension of our people’s skill set.  We’ve created “Role Profiles” for VDC-specific leadership positions, though it hasn’t been our intent to create a group or department of specialized users simply creating 3D content.  Our goal with these roles is to fill a need in developing VDC competencies for our construction professionals in three major phases of work.  Each of the interconnected phases overlap and involve information exchanges, internally and externally, including involving the client.

The three phases consist of 1) work in business development (or pursuit of projects), 2) preconstruction and estimating, and 3) putting work in place.  Weitz’ VDC leaders are, with a goal of improving planning, decision making, and communication processes, facilitating growth of VDC expertise in our employees across the company, through the major phases above.

Thus, there are corresponding VDC capabilities we’re adding and continually improving for our employees to leverage their individual skill set, ranging from project engineering, project estimating, and office and field project management.

Chris believes VDC- specific competencies in existing and prospective employees are becoming a factor in deciding project team make-up, with likelihood of even greater reliance in the future.  Not so long ago, companies looked for and compared individuals’ levels of expertise in office personal computing (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.).   Now employers expect standard minimum competency for current and new employees.  VDC competencies for AEC firms will probably, if not already, be looked at much the same- just a part of doing business.
Weitz Job VDC Jo Description

Viktor Bullain – Manger. Virtual Construction and Design at Turner Construction

Q. Does your company have formal job descriptions for VDC-BIM personnel?

A. Yes. We have several levels that match with other standard Turner job categories and levels. For example VDC engineer, VDC Manager, VDC Regional Manager, VDC National Manager, VDC National Director.

Q. Were these created to mesh with the companies’ strategic plans for integrating VDC-BIM in project management and other production techniques and processes?

A. Yes. The VDC roles are integrated into preconstruction and construction project teams. There are multiple ways to integrate VDC into the project team depending on project type, delivery method and complexity. Turner is actively cross training estimators, schedulers, engineers, PMs, PXs and Superintendents to be able to deliver BIM / VDC in multiple project types.

Q. If so, please describe how they are used to select new hires, review employees and communicate with employees and management.

Turner is investing significantly into increasing in-house VDC skills. We just introduced an 8 week VDC/ BIM training program called Turner BIM University. The program is designed to teach new recruits the Turner VDC / BIM process and tools and help integrate them into business units quickly and efficiently.
Turner  VDC Job Description

Laura Handler – Director Virtual Design and Construction at Tocci Building Companies

I also love how they talk about hiring criteria. Since we’ve been actively hiring for two VDC positions, we’ve gotten so many resumes from people who know Revit, and probably know it quite well, which is exciting. However, we aren’t just looking at “depth” of knowledge in Revit because most of the work that a new hire will do is undefined, because we are constantly pushing the envelope. As it is put in the Presentation Zen post:

… how do you hire someone for something that has never been done before? … past success alone is not enough.

Pixar looks for experience with “failure and recovery”, along with an entire host of qualities. I like to think that we are doing similar things. It’s about problem solving, working in a team, culture fit, negotiating and a sense of exploration.

Edward Hoagland – Construction Model Manager  — PCL Construction US

Q. Does your company have formal job descriptions for VDC-BIM personnel?

A. Yes, currently we have three levels – VC Specialist, VC Engineer, & VC Manager.

Q. Were these created to mesh with the companies’ strategic plans for integrating VDC-BIM in project management and other production techniques and processes?

A. Yes, currently it is a standalone position, our next step ( in progress) is to integrate VC skills into field engineer, project engineer, and estimator positions.

Q. If so, please describe how they are used to select new hires, review employees and communicate with employees and management.

A. There is a formal process for career development, using competency profiles created for individual positions that progress through different levels.  We also use the position descriptions to communicate expectations and general responsibilities to new hires.

PCL Job Descriptions:
Virtual Construction Manager
Virtual Construction Specialist
Virtual Construction Engineer
Virtual Construction Profiles