When it comes time to start a new construction project, there are plenty of steps you’ll need to take. You’ll need to finalize details with the client, choose and purchase supplies, and secure the best subcontractors for every part of the job. One not-so-obvious task you’ll need to complete, however, is creating a communication plan for your construction project.
What is a communication plan for construction?
They’re made up of well-thought-out action steps, and they are designed to protect your project from all of the unfortunate effects that miscommunication and misunderstandings can bring. The lack of a solid plan can let communication bulldoze your project, with the following problems being just a few of those that will be left behind:
- Confusion — on behalf of clients, subcontractors, and suppliers alike
- Budget overrun — which can cause an array of issues on the client’s end, or cause your company to significantly reduce the project’s profit
- Timeline delays — once again leading to issues for the client as well as scheduling difficulties on your behalf, making it challenging for you to move onto the next project on your list
- Safety concerns — caused by subcontractors not understanding safety terminology, being afraid to bring up hazards, or recognizing safety talk is a negative topic — when in reality it’s there to ensure they don’t end up injured or worse
Proper communication leads to safer work environments, potentially preventing a significant percentage of these injuries and deaths. Data also provides a clear insight into the lack of communication and technology costs in the construction industry:
That adds up to nearly two workdays every week spent on tasks that could have been avoided with proper communication in the first place. For the average medium-sized company, that could mean the loss of around $2 billion in profits every single year.
So, how can you avoid these significant communication-related losses in your next project? Implementing a plan with the following factors can make a significant difference:
- Identify and move past communication barriers
- Choose the right communication medium for each task
- Utilize an app to create a communication plan for your construction project
We’ll cover the details of each step in the information below.
Identify and Move Past Communication Barriers
This is a good place to start because it helps to ensure that all of the communication efforts you put into place will be effective.
To start, it’s important to understand what a communication barrier is. These roadblocks make it difficult for clients, subcontractors, suppliers, or really any people involved in your project to understand the information you’re sending out.
Understanding barriers helps by improving construction communications with behavioral science. Some of the most common communication barriers in the workplace include:
- The status barrier — This makes it difficult for subcontractors and superiors to communicate, as workers fear disapproval and higher ups fear losing the status they’ve worked so hard to reach
- The interpersonal hostility barrier — This occurs when two or more project participants do not get along well, and therefore are unable or unwilling to listen and respond to each other’s requests
- The parliamentary methods barrier — Rules and methods regarding who can communicate and when can lead to missed information that is considered out of line
- Organizational barriers — This can occur from communication chains being ignored, from essential information being lost, or from incomplete information being sent down the line
- Human barriers — This happens when project participants either choose to not listen or are unable to hear important information due to circumstances occurring in their own personal lives
Here is a breakdown of the types of communication barriers typically experienced by each project participant type:
With these barriers, communication truly is far more difficult than it appears on the surface. Here are a few tips to overcome these obstacles broken down by specific barrier type:
- Status Barrier — Having bosses that are patient, understanding, and can offer suggestions or solutions can help everyone feel more comfortable in communication settings. This can help subcontractors feel more able to share needs, ideas, and important information with managers. Keep firm boundaries on job titles as well, to help higher-ups keep their status while still treating their workers with respect.
- Interpersonal Hostility Barrier — It’s important to resolve conflicts between project participants when disputes occur. It’s also important to keep subcontractor records organized to avoid repeat problems as time goes on.
- Parliamentary Methods Barrier — Make sure your team knows if there’s something important to share, they can inform the rest of the crew in whatever way necessary. Methods and plans are in place for everyday tasks, but in extraordinary times, there are exceptions to the chain of command.
- Organizational Barrier — Even though exceptions can come about, your project participants should know the importance of following the communication chain on a daily basis. They should be trained in both paperwork and verbal request methods from their first day on the job to help ensure their communications don’t get lost in the line later on.
- Human Barrier — This barrier can be broken by treating employees well. If they need a day off for family matters or their mental health, do your best to provide it. Also, limit distractions on the job site to ensure every project participant is paying attention when important information is being shared.
Aside from specific barrier-related fixes, having solid communication in construction projects can make a difference for your team. Here are a few top tips to excel in this area while you work:
- Have an easy-to-understand chain of command — When project participants know who to go to for what information, communication can be kept clear from the very start. The communication chain helps to ensure information is not lost in the process and that everyone on a team will eventually hear the same words with no mix-ups as the words move down the line.
- Maintain quality checks — Include communication when jobs are being checked to ensure each small task is done up to standards. When quality checks are documented, mistakes are much more difficult to miss than if the process was simply to say “I did the job, and it turned out fine.”
- Learn to listen well — Your project participants have tons of important information to share with you. By practicing active listening, you can understand every word they share while also ensuring their information gets sent to the right place.
- Use technology whenever possible — No construction worker is capable of doing it all on their own. That’s why when technology is available to help you communicate well, it’s well worth taking advantage of the added support.
- Don’t forget your team members who speak different languages — The construction field is extremely diverse. Be sure to have a plan in place for your speakers of other languages, so they can communicate just as well as every other project participant.
- Train project participants on effective communication skills — Effective communication doesn’t need to end with you. When you train your workers on communication skills, you’re making everyone responsible —and able— for smooth-running conversations. Implement communication skills into the first days of job training, and add in refreshers every once in a while to see the best possible project success.
