Clear communication is a general contractor’s key to improving safety, productivity, organization and cost-effectiveness on the job. It’s crucial to establish helpful communication methods for any construction site.
Communication comes in many forms, including email, text, phone calls, instant messaging, radios, intercoms, in-person meetings, signs and hand signals. If your communication flows smoothly, so will your project. It’s all about developing a culture of collaboration within your crew and management structure.
Check out these five methods for fostering strong communication practices on any construction site:
Establish a formal communication chain
A formal communication chain is the foundation of a successful construction project. It’s all about getting the right information to the right people at the right time. All team members should have a point of contact.
It’s also important to have one central location where project communications can be found, such as a mobile app like Crew. This makes it easier for workers to access the latest project details. Of course, verbal and face-to-face communication will always be key parts of the equation.
The project superintendent is typically the main point of contact for project updates. This person can help the team keep a record of all communication that occurs during a construction project as well as communicate important details like safety best practices for a particular task.
Make sure your messages are clear, concise and timely
When conveying an important message to your crew, it’s important to be quick and to the point. Speak in layman’s terms because some co-workers might not have the specific knowledge you do in technical areas like building codes and permits.
To make sure your message has been received, it’s OK to have workers repeat information back to you. This is especially important for crucial job site details. There are many distractions on construction sites, so it’s important to make sure everyone is listening and on the same page.
It’s also important to let your team know they can ask questions when they don’t understand something. If they do have questions, be prompt in your response and keep your word. ESPECIALLY be clear when it comes to safety. Safety is priority No. 1 on every job site. Check out this video by Granite Construction Incorporated on the importance of thinking twice and speaking up on the job site:
Choose the right platform for your message
Choosing the right communication platform depends on your goals and the complexity of your message. While an email might be sufficient in one case, a face-to-face meeting could be ideal in another. If it’s tough to convey a message in a couple of paragraphs and additional feedback is required, it might be time for a phone call or face-to-face meeting.
It’s also worth mentioning you should keep foul and emotional language out of project communications. Review written messaging before sending it out and don’t be afraid to get a trusted colleague’s opinion on your message before sending it. You can also break up your paragraphs to make your message easier to understand. We suggest using bulleted lists for in-depth information.
In noisy situations it’s important to use hand signals. As human beings, much of our communication is nonverbal. Flags, lights and visual alarms are also invaluable when it comes to safety and efficiency.
Invest in technology that communicates critical updates such as the following:
- A project document has been accessed or revised.
- There’s a sudden expectation of severe weather.
- Material shipments are expected to be delayed, which affects worker scheduling.
While keeping up with technology is important, you should have a backup plan in case it fails. Make sure daily timelines and other important communications are posted on your job site work board for all workers. Like the Crew mobile app mentioned above, here are some more helpful construction apps (not all are communication-related):
- Procore – This cloud-based construction management software application helps firms increase their project efficiency and accountability by providing streamlined project communication and documentation.
- Bridgit – Also cloud-based, this task management solution is used for assigning work, reporting and note-taking. Task details can be shared across teams.
- e-Builder – The app features real-time performance dashboards and helps you cut down on project costs and increase productivity on the job site.
- JobFLEX – This is an estimating and bid management app that delivers estimates with or without a cellular connection. You can create customizable forms to preview, email and print.
- Red Cross First Aid – An app that puts essential first-responder skills at your fingertips. You can get videos and step-by-step instructions on how to care for broken bones, strains, sprains and more.
- DroneDeploy – Survey your site with the help of 3D models. Get measurements for things like distance, area and volume.
- Autodesk BIM 360 – A field management tool for tablets, this app enables programs for quality, safety, commissioning and documentation, including building information management (BIM).
- Buildertrend – This is a construction management system for home builders, remodelers, specialty contractors and general contractors. It combines project scheduling, project management, financial management, customer management and service management in a single suite.
Be transparent and stay positive
Toolbox talks are awesome! Show your crew you’re willing to have an open dialogue – even about difficult-to-discuss project issues. It boosts team morale and builds trust while also making employees feel respected and appreciated. This video from Truebeck Construction is a great example of a strong safety culture and empowered worker communication:
When you interact with your team, refrain from dominating conversation. Give praise where it’s deserved and make sure your employees can provide feedback. This often leads to new ideas and healthy teambuilding.
Try not to come across as angry, negative or defensive when communicating with your workers, otherwise they’ll more than likely not want to approach you regarding important issues.
Takeaways: Remember these 5 communication methods for any construction site
- Establish a formal communication chain: Have points of contact get the right information to the right people at the right time.
- Make sure your messages are clear, concise and timely: Be quick and to the point, speaking in layman’s terms.
- Choose the right platform for your message: If it’s tough to convey a message in a couple of paragraphs, it might be time for a phone call or face-to-face meeting.
- Embrace technology: Invest in technology that communicates critical updates to your team.
- Be transparent and stay positive: Boost morale and trust by showing your crew you’re willing to have an open dialogue.