Last month, we talked about finding championship workers. This month, we take a look at keeping them and managing their performance.
This requires an organized approach to developing your workforce. It begins with identifying the roles and responsibilities that a worker will fulfill as well as the standards and expectations associated with the job.
The contractor needs to clearly educate the worker to the roles that he will need to fulfill. This begins with the actual job that the employee was hired to complete, but it should extend to include such roles as "team-player," "assistant," "inspector," "initiator" and "organizer."
Educating workers to their other roles enables the contractor to very clearly point out what the employee is expected to perform when working. This approach also helps to paint a picture as to the scope of their job, instructing them on how broad their work efforts can extend. It also, and more subtly, reminds the worker that there is to be no employee who can say, "That's not my job!"
Standards and expectations should also be identified for the workers. Standards include the manner of work completion that is required by law. Such standards are what I call a "non-negotiable." There are other non-negotiables as well, and these represent the standards that you as a contactor demand to be followed. For your company a standard might represent how well you want a task performed such as jobsite cleanup, showing up to work on time, maintaining equipment, only wearing company-approved uniforms, equipment maintenance, etc. Your company standards represent the level of precision and efficiency you want your workers to achieve.
Expectations, while at times being very close to your standards, represent what may be more negotiable. This might include a crew supervisor allowing his crew to take a different approach to completing a project than what was first discussed. The needed end result may be immovable, but how the result is arrived at may be achieved via several different methods. As a contractor, whenever you have workers who offer up different ideas for completing a task, first consider if what they are suggesting is code breaking, illegal, conflicts with job specifications, or goes against your company standards. If there is no potential infraction and it is merely a slight change in tactics, then perhaps you might consider letting the supervisor or crew follow their idea. This allowance, perhaps as important as anything else you can do, is key to building an effective workforce. Employees can learn what is vitally important to the contractor and will, more often than not, adapt to whatever the contractor sets out to be followed and allowed.
The next application to follow in performance management requires good training and education as well as providing the proper tools and equipment. There is very little focused field training in construction today. Employees filling general laborer positions receive little to no actual training. Often, field supervisors and foremen are made the boss due to their technical abilities; seldom are they promoted because of their leadership capabilities. And seldom do such field leaders receive any leadership education.
In many construction businesses today we see very little mentoring but instead, much more on-the-job "watch him for a few days" training. Such unstructured training is having a devastating impact on construction companies, leaving most contractors hurting for skilled and knowledgeable workers.
Training and education should be well thought-out and addressed. While classroom training is not always possible, there should be a more organized educational effort and emphasis on the job. Many of today's workers learn best by a repetition of "watch-do" training. This is a series of watching someone perform a task then actually doing the task themselves. The "watch-do" series is repeated until the worker is demonstrating a competent handling of the task at hand.