By implementing each and every one of these tips —or even just the ones that fit well into your current company climate— you can reduce or even eliminate communication barriers that tend to stand in your projects’ ways.
Choosing the Right Communication Style for Each Task
Even if you communicate well, it may not be taken in if it comes from the wrong medium. After all, each type of communication has its own time and place.
Some of the most common communication mediums in the construction industry include:
One great benefit of in-person conversations is the morale booster. When you’re talking about something that may not be super positive, or when you know your workers could use some added support, it’s a good idea to talk face-to-face.
This is because the interpersonal feel that comes from actually being near another human when they talk can bring about any emotion you choose.
You can bring empathy and excitement to the table, or a serious tone when it’s needed, too. You can also gauge the reactions of your workers when you speak to them in person, making it a great way to share the more important details of your company or upcoming tasks.
This communication style is great for documentation. When you have dilemmas that may need to be referred back to in the future, it’s a good idea to put the conversation down on paper. This can be done through written warnings.
Written communication can also include procedures, policies, deadlines, and more. The group versions are handy because they can be copied and sent to every member of the team, saving you tons of time in your conversation process.
Texts are great for immediate requests and quick questions. You may also want to use texts to ask a worker where they are when they fail to show up to the job site on time, as they’ll likely see your message immediately.
You may also want to send a group text to your subcontractors about eating a meal together at a local restaurant to celebrate the completion of a particularly difficult project. Text messages are an easy way to connect with other project participants and teams for daily coordination and it’s what most people use today (though it can result in a less documented record).
This form of communication is less about talk and more about listening. It’s essential when a project participant shares a concern or even an idea. It shows the person who’s speaking that their voice is heard and valued, and that action will be taken because of their words.
As you can see, each communication style and medium has its place. When you choose the correct one for your specific circumstance, you’ll be allowing the most effective communication to take place.
Apps That Creation Communication Plans for Construction Projects
All of the facts we’ve covered so far show one main theme — communication planning is essential in every area of the field. How to create those plans, however, may be less clear — especially when you’re already extremely busy with your management tasks.
Communication apps can be of service when you find yourself in this predicament.
They can create a specific plan, or give you a space to perform the tasks each conversation requires, so you don’t have to spend as much time planning on your own.
At Rivet, we’ve designed a system to support your communication and coordination needs. The Rivet app is flexible, which means a unique configuration for your unique organization, and provides organization to build your record and tools to help keep everyone on task and fully informed.
Here are some communication tools you can leverage for your construction projects:
Bringing All Conversations Into One Convenient Place
We know that saving time and creating an organized system are key to help you succeed in your construction projects. This is why Rivet stores conversations by project, so you can look back and see what you’ve spoken to specific project participants about as it relates to the projects they’ve worked on.
It also allows you to send things from within Rivet via text messages or email, so you don’t have to get others on the app in order to get your records organized. They can simply respond to the text thread in their native chat app, and their response will be pulled back into Rivet and organized.
Giving Everyone Access to Important Written Communication
It’s one thing to send policies and documents to every member of the team, but it’s a whole different issue to ensure they can find each piece of information when the actual time to use it comes up.
We figured a central location, easily accessible from within a project chat on any device could help make sure project members can easily find links to the latest plans & selection, lock box codes and permit numbers, or any other field you’d like to include. When everything is in the same spot, it’s a lot harder to lose the information you need.
Offering Translation Services to Help Every Project Participant Communicate
To ensure the app can be used by every project participant, in-app translation services are built in so everyone can freely converse. Rivet currently translates messages written in any language to English, and will translate English messages to Spanish. Soon, the app will offer the ability to translate from English into additional languages as well.
Rivet’s goal is to help you communicate as best you can with everyone who works on the projects you manage. We aim to make the app easy for every person to use, allowing you to save time with fewer redundant communications, fixing issues caused by miscommunication, and dropped communications.
We know that many times, tasks get communicated via text message or email. Because of this, Rivet is designed to include additional tools to help save you time and get your daily coordination in one app. Some of these tools include daily to dos (which you can easily dictate as you walk the site, or tap any message or photo to turn into a task), job site check ins, and more — all automatically organized by project creating a record of your work simply by communicating in the app. Rivet can be used alongside other construction apps for stronger performance, such as project management software or construction management software that are specifically designed for scheduling purposes.
A strong communication plan will help you transform the way you coordinate and collaborate with your colleagues, helping you get stuff done faster and be more productive. They allow you and project participants to:
- Identify potential communication barriers — and move past them
- Choose the right communication style and method for each task
- Implement plans for how to converse well — whether that’s with apps or other tools at hand.
At Rivet, we’d love to help you get your communication plans up and running. Feel free to contact us at any time, or simply download the app for free to have a look around. Rivet’s site has tools to guide you through every step of the process, with FAQ articles and plenty of how-to videos —as well as the option to call us for help, whenever you need it.
Want to learn more? Check out our guides:
- Creating a Solid Construction Project Closeout Checklist
- Construction Project Administration: Popular Tips & Resources
- Find the Right Construction Communication Management Software
- Can a Construction App Save You Time, Money, and Job-Related Stress?
- Types of Construction Project Management Software Explained