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Using Communication to Drive Accountability on the Jobsite

On any construction site, there are myriad moving parts. In order for each team and individual to know what they should be doing and when, there needs to be a high level of accountability. But all too often, this breaks down because communication isn’t current or complete, and it’s impossible to tell if stakeholders have received the latest messages, let alone read and acted on them.
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On any construction site, there are myriad moving parts. In order for each team and individual to know what they should be doing and when, there needs to be a high level of accountability. But all too often, this breaks down because communication isn’t current or complete, and it’s impossible to tell if stakeholders have received the latest messages, let alone read and acted on them. In this post, we’ll take a look at this pressing issue and explain why increasing jobsite accountability starts with improving communication. 

According to an article published by The Dorsey Group, “a business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. That downtime translates to an annual cost of $528,443.” In construction, this cost is often only the tip of the iceberg. When there’s little or no accountability around the content of emails, texts, and other messages related to upcoming tasks on the jobsite, it’s almost inevitable that some of them won’t get done. Others will be performed incorrectly because change orders were not read or executed, necessitating rework that drains away both time and money and delays project completion. As we wrote in a recent blog post, the bill for this amounts to $170 billion annually in the construction industry. 

Later in the piece from The Dorsey Group, the writer asserted that improving onsite and offsite communication requires companies to “Outline communication goals, audiences, key messages, communication channels and how you’re going to measure the effectiveness of communications.” A solid next step would be implementing a platform that can help achieve these aims. If each message was addressed to the right individual or team, avoided those to whom it would be irrelevant, and tagged the job and/or specific task name, the sender would know that their message and any attachments were delivered to the people who needed to see it. 

Did You Get the Memo? 

Read receipts would provide even greater peace of mind, letting that person know that his or her recipients had not only gotten the message as intended, but also opened it (and when this occurred). This would remove the “I didn’t get the message/didn’t get it in time” excuse that’s so pervasive in construction today. The ability of a communication platform to ingest data from other systems would also allow for an increased amount of automation. For example, when certain changes were made to specific plans or other documents, this could be set up to trigger the sending of a message to all stakeholders without the need for project managers to manually take this step. This would reduce the amount of time needed to create, send, and monitor outbound messages, and contribute to a decreased administrative burden for everyone overseeing a specific job. 

On the other end of the equation, such streamlining of communications would also benefit contractors and subcontractors. Rather than showing up on the jobsite with a lack of clarity about what they were supposed to do, when, and with whom, they’d have a more clearly defined daily task list and overall project plan. Much like their supervisors, if they had access to a nimble communication tool, they’d be better able to update status items, report delays that happened on the ground, and send messages back up the chain to request new equipment, materials, vehicles, and so on. In this way, there would be a higher level of accountability for both onsite and offsite employees and contractors, and less mix-ups between the two. This would make it easier to complete tasks in a timely manner, keep projects moving forward, and avoid costly rework.   

It’s not enough to merely pay lip service to increasing accountability in construction. Making it a reality requires implementing tools that can bring everyone together, make expectations clearer, and share updates in real time. As the writer of The Dorsey Group article put it, “Companies that make communication a priority and implement a structured system, including where communication starts and how it flows through the organization, are the ones that will continue to perform at a much higher level than those which don’t.”

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