The Importance of Talking to Construction Workers About Timecards

Digital check-in records tell a lot about the health of the business, helping to spot trends, provide benchmarks into the average time to complete certain tasks

Microsoft Teams Image
©anut21ng Stock –

Without fail, every week, someone in the accounting department needs clarification about a worker or subcontractor’s timecard. Maybe their question is focused on actual hours worked, or if the proper Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) code was applied, or a host of other project activities that need further explanation.

What often happens is someone in accounting contacts a site supervisor or reaches out directly to the worker and it leads to phone tag, emails that don’t get an immediate response and interruptions in the construction project. All of these minutes quickly add up to hours in lost productivity.

It can also impact morale. Human nature being what it is, the questions about how time was spent can often result in employees and subcontractors getting defensive. The reality is that the conversations about someone not pulling their weight are few and far between. The front office is simply trying to align hours worked with project progress and profitability.

Time (Tracking) Is Everything

What finance pros and general contractors wish workers and subcontractors knew about the inevitable timecard questions is that they’re not trying to micromanage every minute. Sure, they want every worker to deliver, but their focus is on the bigger picture. That requires making sure every process is running smoothly. By looking at productivity by worker and subcontractor and aligning it with their estimates for profitability, they can make smarter decisions faster before it impacts the bottom line.

For superintendents, when it comes to talking to employees about time sheets, consider the timing and delivery of the message. If it’s part of daily dialog at the start of the day and the company culture, it’s less likely to cause a stir if a worker is asked to be more specific about their latest time report.  

What’s also misunderstood about making efficient time tracking a priority is that it’s a way to reinforce safety on the jobsite. To do this, many construction companies are taking advantage of the latest QR code-based digital check-in apps because they offer greater accuracy for tracking hours worked and aligning it with specific projects.

With this technology, employees don’t have to wait around until the end of a shift to get the superintendent’s sign-off on their time sheet. Introverts in finance don’t have to spend their time chasing down field workers. And using an app like Safe Site Check In lets project managers and general contractors know where everybody is or was located on the jobsite at a specific time. 

Safe Site Check In Technology Keeps 67 Construction Sites Open While Curbing Spread of COVID-19

Those digital check-in records tell a lot about the health of the business. For example, they can help spot trends in absenteeism, or you can see how quickly an apprentice is mastering a skill based on hours/days spent on a particular task and how the time shortens as the results improve. It can also provide benchmarks into the average time to complete certain tasks, which helps with future project bidding. In addition, the data can support claims and litigation, especially if legal actions emerge months or years after an incident.

While new ways to streamline the check-in process make it easier to manage finance and payroll, questions about what exactly was accomplished on the jobsite will continue to arise. When they do, the conversations with workers don’t need to have a difficult or accusatory tone. Simply be kind and ask what they were working on and if there were unexpected hold-ups in completing the assignment. Oftentimes, those discussions will surface insights that might have otherwise been overlooked in the daily log. For example, a delayed arrival of supplies or a swift and torrential rainstorm are important data points that impact progress and can be quickly forgotten. 

The Daily (S)log and What it Tells You About Project Profitability

The daily log is a critical requirement for every jobsite and has a bigger impact on a construction company's profitability than many people think. As we know, the daily log tracks significant occurrences, incidents and jobsite progress. Arguably, there's no middle ground when it comes to this log and tracking projects. A construction company is either really good at it and is profitable, or they don't care and that opens up a whole other can of worms.

Managing the daily log doesn’t need to be an arduous process or become known as the "daily slog." When you combine a digital check-in app’s data with the daily log, it outlines potential issues and offers insight into the information superintendents and general contractors need to know to protect their companies and employees. The benefits of the data increase over daily use and an extended period of time, especially when it comes to identifying month-to-month and year-to-year trends.

Here are four examples of how the daily log, combined with digital check-in data that’s securely stored and archived, impact a construction company:

  1. It provides an unbiased digital record of what happened on a jobsite and who was there. Since the digital record is created through a worker or subcontractor’s smartphone and goes directly into a report, there’s no question about its validity should any questions or disputes arise next week or years from now.
  2. The data serves as an excellent cross reference to timecards, helping your accounting team and project managers focus on their core tasks instead of tracking down time sheets.
  3. Superintendents, project managers and executives can review the digital records against their baseline schedule for lessons learned and overall process improvement.
  4. Superintendents save time by replacing the paper-based sign-in process with a digital option.

As the construction industry digitizes business processes like daily check-in and makes it part of the daily log, general contractors are realizing the combination results in a useful strategic planning and safety tool.

 Kyle Peacock is CEO of Peacock Construction.