At a construction show I shared a strategy of engaging more crew workers to take greater responsibility in some area of their crew’s efforts. Called the Star Concept, it’s a simple strategy that I’ve coached construction crews on for years, helping them to implement and maintain it. Several attendees to my construction class encouraged me to share this through an article. So…it’s thanks to them that I’m writing this.
First of all, the Star Concept gets its name from a strategy I used several years ago, not only with my company but also with many other contractors over the years. It is a process of engaging more of your workers to participate on their crews. A number of reasons caused me to consider such a strategy.
- Employees who are more engaged with their co-workers usually have better attitudes
- Workers who are involved with their crews are normally more productive
- One foreman can’t have his eyes on every area of his crew
- Crew members who are more involved with making their crews better and safer typically stay with the contractor longer
- The Star Concept actually provides a subtle but positive training opportunity for a future crew roreman
All five reasons above still hold true for many contractors today. So now, let’s look at what the Star Concept is and how it functions.
There are several areas within each construction crew that are either directly or indirectly impacted by the workers. The five most visible areas, each represented by a point of the “Star,” are:
Again, each crew member impacts these five areas in some form or fashion. The one constant within any crew is the crew foreman. He is responsible for the positive results of all five areas yet cannot really be 100 percent focused on any one area for very long during the workday.
Because the crew foreman is only one person, it is important to get support and assistance from the crew members. Let’s face it: construction is more challenging today. With all the required safety, DOT, state and federal laws or guidelines that exist, the responsibilities of a crew foreman are simply broader than ever.
The Star Concept works to assist the crew foreman by getting more support from those already engaged to work on the crew while still holding the crew foreman responsible for the final results.
How the process works
To begin the Star Concept, select one or two of the five points of the star shared previously in this article. I often coach contractors to start with safety and maintenance. Next, you need to select a crew member to take on the role of a “coordinator” for each area.
Let’s look at the role of “maintenance coordinator.” I would begin by selecting a crew member who has demonstrated a bit more attention to making sure that a tool is in working order or that one of the pieces of equipment has enough oil. Or it might be the employee who has a bit more mechanical skills or interests.
After you select your maintenance coordinator (MC), you’ll then need to educate him on what he will do in the role. Consider a general overview of this role that you might use:
The maintenance coordinator can assist his crew by assessing the condition of tools and equipment needed by the crew. If something is not in working order or needs maintenance, the MC informs the crew foreman of the need. The MC is not responsible to fix or maintain the crew’s tools or equipment but initially serves as an extension of the crew foreman to see that the tools and equipment are in working order for the crew.
A more detailed maintenance coordinator description is needed. Such a description should answer the questions highlighted in the sample below.
Well-maintained equipment provides for better-conditioned equipment, greater equipment availability, better quality of product, longer equipment life, less overall maintenance costs, and happier team members!
Coordinates with the mechanic when equipment is scheduled for major maintenance work. Works with their crewmembers on maintenance activities that others can handle. Develops a monitoring chart that is to be completed daily/weekly to ensure maintenance checks are regularly completed. Coordinates a weekly machine check to identify potential breakdown reasons. Key to the effort will be scheduling maintenance people to provide training on equipment and/or tool maintenance techniques that would be easier and better for crewmembers to perform.
Daily checkup with individuals to monitor equipment. Assist crew foreman, as needed, whenever a maintenance issue arises that requires inspection or scheduling a repair.
Check-sheets that measures all equipment or tools that received daily inspections.
Process Interruption Sheets for downtime and causes.
Recording the cumulative hours of use for equipment per maintenance specs.
The Star Concept works! It brings more workers into participating with the well being and performance of the same crew of which they are a member. When more workers participate in something like the Star Concept, there is a healthier work culture. More workers feel more needed and thus more important.
Using the maintenance coordinator as an example, you can follow the same process to add to your crew’s “star points.” If your crew size is in the five to 12 member range, then fielding a coordinator in all five of the suggested areas might be possible. If your crew size is more like the three to seven-member size, then perhaps only two or three “star points” might be considered.
Keep a few final thoughts in mind about incorporating the Star Concept into your crew strategy for greater crew safety, performance and motivation:
- “More is not better!” You would be wise to begin with one or at the most two of the areas. You can always expand as needed.
- Don’t initially ask for volunteers to fill the coordinator roles. Personally invite selected employees to consider taking on the role. Start with your “winners” first to pave the way.
- Create the coordinator description that is best for your crews. Remember, the coordinator IS NOT another crew foreman. Not getting that point across will kill the one chance you might have to build greater participation.
- Do you need to offer an incentive? Maybe. Giving an employee another five to 25 cents an hour might be a great bargain for the extra attention he might bring to the crew.
- Can you have “co-coordinators”? Sure, BUT be careful that the “co” think doesn’t become a social experience, taking two workers away from performing their jobs within the crew.
- Provide training for each coordinator selected. Provide some basic overall understanding of the area and give each coordinator a list of items you need them to execute.
- Have a coordinator meeting once or twice a month. It’s important that the coordinators are supported by their crew foreman and you, the contractor. This meeting can be short but should entertain challenges, problems and opportunities.
- Allow your coordinators to grow into their role. Often, the coordinator matures into a very effective assistant to your crew foreman. Certainly be careful not to allow any coordinator to be “the boss” or to act “bossy.” Do, however, allow them to grow in their area of focus, coverage and insights.
Integrate the Star Concept into your crews this year. You may be surprised at the support and enthusiasm of your workers after they get a real feel for the benefits of having another point person for one or more areas of crew work.
If you have any questions about the Star Concept, either before considering its use in your company or even after you’ve installed it, please write me via our blog. As they say, “Shoot for the Stars” and you just might find your crew’s productivity, enthusiasm and attitude about work moving skyward!
Coordinating the Stars!
© Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/The Contractor’s Best Friend™