Keeping a construction project on-time and on-budget is a difficult task. Planning and deploying materials, labour and machinery in accordance with the overall project schedule is highly complex yet made even more difficult through poor communication. Here we profile some tips you can leverage on your next job to keep the project on track.
Tip 1: Establish the “rules of engagement” early
Prior to a project starting, align with the key stakeholders on how and when you as a team will communicate throughout the build. Reach an agreement on the cadence of any required meetings and progress reports and document these to hold everyone accountable. Utilising technology (such as mobile apps) can help streamline information flow, so ensure all parties have access to these and understand how to use them. If teams have contributed to the discussion and bought-into the timings and delivery methods upfront, they are more likely to actively contribute and stay informed.
Tip 2: Establish (and publish) a chain of command
This is especially important when any variances are encountered, or during troubleshooting of issues. Having key contact points who receive and distribute the correct and up-to-date information to the right people at the right time will minimise the chances of the project being derailed. There is typically a sensical hierarchy on a construction site (eg. construction manager → general contractor → subcontrators → individual trades and crews) but ensure that everyone has a clear line-of-sight to where they receive their information from and where they escalate any issues to. Publish a version of the chain of command or walk through it at a kick-off meeting to ensure alignment with your broader team.
Tip 3: Understand your audience and what they need to know
In most instances, the individual trades on site will have a requirement for different information than the client’s management board. Be sure that what you communicate is reaching the required audience, but not creating congestion on the project with a “decision by committee” scenario. Of course, transparency is the key and if in doubt then include them, but unnecessary meetings, those without an agenda, or excessive emails are a quick way to frustrate your stakeholders.
Tip 4: Clear and concise communications
Whether it is written in an email or delivered verbally, clear and concise communication in constructions teams is important. While you want to avoid being condescending, you have a duty to ensure that all participants understand the message. Try to avoid the use of slang, jargon or acronyms that can leave your message up to interpretation. Foster a culture where people are encouraged to speak up with a question or to seek further clarity. Always leave time at the end of a meeting for questions and thank people who ask them.
Tip 5: Encourage open dialogue and feedback
All workers should feel empowered to communicate within the team and to give and receive feedback. In addition to making everyone feel more valued and satisfied in their job it is a powerful way to win the trust of your staff if you are willing to engage in open dialogue. Welcome their feedback on any of the processes or meetings that you have undertaken and capture any inputs they have (both positive and negative). With the right mindset, the old saying of “feedback is a gift” is correct and provides an opportunity for you to learn and improve for future projects. When providing feedback, ensure you have picked an appropriate moment and ask the recipient whether they are open to receiving it now. If not, make a time with them to ensure they are best prepared to have an open discussion.
Tip 6: Be an active listener, not a passive one
Is there anything more frustrating than chairing a meeting where no-one contributes? Or having a conversation where you only get single-word responses (if anything) in return? Being an active listener involves immersing yourself in the conversation and contributing where appropriate, rather than simply listening to the message. This can be done whether in person, on video conference or even on the phone, by sending cues that you are concentrating (such as making eye contact, taking notes or commenting during pauses in the delivery). You can also practice active listening when you have the floor by asking questions, inviting feedback and directing individuals to feed into the discussion when something is particularly pertinent to them.
Tip 7: ABC – Always Be Coaching
To ensure your crew are working as efficiently and safely as possible, it is recommended to have a schedule of continual training. This can be conducted both on and off site and may include training on new technologies (such as apps and software), new equipment, changes in regulations and other industry best-practice. Upskilling on any of these areas can have a significant impact on improving and streamlining communication in construction as workers are already prepared for these aspects when the next project begins.
Good communication on the job site does not happen by accident. It can be carefully crafted and built into the behaviour of your team to ensure a project is safe, productive and profitable.
Why is communication important in construction?
Effective construction communication has benefits to a project that reach beyond just the budget and schedule. It can also ensure that build quality standards are maintained, legal requirements are met and that the safety of workers on site is assured. Conversely, a lack of coherent messaging, or bottlenecked communications, can result in non-compliant builds, unsafe work sites, schedule blowouts and costly overruns that erode the profitability of a project. Carefully crafted communication helps standardise messaging, create greater accountability and efficiency, while removing confusion.
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