At a Glance
- Frontline supervisors, such as site engineers and foremen, play a key role in determining the productivity of the construction workforce.
- They can be catalysts for change and equipping them with the necessary training and expertise can lead to significant improvements in performance.
- There are seven behaviours of engaging supervisors that should be reinforced.
The construction industry is a critical sector for many market economies, valued at US$7.28 trillion in 2021 and projected to reach US$14.41 trillion by 2030. It encompasses the full range of activities associated with the construction, maintenance and repair of buildings, fixed structures, roads and public services.
Despite its importance, the construction industry faces a unique predicament: Unlike other industries that have seen steady productivity gains over time, construction productivity has been steadily declining.
In this article, we explore strategies that construction firms can adopt to improve their operational efficiency, with a focus on improving frontline supervision.
Challenges and opportunities in construction
The construction industry is one of the most important sectors in the world, with a significant impact on quality of life. Effective management of the industry brings many benefits, including increased tourism, the preservation of a sustainable environment, improved economic activity, and job creation.
Despite its importance, the industry is a notable outlier in terms of productivity. Productivity rates have either fallen or stagnated, making it one of the least productive sectors.
Frontline supervisors, such as site engineers and foremen, play a key role in determining the productivity of the construction workforce. Given the industry’s heavy reliance on human labour, it is easy to see why improving productivity can be so challenging.
However, this challenge also presents an opportunity for change. Frontline supervisors can be catalysts for change and equipping them with the necessary training and expertise can lead to significant improvements in performance.
7 behaviours of engaging supervisors
What can construction firms do to improve the behaviour of frontline supervisors? Here are seven behaviours of engaging supervisors that should be reinforced:
1. Assigning work
Supervisors should provide employees with a clear overview of the job and standard operating procedures, avoiding ambiguity or surprises.
2. Giving instructions
Supervisors should provide clear instructions to individuals, ensuring they understand their roles and responsibilities. They should use confirmatory questions to gauge comprehension and establish agreement on the desired outcomes.
3. Following up.
Effective follow-up practices build trust between supervisors and employees. Supervisors should create opportunities for coaching and use feedback mechanisms to assess actual performance against planned targets.
4. Providing feedback
Engaging supervisors provide constructive feedback that not only identifies areas for improvement, but also encourages open discussion about these matters.
5. Coaching and support
Supervisors should understand the root causes of issues so that they can set objectives and follow-up actions. They should reinforce and support training initiatives and maintain clear communication about performance expectations and procedural improvement.
6. Solving problems
In an effective operation, supervisors are responsible for problem solving. They contribute to greater situational awareness by tackling problems at their root, using robust root cause analysis skills.
Establishing a sustainable reporting system is important as it facilitates the flow of management information in both directions, linking performance metrics to both management and employees.
These seven areas are critical to developing a more robust workforce. How can supervisors acquire the skills they need for their daily work processes? Two effective training approaches are meeting training and KPI training.
Effective meetings expedite decision-making, improve the quality of decisions, and optimise the use of time for other important tasks. Traditional meetings often result in long discussions with little achievement, few actions, leading to frustration and poor attendance.
In contrast, effective meetings have clear decisions with a clear plan of action, leading to high achievement, ultimately removing frustration and increasing attendance.
Meeting training equips supervisors to run productive meetings that lead to action and improved decision-making.
It is essential that supervisors understand key performance indicators (KPIs) and their relevance to continuous improvement. They need guidance in developing and using KPIs to improve bottom-line results.
KPIs are objective measures of planned results that provide invaluable guidance for informed decision-making and continuous improvement efforts. Supervisors should know how to assign useful KPIs to their management level. Visual aids such as graphs and charts can facilitate this process.
In essence, KPIs can be compared to the dashboard of a vehicle. They provide a snapshot of information to help navigate the organisational landscape. While they do not include all measurable aspects, they are critical indicators for steering an organisation towards its strategic objectives.
Proven work management techniques for supervisors
Renoir has completed numerous projects in the infrastructure and construction sectors. In a collaboration with a Middle Eastern construction company in a joint venture (JV) to build an international venue, we provided project employees with effective work management techniques through a combination of classroom training and on-the-job support.
Workshops for foremen and supervisors were organised to support the implementation of administrative tools. The initiatives implemented at the project site demonstrated a 30% improvement in productivity. Read the full case study article here.
At Renoir, we understand the importance of behavioural and cultural change methods, and their link to improving productivity.
Looking for proven methods to help your organisation achieve operational excellence?