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Improving Your Construction Company Workforce's Accountability

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If one of your workers makes a mistake on the job, it's up to you to call attention to it and ensure that the employee knows what they did wrong. You also need to provide guidance and encouragement so they know to avoid making the same mistake in the future. That's what "accountability" means in the construction industry.

If everything that happened on your worksites or in your office were that simple, though, there wouldn't be repeated mistakes, and everyone would be accountable for their actions without any questions. Reality is more complicated, but you can help your workforce be more accountable with a few different strategies.

Personal Accountability

As a construction company owner, make yourself accountable to your employees. If workers see you breaking the rules, they’ll copy what you do—not what you or written instructions say.

Help your employees be more accountable by asking them what you're doing that they appreciate and which areas you could improve on. Listen without judgment and take their feedback seriously. According to Hernani Alves in Construction Business Owner Magazine, self-awareness "doesn't come naturally to most of us." But being self-aware is an essential leadership skill. Use the feedback you get from your workers to be more self-aware and present yourself as a role model for accountability on the job.

Also, spend time thinking about the difference between roles and responsibilities. A role applies to your function (construction company owner and leader) and the behavior you should model to be a proactive problem-solver on your projects. Responsibilities apply to you as the leader, but also to your workers on job sites and in the office. Make sure that workers know what they're responsible for doing, from worksite safety to accomplishing their tasks in a reasonable time frame.

Positive Reinforcement and Rewards

Use positive strategies to reward accountable workers for your construction company. On the job, you can get more benefit from rewarding employees who behave ethically and take responsibility. If they have good results, then you should reward them. Using positive rewards that reinforce the behavior you expect is more effective than waiting for problems to occur and punishing workers who make mistakes. Have a reward structure in place, even if only in your mind, to reward people who are going the extra mile and taking responsibility for their work performance.

If one of your workers makes an honest error, this is an excellent opportunity for positive coaching. When people feel threatened, they can react in many negative ways, so if you’re requesting a change order or need to make sure that one of your workers doesn’t repeat a mistake, be clear that you know it was an honest error. Indicate that the employee will be rewarded for doing the right thing from that point forward.

According to Brad Humphrey in For Construction Pros Magazine, accountability should be "non-negotiable." He describes the difference between accountable employees who perform their responsibilities and those who don’t live up to their expectations. An electrical subcontractor can ask their foreman to call by 2:00 pm for an update, but the call never arrives. A paving worker is requested to provide an assessment of their equipment's fitness by the end of the day, but they blow it off in favor of being with their partner.

What should you do in these cases? Honest workers who see other workers take their jobs less seriously, getting away with slacking off, can be tempted to copy their poor attitudes and performance. As a construction company owner, you need to establish a discipline structure and decide in advance what actions you'll take when employees avoid accountability and show poor performance. Be aware of another risk factor when employees aren't held accountable for their actions: don't "shoot the messenger" if one worker tells you about a problem. You may be angry, but don't take it out on the person who took the time to tell you what's been going on.

Realistic and Flexible Expectations

Don’t expect absolute perfection. Even if you’re a perfectionist, recognize that you’re going to make a mistake or two along the way. Everyone is human, and making mistakes is part of the human condition. You can use common tools to set standards, so your workers don’t wonder what’s expected of them. Set key performance indicators (KPIs), and make sure that employees who are responsible for them understand their goals and objectives.

Common construction KPIs fall into these areas:

  • Safety and incident rate
  • Number of defects due to workmanship
  • Time spent to fix defects
  • Total cost of rework
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Percentage of labor and equipment downtime

These are simple places to start. Track your progress in your KPIs by setting a baseline and tracking improvement over time. This is where software like ProEst comes in. ProEst's built-in reports can let you see how you're doing with KPIs over the short, medium, and long term, as well as between different jobs. It can enable you to standardize your workflow and communicate more effectively with your workforce and subcontractors. Once your key performance indicators are recorded and tracked, accountability becomes much easier to encourage and promote. Your construction company can build a culture of accountability using data, facts, and solid leadership skills.

ProEst is a cloud-based pre-construction estimating platform that helps you create accurate estimates and digital takeoffs directly from blueprints quickly, allowing you to determine the most favorable rates for your company within the estimation process. There’s no guesswork involved. ProEst makes quality project estimation assurance in commercial construction companies effortless. You won’t have to engage your entire team to be sure your numbers are accurate.

To learn more about how your commercial construction company can increase its profits through company-wide alignment that drastically improves business performance, reach out today and schedule a 1-on-1 walkthrough with one of our specialists!