Communication is an essential skill in every industry. In construction, it is especially important since the stakes on a worksite can be higher than they are in a boardroom or behind a desk. In fact, one in every 10 construction workers are injured every year.
If communication on a construction site fails, not only can it potentially cause problems and delays for the project, but it can also result in damage to equipment or property or, in the worst case, injury or death to members of your crew.
Before we dive into our top tips for effective communication in construction, we’ll first break down the consequences of miscommunication.
Consequences of Miscommunication in Construction
Communication failures happen in construction all the time despite being essential to completing any task. Dynamic Signal’s 2019 State of Employee Communication and Engagement Study found that 36 percent of employees were in an unsafe situation because of poor communication.
Miscommunication errors aren’t just inconvenient — they’re also expensive. A 2018 study by the consultancy group FMI Corp found that miscommunication cost the construction industry $177 billion each year. The high costs are a result of the time spent on tasks like finding project information and resolving conflicts.
The good news is that communication is a skill that can be taught, practiced, and improved to decrease the number of communication issues within your team. Here are steps any manager or crew can follow to improve communication in construction sites.
Encourage General Communication Skills
Most office-type careers require professionals to have “soft” or interpersonal skills, meaning most companies in these industries host a form of regular communications training in their workplace. Though this is less common in industries like construction, implementing structured communication training can be a smart move for construction managers looking to help their crews develop those skills.
Some important skills in construction include writing clearly, avoiding excessive jargon, taking accurate measurements and active listening. Whether you’re a team leader or an entry level employee, you can take action by practicing these communication skills on the job, and as you begin to set a model for effective communication, your team will follow.
Establish a Chain of Command
Having a clear chain of command on a construction site standardizes communication, creates efficiency and accountability, and eliminates confusion.
The hierarchy for a work site should be laid out in the initial contract documents and include project owners, general contractors, subcontractors and members of individual crews (engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, etc).
If any relationships are not outlined in the contract documents, the construction site manager must make sure those changes are properly authorized and documented.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Construction technology is constantly improving in the industry, especially when it comes to communication. Scientists have developed construction-specific applications for these technologies that are already revolutionizing the industry by eliminating safety hazards, increasing profit margins, and speeding up the construction process.
Some good examples of construction technology include wearable AI, which allows crew members to have eyes on the project even when they’re not physically present. Construction communication software is also becoming increasingly popular within the construction industry, as many general contractors and construction firms alike are understanding that their projects can be managed more efficiently when the entire scope of the project is available through one platform. These softwares improve efficiency by clearly laying out deadlines for all parties involved in the project, including the owners and subcontractors, and make any changes necessary for the project to be completely available for everybody to see so that there’s no confusion as to what needs to be done, and when.
Although these technologies may seem expensive, in the long run they will save time and money and improve client satisfaction, as well as worker safety. When choosing a service, contact them directly to find out exactly what they offer, and whether or not they are able to customize their service to be tailored to your exact needs.
Encourage Open Communication
Knowing how to communicate is useless if employees don’t feel comfortable talking to others on their team. Encouraging team members to communicate issues on the job site can lead to a more productive and engaged workforce. Providing feedback to workers on their performance can also lead to them communicating more openly, which will lead to less confusion on the job and a more focused workforce.
It’s a manager’s job to establish a work environment where employees are encouraged to communicate openly not just when things are going well, but also when they are confused or dissatisfied. Establishing open lines of communication ensures team members feel satisfied, valued, and heard. It also makes it possible to address problems as soon as they arise.
Pillar is a communication software, aiming to improve the relationship between contractors and their clients while also making the construction process more efficient through increasing communication across the project. We believe that improved communication will reduce costs of projects and lead to highest quality of work from everybody involved in the project. To find out if our product is right for you, visit us at our website and click the “contact us” button on the top bar for more information.