Engaging your team is hugely important for the success of your company, says Barry Ashmore. So why wait?

YOUR site team is ‘at the sharp end’. They’re out there onsite every day, up to their ears in ‘muck and bullets’, the visible face of your company.

Never forget, the site is where the money is spent, and the financial returns are generated.

It’s also the place where most of the problems arise and must be resolved. And it’s one of the key things that sets our industry apart from say manufacturing, where the physical work is taking place in a controlled environment, with the management team close at hand.

My journey in construction started ‘on the tools’ aged 16, and back then there was none of this ‘can’t go onsite until you’re 18’ nonsense. You were straight in at the deep end, and I even volunteered to work ‘out of town’, and lodged away from home, rather than spend what was then an obligatory period in the stores counting out nuts-and-bolts.

Then, when I had qualified as an electrician, I was offered a job in the office, and my ‘managerial’ career was born. As part of that first spell ‘in the office’, I was briefly back out onsite as a ‘supervisor’, and the experience taught me how hard it is to get tradesmen to do as they should, and to get the best out of them.

Over the years I too acquired a healthy respect for site teams and supervisors and the tough job they do. A good supervisor was often the key difference between the job making money or losing money. And yet back then it was almost unheard of to give supervisors, or indeed the project managers (or as we were called ‘contracts engineers’), any formal training.

Thankfully, certain aspects are better some 40 years later, and I’ve had the pleasure of providing ‘commercial awareness’ training for a number of firms including their supervisors. B

ut, in my own personal view, there’s still much more to be done, and the industry should be tackling this issue at grass roots level to ensure that subcontractor’s management, site teams and supervisors, get the training and support they deserve.

We should take positive steps to get the site team onboard at the beginning of every job, involving them in the pre-planning, discussing the key objectives and strategy. Having done that, we should keep them involved at every stage, including regular team meetings at which everybody plays a part. Such a policy avoids the typical ‘I thought Fred was handling it’ syndrome.

Why exclude from the discussion those who really know what’s going on out there at the workface?
And yet this is often the case. Hardly the way to inspire enthusiasm.

As for site records, the diary, delay notices, photographs, and so on, do we explain at the start of the job exactly why these records are important for our protection, and the possible disaster which may follow if we neglect them?

Do we regularly monitor the records?
Even some major companies are neglecting the basics, and no one is reviewing what the site team are actually doing. If that is the case, then it should come as no surprise if the site team neglect the collection of good accurate and useful records.

Why should they bother when nobody else shows interest? It is absolutely essential to check all site records on a regular basis. This can readily be done by including such checks within your quality assurance procedures.

Once managers take an active interest in the records the site team are producing there is invariably an improvement in their quality and usefulness.

This ‘Hawthorne effect’ as it’s known, was the subject of a study at the Hawthorne Works (a Western Electric factory outside Chicago). The study found workers’ productivity seemed to improve when changes were made, and the effect of those changes were being studied, whereas productivity slumped when the study ended.

It was suggested the productivity gain occurred for no other reason than the motivational effect on the workers of the interest being shown in them.

So, could you be showing more interest in what your site team are doing?
Could you be doing more to get them on board from day one? If you’d like to speak to someone about any contractual matter, call or email us. 
01773 712116