Residential Construction Advice — Good Communication on the Job Site
Construction job sites — they’re filled with great work and impressive outcomes, but they also include plenty of challenges for workers, homeowners, and suppliers. Thankfully, good communication on the job site can make every task you complete a bit easier on everyone involved.
The main reason why communication is so important on the job site is time, which often means money. When details are not shared correctly, or when pieces of the project are not fully understood, it can lead to work taking longer to complete or even being done completely incorrectly. This then leads to longer days on the job, rework, and more.
Today’s construction industry statistics make it clear that wasted time is a true concern in this field:
Percentage of rework caused by poor communication on the job site
Dollar amount lost to miscommunication-related rework in the United States in the average year:
Average percentage of total project cost related to rework:
Percentage of projects requiring communication-related overtime:
Percentage of projects that go past their deadline due to communication errors:
These statistics may be surprising, but if you have any experience with managing construction projects in the past, it’s likely easy to understand their truth. Instead of allowing the numbers to cause you and your team stress, use them as motivation to move into the smaller percentiles.
Implement good communication on the job site to improve your project success.
The tips in the article below can get you on your way to accomplishing this goal.
Advice for Supervisors
Good communication needs to start at the top. After all, if supervisors, construction managers, and company owners aren’t communicating well, how will the workers below them understand the expectations of solid conversation?
To ensure your talk tools are effective at all times, consider putting the following practices into play on the job site:
Make a communication plan
Communication in construction is typically easier for everyone involved when you have some sort of plan in place. You might want to use a communication chain of command, where workers have specific individuals they speak to for each question or concern. You can encourage clear writing, drawing, and accurate measuring.
You can even take time to do some team building exercises to ensure everyone on the project is comfortable speaking with one another. Whatever works for you and your job site, make it the norm. No matter what steps your communication plan has, it will make a difference, as long as everyone knows they’re expected to follow it.
Act as a communication role model
How do you want your project participants to communicate with each other — and with you? To turn this desire into a reality, you’ll need to converse in that same fashion. Listen well, speak clearly, and share all details every time.
Make eye contact and speak calmly to subcontractors, even if it’s about negative subject matters. This will set the tone you want to create, encouraging everyone to communicate in the same way.
Thank subcontractors for solid communication
When project participants communicate well, let them know. Praise is one of the best ways to encourage a behavior to continue — good communication on the job site included.
Another communication tool supervisors can use on the job site is open communication. This conversation style may seem like it goes against the chain of command at first, but it can actually be used whether you use this type of organizational system or not.
Open communication means project participants can talk to anyone when it’s needed — they don’t need to start with their direct supervisor if that’s where the problem lies. This is important if a worker has a dispute with the person in charge.
Having the ability to go above that employee or subcontractor can help solve disputes quickly, and may even save the worker’s spot on the team, as they’re much less likely to quit over the conflict after the issue has been erased.
Open communication also means details are freely shared at all levels. When subcontractors know all parts of the plan, they can better understand the work they’re completing. They feel valued and heard, often allowing them to perform higher quality work than they would if they were treated as a lesser team member.
Lastly, open communication keeps workers on task. It means they don’t need to wait for direction when a job is finished, because they know exactly what to do next.
Communication plans, open communication, and being a conversation role model are all essential practices for supervisors on the job site.
By utilizing each of these suggestions on a daily basis, you’ll set a company-wide standard for all of your project participants to follow.
Advice for Subcontractors
Supervisors aren’t the only ones who need to communicate well — as a subcontractor, you need to understand the information they’re given and share details clearly with higher-ups and coworkers.
These pieces of advice can be a solid start for good communication on the job site at this level:
- Follow your team’s communication plan — In a construction project, it’s essential that everyone is on the same page at all times. This is often easier if every project participant is communicating in a similar fashion. If your team lead has a communication plan in place, do your best to stick with it. It will help your voice be heard, and it will ensure you’re receiving all the information you need to complete each task.
- Request the tools you need — If you have difficulty communicating in any fashion, be sure to let your supervisor know when you first agree to take on a job. For example, if you speak little English, let them know you’ll work best with a translation tool at hand. If you’re hard of hearing, be sure the people around you are aware, so they can speak clearly, without distraction or while facing you, so you can read lips if needed. By letting those around you know what you need, you’ll better understand verbal communication and have your thoughts heard.
- Support fellow subcontractors every step of the way — When you go into a job site with a team mindset, you’re much more likely to come out with a successful project completed. Speak to other project participants with a friendly and supportive tone. If they need help understanding a step, hear their concerns and provide answers to the best of your abilities. Just this added relationship can improve the communication style that happens throughout each task, making the end result stronger every time.
These job site communication tips will not only improve the outcome and timeliness of the project you’re working on, but they will also improve your work day experience. Put them into place to impress higher-ups, enjoy your work, and make friends with coworkers simultaneously.
