Five Ways To Improve Communication Among Construction Staff

By Cheryl Bikowski

A lack of communication on construction sites can lead to costly delays and much worse. The wrong materials could be installed or a significant element overlooked. Find ways to improve communications and establish guidelines for preventing miscommunication. Here are five ways to get your construction staff on the right track.

Use meetings properly

Most construction groups hold weekly or even daily safety meetings. Covering the required safety topics is important, but this time should also be used to cover any other important issues on the agenda. To keep meetings orderly, one individual should be in charge of the discussion. Each group supervisor can create a list of their current problems, including parts shortages or change orders. The designated employee can go over the areas and keep conversations from wandering to eliminate wasted time. Simply arranging for all workers to meet for five or 10 minutes before or after a shift will provide the time needed for keeping everyone updated.

Post notices

Gang boxes and break areas are good locations for posting notices. Use a system of having employees initial notices after reading them. This will allow you to know which workers may have missed the information and you can reach out to them directly. Notices can provide information on everything from change orders to scheduled meetings.

Be approachable

This can be a critical issue on construction sites. As a general manager or supervisor, your time is often spent chasing down problems. Staying in one location for any length of time is difficult. Paying attention to every small problem is even more difficult. Unfortunately, if workers feel they cannot communicate with you, things will get out of control quickly. If your situation does not allow for individual contact, make sure that supervisors are available to all workers on crews. Employees must be able to go to a supervisor when problems develop, and the small problems are often the ones that quickly become major work interruptions.

Follow a chain of command

Because communication errors can be so costly, you need to make sure that you establish a strong chain of command. Again, you may not always be available, which leaves crew supervisors in the position of making critical decisions. The responsibility level of each supervisor depends of the exact nature of your business, but all workers must know where to go to get the answers they require. Your supervisors can then contact you or handle problems and advise you of the solutions later.

Use technology for all workers

Communication will be greatly improved when issues are relayed immediately. Cellphones are not always the answer on construction sites, especially for heavy equipment operators. Tablets or laptop computers can be used to store current blueprints and can be updated quickly through wireless technology. These can be easily mounted in heavy equipment to provide operators with the latest data they need to get their work done the right way. By adding GPS tracking, supervisors will always know where operators are, reducing the time spent locating operators and equipment. Making technology work for you will reduce communication delays and mistakes. Each supervisor has the ability to use their own device to keep in touch with crew members. Changes to blueprints can be made without finding each outstanding hard copy and replacing it. While this may not eliminate all errors, it will make your daily operations easier while providing more control over individual stages.

Cheryl Bikowski (left) is the Marketing Communications Supervisor at Gamber-Johnson. Gamber-Johnson is the leading provider of computer and tablet mounts for forklifts and other heavy equipment vehicles in the construction industry.        

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