Communication is one of the most important components to creating a safe and successful workplace – especially in the construction industry. Time and time again, project teams fall victim to the consequences of miscommunication, resulting in the missing of critical updates, losing productivity and making costly errors.
Beyond those operational setbacks, ineffective communication can lead to even more tragic consequences – injury or death among your crew members.
The construction industry has unique challenges when it comes to creating successful communication strategies amongst its workforce. Frontline employees are not in front of their computers all day, so email updates aren’t read as often. Team members often work far away from corporate headquarters, potentially creating a sense of isolation. And jobsites often have project team members from various trades and disciplines.
It’s an ongoing industry challenge for even the most seasoned professionals.
“We have seen – over and over again – how a leadership team may have updates and it is expected that the information will trickle down the chain of command in this industry,” said Eric Zeronik, Senior Superintendent at Pepper Construction Group. “The expectation is that the senior leadership learns of an important update, they tell their direct reports and the information works its way down the line to the worker. But by that time – if the updates are shared at all – the message may not be provided with the correct information, or it may not be timely anymore.”
To solve that problem, the Pepper Construction team turned to MindForge’s powerful communication and educational platform to help bridge existing communication and training gaps.
“With the MindForge platform, we can be much more uniform and strategic in our messaging,” said Zeronik, who has been in the construction field for more than 20 years. “It’s possible to send out one message and get it sent to all the workers at the same time, in the same way. The importance of that can’t be understated – especially when it comes to a safety issue.”
Pepper Construction Group implemented the MindForge software during their Butler University’s Science Building Addition and Renovation Project. The multi-year phased addition and renovation initiative consisted of a new building complete with lab space, a library, collaboration rooms and an atrium that will connect the new addition to the existing science buildings, a 120,000-square-foot full building renovation of Gallahue Hall and a 50,000 square-foot renovation of Holcomb Building.
Implementation occurred during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when teams were scattered and concerns over exposure to the virus were heightened.
“It was hugely helpful to have a tool that could help us stay connected,” Zeronik. “Obviously, in construction it’s always an issue with teams spread out. But during the pandemic, there was more of a chance of having people feel isolated. Having this ability to communicate with everyone regularly helped.”
Project leadership also utilized the platform to implement socially distanced training, which not only allowed individuals to reduce potential COVID exposure but also helped with productivity levels.
“Normally, if we send a team to attend a fall protection training, they have to leave the job early, drive to the office – which can be an hour away from the jobsite – go to the training and then – depending on the time of day, drive back to the jobsite or go home,” said Zeronik. “With the trainings on the MindForge platform, professional development can be done at lunch or they can take a break and have the trainings done in an hour rather than the three or four hours it may normally take.”
The construction group expects to offer orientation for newer team members that transition into a job and for other training refreshers.
But for Zeronik, the biggest benefit has been creating a stronger culture focused on transparency, two-way communication, and accuracy among his 75-person crew.
“Everybody plays a critical role in the success of any project,” he said. “But the front-line workers don’t always hear from the job leadership team. We communicate with the foreman, who passes along the information to the (crew). Even if the information is up to date and accurate, the team doesn't know that with 100 percent certainty. So hearing a message directly from the top is huge. And, the crew is able to provide feedback directly through the platform. It’s very empowering, and tells them that we care about them.”
Zeronik offers the following tips for project leads to develop stronger communication strategies amongst your team:
- Know your audience. While some messages may be universal – such as warnings about heat – others may be more specialized. The MindForge tool allows for the creation of teams – a foreman team, hoist operator team – that will allow you to share specific verbiage based on tasks and duties.
- Keep it simple. A short, simple, and concise message is best.
- Encourage feedback and ensure accountability. Because the platform allows for administrators to view who viewed each message – and when – Mindforge makes it easier to create a culture of accountability. Reward feedback with praise.
- It starts at the top. When project leadership utilizes a tool, it sends a strong message to the front-line worker that the tool is embraced. This sets expectations accordingly.
- Manage resistance to change by emphasizing benefits. It’s normal for there to be reluctance to adopt a new product among team members – especially among those less comfortable around technology. The key is to share success stories, emphasizing how the tool was helpful. Identify a team lead who will help answer questions.
- Create a central communication hub. The platform can be installed on cell phones free of charge. However, for those team members who are unable to do so, project teams can create a workstation or kiosk where users can log in to read messages.
“At the end of the day, it’s about efficient knowledge sharing across all crews,” said Zeronik. “Everyone will increase their work quality and we ensure our workforce stays safe.”