When construction jobs don’t get done, one of contractors’ and sub-contractors’ go-to explanations is, “I never got the email/text/message.” There are times, such as when they’re neck-deep in another task that requires total concentration, that this might be true, and goodness knows that there are too many messages flying around in construction, just like in every other industry. But in some cases, the lack of accountability within communication tools is the real issue, because nobody can say for sure that they’re wrong, did in fact get the memo, and just chose not to perform the task. In this article, we’ll look at some ways to overcome the pressing issue of CYA.
In a blog post, a writer for workplace management tool Corrus listed several ways that standard email can negatively impact productivity and efficiency:
- Missed deadlines
- Lack of following up
- Excessive emailing and lack of boundaries
- Ignored emails
- Long email threads lost in inboxes
And it’s not only email that is found lacking within many construction companies. Text messages are often left unread if they’re not sent from a known contact or can be missed when a worker leaves his or her phone in their truck. Then there’s the lack of system integration to consider. The average construction employee uses between three and six separate communication tools daily and nine in total, and less than a third of these tools talk to each other. Furthermore, most can’t be enabled to automatically send a message to the relevant individuals and teams when a change is made to project plans.
This represents another barrier to getting things done. The scope is often changed or updated, but when this isn’t communicated to the stakeholders, things end up being done wrong based on plans that are now outdated. The knock-on effect is rework, which costs extra, prevents workers from focusing on other pressing tasks, and extends the overall completion timeline. The result? Frustrated workers and dissatisfied clients.
Did You Get My Message?
So how is a sender, such as a project manager, architect, or general contractor, to know if the messages they’re sending are being received, read, and acted upon? Such roles can’t merely wait around to see if the job gets done but need to get proactive and follow up if necessary, to ensure subcontractors are sticking to deadlines and tasks are being performed in the right order. Generic email platforms like Microsoft Outlook and Gmail can be configured with open and read receipts. But as this is optional, it requires one extra step. This might not seem like much, but anytime there’s friction or complexity in a process, it makes busy construction workers and their supervisors less likely to see it through. This is why open and read receipts are utilized so infrequently on such platforms.
If they have their phones set up in a certain way, they can see “Read at 11:05 AM” below a sent text message, which does provide some measure of accountability. However, just because a worker has seen a text, it doesn’t mean that he or she is going to acknowledge or act on it. And if the jobsite is in an area with poor cell service or the individual is away from their phone for extended periods during their workday, they might not even get the message in the first place. Many enterprise applications have more sophisticated messaging features, but these are often incompatible with older devices or too complicated for less tech-savvy construction workers to figure out, so they remain largely unused or at least under-utilized.
The solution here is fairly simple. A communication platform that ingests data feeds from multiple systems and aggregates them in a “single pane of glass” view would eliminate the issue of construction workers needing to monitor various disparate tools for new messages. If such a platform had read and open receipts built in, it would invalidate the CYA “I didn’t get/see the message” excuse. And were the tool to offer tagging, workers and teams would receive more relevant messages and less of them, making their day-to-day communications more manageable. This would result in better follow-through, increased productivity, less delays, and lower project costs.