Construction has struggled for decades to keep pace with the productivity gains seen in other industries. In fact, the global construction sector has actually lost productivity.
The very nature of the industry — always a new project, with different processes and requirements for each — makes it hard to take advantage of time-saving assembly-line production (though offsite prefab is starting to change that), and until recently, construction company decision makers have been reluctant to implement new technologies.
But productivity also comes down to how hard employees are willing to work. And they’ll work harder and more efficiently if the company culture inspires them to want to achieve and succeed — and if they’re engaged.
How do you create engaged employees?
Maintain an open door policy. To be engaged, employees need to feel their voices and concerns are heard. Gone are the days when top management stayed in the office or worked behind a locked door. A productive, enthusiastic workforce demands maximum interaction, and that includes an open-door policy up the executive chain of command.
Invite input. Involving workers in meaningful ways increases the job satisfaction quotient. Inclusive scheduling methods like pull planning, part of the Lean management philosophy, can engage individuals, such as labor foremen and crew chiefs, who aren’t typically called upon for input. Other opportunities to create a positive atmosphere and encourage participation are regular project progress meetings in which everyone is allowed to voice opinions and jobsite lunches to show appreciation for hard work. A suggestion box couldn’t hurt, either.
Cultivate careers. Construction and every other sector is increasingly reliant on a millennial workforce, a group that demands their careers be more than just a paycheck. Career development programs can inspire employees who are looking for a path to promotion. They can include opportunities to be mentored and to rotate positions within the company to get exposure to various career opportunities. A real chance for promotion can also inspire employees to bring their A game.
Score some bonus points. Flexible work hours, the chance to telecommute occasionally or a four-day workweek for some projects are ways contractors can score big points.
Tap millennials’ technical expertise. This expertise sometimes exceeds that of senior project managers. Allowing younger workers to reverse mentor people who have less experience with the latest in construction software and technology can show them their knowledge is valued.
When workers feel they're an important part of the company, they're more likely to be motivated, perform at a higher level and keep an eye out for conditions that could threaten both safety and the bottom line.