Is there something missing from your construction team? Discover four ways to improve teamwork on your construction industry job site.
At its core, the construction industry is all about teamwork.
A site cannot function without the unique skills each employee brings to the table. Because of this, building a construction dream team can be difficult, largely because there may not be enough skilled labor employees to hire to meet the industry’s growing demand.
A combination of a retiring workforce, employees who switched careers during the 2008 recession, and an industry-wide struggle with staff retention has made it difficult to build the ultimate dream team in the construction industry.
Shortages of skilled labor employees is paired with predictions that the construction industry will continue to grow by as much as five percent in 2017.
With this environment in mind, there’s no better—or more important—time to build strong teams. Here’s how.
Create Mentor-Apprentice Relationships
The retirement of existing construction employees will make building a staff dream team even more challenging. An estimated 54 percent of all construction workers are part of the baby boomer generation, meaning they’re likely to be out of the workforce within the decade.
As these employees leave construction sites for the final time, so too will the skills they’ve amassed over the decades.
While formalized apprenticeship programs were the primary way for new industry workers to find their stride in the past, an Aspen Institute Study found that post-2008 apprentices are either taking longer to complete their training or are canceling their apprenticeships altogether.
Cancellation is higher among women and minority groups: demographics the construction industry should be fighting to retain. The lack of formal apprenticeships means less staff are getting the guidance they need when they start in the industry.
That’s why it’s integral for construction employers to create and encourage mentor-apprentice relationships as soon as possible. These relationships will ensure your team can grow and change over time.
Ask some of your senior staff members if they’d be open to having a new staff member shadow them or ask them questions. Formalizing these relationships is one way to ensure the passing down of skills and will reduce the risk of age-based barriers forming on a project.
Another way to pair employees is to match a weaker employee with a stronger one. The benefit for your company then becomes threefold: you strengthen team relationships, a less experienced employee improves their skills, and you’re more likely to retain that staff member because they recognize the investment being made in their training.
Workplace diversity is essential to building a successful construction team. Employees of various ages, gender, and races bring multiple perspectives to a workplace and will mean a lower turnover rate for your business.
Diversity also means hiring staff members with different levels of education and work experience.
There’s no question that diversity can also harbor conflict. It’s important to encourage one kind of conflict and shut down the other to strengthen your team. A good conflict is one that comes when people have differing views on the best way to make a project work.
This viewpoint could come from their professional or interpersonal past. Debating the most efficient way to be productive is constructive, and will help employees recognize and value the unique perspectives their colleagues bring to the table.
Negative conflict, on the other hand, occurs when debate sparks because of differences attributed to specific areas of diversity—like someone’s age, race, gender, etc. These conflicts often arise in the form of personal attacks and should be penalized immediately, lest they risk the dynamic of an effective team.
Involve Everyone in Project Planning
Including employees at all levels in the decision-making process is a classic management tactic and one that pays dividends in the form of more loyal employees, less staff turnover, and solution-based problem-solving.
Involving everyone in company goals doesn’t just mean your regular staff. The construction industry is home to various subcontractors, most of whom have probably worked with dozens of different construction companies.
You can’t expect them to understand your company values and culture immediately. So how can you make all staff feel involved?
At the start of each project, gather the entire team who will be completing the work—full-time staff members and subcontractors alike. Give them the opportunity to get to know one another and meet the people who will be serving as the project leads and shift supervisors. This is a chance to explain the project and its timelines to all staff, so they feel invested and involved from day one.
When the project wraps up, meet as a team again to gather feedback and ask employees to explain what they think could go better in the future. By involving staff members in this assessment process, you’re likely to have more of them stick around long enough to see the next project.
Work as a Team, but Have Leadership
No matter how much flat management models are lauded in the corporate world, this concept doesn’t translate as well to the construction industry. Construction sites rely on responsible leaders: shift managers and project leads who can ensure timelines are on track and health and safety standards are met.
To work as a team, construction company leaders must recognize their role in motivating staff and setting examples when it comes to work ethics and corporate culture.
Leadership should also be willing to flag and call out any potential team issues—but do it in a way that will foster teamwork, rather than hinder it.
For example, if there is a conflict between two workers on a certain shift, an effective leader will have those employees come aside and talk through their problems with a manager. Encouraging staff to work through issues rather than moving an employee to another shift is a decision that will actively work to strengthen your team.
Building an effective team is an ongoing process and one that will be different for every construction company. Filtering the job applicant pool for people who may be good employees and team players is important, and should start as early as day one.
Chris Lennon is Vice President of Product Management at BirdDogHR. He is responsible for ensuring the BirdDogHR Talent Management System meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of our customers. He does this by working directly with customers and partners, identifying key market opportunities, developing product strategies ,and bringing exciting new products, features, and partnerships to market.