Active Listening Goes a Long Way
Good communication on the job site isn’t just about talking. To converse as best you can, you’ll need to learn how to listen effectively as well. The best way to do this is through a practice called active listening.
Active Listening with Workers
Active listening is a conscious effort to hear and understand the words that those around you are speaking.
The main steps of active listening include:
- Paying attention — This includes the basics of listening without distraction — out in the open and within your mind. You can pay better attention by making eye contact and hearing both the speaker’s words and their body language.
- Showing that you are listening — Eye contact is important here, as it’s the first step to showing the speaker that you’re hearing their words. You can also nod or agree with them occasionally, and use positive body language to show you’re open to hearing what they have to say.
- Giving feedback — Now it’s time to really prove you were listening. Respond by repeating back some of the speaker’s main points. For example, if they say “I had a rough morning. I spilled coffee on my way out the door and I got a speeding ticket on my way to the site,” you could respond with “Wow, those are both tough things to go through on the same morning.” The feedback may not add meaning to the conversation, as the purpose has already been shared, but it shows the speaker you hear them and that you care. Phrases like “I’m hearing…” and “You said…” can be helpful, as well as questions and summaries related to what the speaker has to say.
Active listening can sound more fit for personal lives at first, because it is effective in those settings. But it also makes a difference in conversations on the job site. Some of the main benefits of active listening for construction companies include:
- Increasing job site safety
- Improving productivity levels
- Creating a more positive workplace culture
- Handling disputes effectively
- Enhancing client relations and conversations
This communication tool can also improve the relationship between supervisors and subcontractors. The construction industry statistics in the table below show exactly why this is so necessary — and effective:
Percentage of owners who feel they need more communication with their subcontractors:
Percentage of owners who state poor subcontractor performance is the main cause of construction struggles:
How can active listening improve the outcome these statistics represent? Because it makes subcontractors feel valued, and it improves the relationship they have with leadership. This is done through:
- Making the most out of every conversation — even if you don’t get to talk to your subcontractors as often as you’d like, active listening can help you make the most of each talk you do.
- Helping workers feel heard — active listening on your behalf can show project participants that you care. It shows they are a valued member of the team, and what they have to say is important. This not only improves the relationship you have with your subcontractors, but also boosts their confidence and gives them more reason to perform the best work they possibly can on your job site.
- Making project details clear — When subcontractor team members are encouraged to use active listening skills, they are much more likely to understand the directions they’re given the first time. It’s easier for you to trust in their understanding too, as they show they’re listening and providing feedback as you share the work you need them to do — if applicable.
Active Listening with Clients
Lastly, active listening is important in conversations with clients. Homeowners often come to the job site to share their opinions and remarks. It is essential that every piece of information they share is heard and understood. If details are missed, unhappy customers are almost sure to be the result.
It’s also essential to show clients that they are being heard. You’re providing them with a service in the place they call home, and you want them to be comfortable before, during, and after every task you complete.
Some ways to use active listening with clients include:
- Repeating important details back to them — The summarizing tip we mentioned above can be helpful here, as it shows clients you know exactly what you want — even if your years of experience make the details more obvious than they would guess.
- Asking questions — Asking questions can be helpfu too, especially if any clarifications on details are needed. Even if you don’t need more information, asking helps the client feel heard and understood in each and every one of their requests.
- Making eye contact and taking notes — As mentioned above, eye contact is one of the best ways to both listen and show the speaker that you are listening. Taking notes shows the clients that their words are important — just be sure they know that’s what you're doing, and they don’t think you’re ignoring them by looking at your smartphone. You could do this by saying “That’s a great point. Let me write it down so everyone on our team is aware.”
All in all, good communication on the job site is essential and fairly easy to implement. If you still feel the need for some extra support after implementing these tips, you may want to bring a construction app or a construction management software into the picture. These tools are designed to support you both on and off the job site.
Here at Rivet, we’ve developed tools to help you communicate and coordinate with your crew. Some of the features you can leverage for job site communication include:
Text message integration
Rivet provides a simple way for project participants to communicate, whether across the job site or from a distance. In-app messages can be used, but text messages can also be pulled into the system. This means if you have a worker who isn’t fond of adding another app to his or her phone, they don't have to.
Rivet can communicate with their phone number, even if everyone else is in an app-based group message thread. These messages can be used for subcontractors to speak to each other, for supervisors to send important project details, or even for suppliers to update when a shipment or delivery truck will arrive.
Rivet has built-in translation capabilities, so your project participants don’t have to worry about language barriers. Message recipients can translate their incoming threads to almost any language, making directions and updates that much easier to understand. Message senders can switch messages between English and Spanish, with more language options soon to come.
With Rivet, you can also keep all project information organized by job site. This means when a subcontractor needs access to a lockbox code or client phone number, they can find it without searching through stacks of paperwork — or adding unnecessary calls to their supervisor’s day. This adds convenience and efficiency to several job site tasks.
You can also find answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions on the website FAQ page, or check out some of our tutorial videos to get a real feel of our tools: