August 21, 2023

4 Signals of Poor Jobsite Communication (And What to Do About It)

What happens when information isn’t communicated to the front-line workers from project or company management?

When project information isn’t shared with those that need it, the jobsite can feel chaotic and disorganized. Additionally, a failure to communicate effectively can lead to serious issues, including an increased risk of accidents, rework, personnel conflict, and delays.

For example, a project incurs additional costs because no one told installers the product number of the materials needed to be installed. When the supplier delivered the wrong materials, the installers figured they were the right materials and installed them anyway. Later, the material had to be torn out and replaced. Had project leaders communicated the exact specifications of materials to the installers, the odds would have increased that an installer would have noticed the error and stopped work. This lack of communication leads to frustrations for everyone involved.

The good news is that with a few tweaks, field communication can be improved significantly, which will lead to enhanced collaboration, coordinated efforts, better management of tasks, accurate reporting,  increased staff morale, and a happy client.

To help you assess if your job site communication is up to par, we have identified four signals that proper field communication may not be taking place:

Signal #1:

Injuries are occurring regularly.

Construction sites are dangerous places. In the United States alone, one out of every five deaths in the workplace happens in the construction industry, according to the Department of Labor.  Non-fatal injuries can cost companies millions of dollars every year. When workers are involved in a work-related injury, it can result in loss of productivity, additional costs, project delays, and decreased morale for the team.

Many factors are involved in ensuring safety on the work site, but communication is one of the most critical elements. Good construction communication can help establish a workplace culture of health and safety awareness, ensure that potential hazards are identified and shared with employees quickly, and provide clear instructions so that safety procedures can be followed.

Signal #2:

Work is consistently marked as poor quality.

Poor quality work can result in serious financial complications or difficulties, reputational harm, and property damage. Poor quality work could come from a flaw in the design, subpar workmanship, or errors and can result in costly construction defects and rework.

To prevent this, communicating specifications and expectations about installing the work needs to be a priority – and there needs to be a way to document issues that highlight the problem or error, identification of the cause, and the solution. Additionally, there needs to be a way for project leads to ensure that the field team understands, acknowledges the plan, and identifies who will perform the work.

Signal #3:

You can’t communicate with everyone on a jobsite at once.

Dangerous events can be anything from an approaching lightning storm to a fire on site. Sometimes those events are outside of the contractor’s control.

However, contractors have the opportunity to share the news of the danger with the crews, how it affects them, and the appropriate steps they should take. A communication plan and platform that can rapidly relay information to everyone on the job is critical to alerting crews, giving them time to seek safety.

Without this capability, you run the risk of communication lapses which can lead to confusion. This is especially true for workers who may get the information too late or may not get it at all.  And when you’re relying on word of mouth and the chain of command to communicate with crews, effectiveness will vary depending on how fast project leaders can relay information through foremen to the crews and how good individual foremen are at communicating. Human error can make this type of communication unreliable.

Signal #4:

Contractors not included in the communication mix.

Many companies use a mix of company self-perform employees and trade contractors. Trade contractors may be on site for a long time, while others may only be involved for a short period when they are needed.

All workers on site have an equally important role to play in ensuring the project is a success. Despite not everyone being employees of the same company, they still form a collective team working together or side by side on the project. Traditional communications may leave out some trades or make it difficult to reach everyone on-site with consistent, timely information.

This can lead to misinformation, missing information, or delays in conveying information. Effective communication in construction takes into account everyone who is working on site.

Platforms that allow contractors to easily include all workers on site eliminate this type of potential barrier to effective communications.

What can you do about it?

If you read those signals above and are experiencing any of them, we wanted to give you a few things you can work on to help level up your communication:

  • Do more than talk: First, you’ve got to have a way to efficiently deliver information to many workers spread across a jobsite. Delivering information by speaking it to someone is great, but you’ve got to walk across the jobsite to do it or do lots of calling on the phone. Instead leverage technology to instantly broadcast important project information right to the workers personal mobile devices.
  • Don’t just communicate with foremen. Include ALL of your workers: The old chain-of-command approach to delivering information like start times, hazard alerts, lessons learned and parking information takes too long to proliferate throughout the crew when you only communicate to the foreman and expect they relay the information. Loop workers into a private communication network and send them all the information simultaneously.
  • Put your thinking cap on - Think about everything you need to convey to your field crews so they can make informed decisions, do their best work, and meet your expectations. Is it your company values? The work you expect them to complete today? A safety reminder related to the day’s tasks? Write it down and start to communicate it.

In summary

Good communication with field workers can result in greater productivity, a safer worksite, a more cohesive and empowered team, and improved dialogue. Software platforms like MindForge can help you with your goal of effective communication with jobsites. The platform provides real-time communication to team members, set up by role, team, task, or project. It allows team members to acknowledge important messages easily and can be accessed on cell phones.

Ready to optimize your construction projects?

Check out the MindForge Masterclass: Harnessing Decisions for Quality and Safety in Construction. This masterclass will equip you with the tools to optimize crew performance, improve project efficiency, and create a safer working environment.

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