Case Study: The Miller Group

From Face-to-Face to Digital: How The Miller Group rapidly implemented online orientations to keep infrastructure projects moving under COVID-19 with GoContractor

About The Miller Group

For over 100 years, The Miller Group, part of the Colas , have built and supported major Canadian projects for both the private and public sectors.

Most notably, the Miller Group has built and maintained major bridges and highways, including the ongoing $180-million-dollar 401 Highway in Ontario for the Ministry of Transportation.

The Miller Group consists of multiple companies across the U.S. and Canada. In peak construction season, the group employs over 3,000 union and non-union employees and contract workers. Despite their size, the Miller Group is committed to operating like a family unit, placing high value in their supplier relationships and employee safety & well-being.

The Challenge: COVID-19 presents a challenge for face-to-face orientations on the job site

Before COVID-19, the Miller Group utilized GoContractor in one of its largest divisions, Brennan Paving & Construction Ltd.

As an organization, the Miller Group preferred face-to-face full-day health and safety trainings at the start of every construction season. At their Brennan division, however, there was a need for workers to arrive on site and conduct their orientation electronically during peak season.

“We wanted to provide the tool for our workers to complete their orientation on site for a half a day and then be able to go out into the field.” shares Chantel Britton, Operations Coordinator at the Miller Group. “This would allow for more seasonal or one-off workers to receive training whenever necessary.”

Outside of the Brennan Division, the Miller Group still relied on in-person, face-to-face health and safety training for its workers. This would entail the Miller Group’s health and safety and human resources teams to spread out across for multiple full-day, hands-on training. Some of these full-day training sessions required rented space or trailers, lunches for workers, and of course, travel for their HR and Health and Safety personnel.

When Stephanie Apted, the HSE Programs Manager, joined the Miller Group in March, she kicked off a conversation right away, discussing with leaders how to improve education and connection with Health and Safety and Miller Group employees. “We felt face-to-face was vital to motivating our workers and helping them understand health and safety practices. But the coronavirus sent us into a tailspin.” Apted shares.

When the pandemic hit, the Miller Group knew they had to act fast.

“Working from home was a huge problem to figure out. In construction, working from home isn’t really part of our culture. We were always in the office or on the job site; we didn’t have a video conference of choice. All of a sudden, we couldn’t stay in communication with people by walking past them in the building or on the project.”

“The management team acted quickly.” says Britton, “Some changes were harder to adapt to, but, like most, we did what we needed to do. Our business was considered essential, so we got to work and strived to carry on business as usual.”

With face-to-face interactions no longer safe, the Miller Group needed to find a solution for their orientation to jobs and other safety training and practices to ensure work could carry on amidst COVID-19.

The Solution: The Miller Group utilizes the GoContractor Platform across all units to ensure safety and continuity on projects

Looking at their Brennan division, who utilized digital orientations through GoContractor, the Miller Group decided to expand and roll out online orientation and digital safety training company-wide through the GoContractor platform.

“We do appreciate face-to-face contact with employees; it goes back to being a close-knit, family company. We want our workers to feel supported. But with the coronavirus, everything needed to go virtual, and GoContractor has been a great tool moving forward for us.”

The Miller Group management team acted quickly to roll out their virtual safety training for other divisions, enabling workers to receive their orientation to job sites, whenever, wherever.

“The benefit of GoContractor is its ease and convenience. Today, everyone has a smartphone or tablet. Workers and employees can complete safety training in their own time, at their own pace. They don’t have to sit in a chair for five hours in a trailer.” says Apted.

GoContractor aided the Miller Group in rapidly launching their virtual safety training across multiple units. “The staff helped out with those who aren’t as tech-savvy. We implemented social distancing on the job site, completed routine sanitation on job sites, and made sure to reach safety standards set by local agencies.” Apted notes.

The Miller group dove right into implementing safety procedures and digital workflows. “There wasn’t time to stop and think,” says Britton, “We just had to keep moving and execute necessary measures to keep our people safe and business running as usual.”

The Outcome: The Miller Group sees cost and time saving effects of online orientations and new potential in hybrid safety training approach

By the end of May, 86% of Miller Group employees and contract workers left a 5-star review of their new online orientation through the GoContractor platform. The Miller Group has been able to pivot to digital, keeping their projects moving and workers safe.

When COVID-19 is no longer a threat, the Miller Group shares that they will use a hybrid approach to safety training for their workers moving forward.

“We will always put a high value on face-to-face interaction, it’s the way we want to operate as a business, and after COVID-19, a portion of the business will likely return to that way of life,” says Apted. “But we will keep utilizing GoContractor after the pandemic. It’s a great tool for our business units who have personnel hoping in and out of projects, and it’s an effective way to receive the training they need.”

“The cost savings alone from not having to be in person is a major benefit,” says Britton. “…we save on cost, no longer needing to rent spaces, travel, provide lunches and more.”

The Miller Group also shares that GoContractor saves them time, guaranteeing that 100% of their workers can complete the training and get to work faster. And as far as further safety training and communication, the future is bright, Britton states, “the amount of training we could put on GoContractor is great. We are using it right now for orientations, but know we can use it for so much more. We can add other training and communications on GoContractor and send it to employees. We don’t have to rely on email, hoping workers have read it. GoContractor is a great way to communicate your additional training and requirements.”

“COVID threw us into this,” shares Apted, “but the online platform has opened eyes to leaders. They see the added benefit and potential this product brings to the table and their unit.”

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Sonya Sikra

Sonya is the Brand Strategy Manager at GoContractor. She specializes in communicating how implementing tech in construction can drive productivity and profit.