Expert Commentary

Improve Construction Communication/Reduce Risks with a Fluid Workforce

Construction is consistently ranked one of the riskiest industries in America, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting more than 1,000 workplace fatalities and 150,000 injuries every year. A contributing factor to the construction industry's risk is the natural fluidity of its workforce.


Communication/Technology
May 2021

Staying connected, building a strong culture, and establishing consistent streams of communication is a difficult practice to maintain between the organization and the frontline workers on the job. This disconnect often leads to an inability to efficiently and clearly share real-time updates, provide just-in-time training, offer worksite education, monitor workforce readiness, and track a project's progress. Each of these drawbacks increases your company's risk for liability.

Risk and safety managers can better mitigate these risks by implementing and integrating new technology that makes information more accessible—and more reliable—through mobile communication platforms.

A Fluid Workforce's Greatest Risks

The construction industry's workforce is continually in motion, where people are rotating from job to job and staying on a project site for what could be a couple of months or only a few days. Many workers on projects are trade partners, and management teams rarely have an insight into the people on their jobs or a direct way to communicate with them. This not only makes it difficult to rapidly distribute site updates but can lead to major losses and business interruptions when a worker's only input for real-time updates is in the morning huddle.

Under the traditional construction communication system, information is frequently lost in translation or may not have been heard in the first place, and emergency alerts, safety procedures, and jobsite updates cannot be shared as quickly or efficiently as they should be. In addition, this method of word-of-mouth communication slows workforce productivity as project work must be halted to gather workers, share updates, and fix any errors made due to lack of communication. This not only hinders the company's quality and efficiency but also threatens workplace safety.

Insufficient communication streams also contribute to inconsistent training across the workforce. When in-person, on-site training is the only avenue for sharing safety procedures and policies, information can easily be misunderstood, forgotten, or missed entirely by a portion of the workforce. This loss of communication could lead to injury or even fatalities on the jobsite.

As the primary contractor, upper management assumes responsibility for its subcontractors and frontline workers. With subcontractors and on-site workers constantly filtering on and off a jobsite, traditional record-keeping methods make it nearly impossible to keep track of the entire workforce, collect contact information, and communicate necessary updates—leaving the organization's management in the dark, disconnected, and with a great amount of assumed risk. Management cannot efficiently monitor project progress or approve process updates without establishing direct lines of communication with on-site workers.

How To Improve Communication

In an industry as risky and fluid as the construction industry, efficiency and clarity in processes are critical. While mobile technology is not a silver bullet for any business's challenges, it can do a lot more than house clunky spreadsheets and e-blasts. Mobile platforms actually give you the ability to communicate with every individual employee directly. Beyond that, having a two-way line of communication is necessary to maintain a productive and safe workplace and curates a positive team culture. One such platform is the MindForge app, described at the end of the article, which was designed to simplify workforce communication to maximize performance excellence.

Keeping your jobsites safe, efficient, and connected starts with evaluating how you can enhance communication streams. In today's world, most of us utilize mobile devices to disseminate information quickly and widely, making a mobile-based platform an ideal solution to overcome communication obstacles. According to JB Knowledge's 2020 Construction Technology Report, 92 percent of the industry used a smartphone daily for work last year. Mobile communication platforms are designed to provide companies with the ability to communicate dexterously with all levels of the workforce, ensuring emergency alerts and updates reach everyone accurately and quickly.

Improved communication through a mobile platform can also increase productivity and the pace of work. This creates a project environment that has a significantly reduced amount of miscommunications and operational errors and mitigates the need to redo work. For example, by utilizing a mobile communication platform, organizations can share updates and expectations with team members before they even arrive on the jobsite. This will ensure workers are well prepared for the day ahead and prevent unnecessary work stoppages.

With many moving parts on a typical construction site, it's critical to equip workers with the knowledge, skills, and information that empowers them to avoid hazards and do great work. Mobile platforms allow companies to standardize training procedures by sharing training videos and modules with workers, tracking their completion. This allows organizations to ensure that all jobsite workers have the same level of training and understanding, and employees can quickly reference videos whenever a refresher is needed. Having constant access to critical information and contactless training modules allows employees to complete the task at hand safely and efficiently, which, in turn, decreases the likelihood of workplace incidents and decreases an employer's risk.

Housing all training and safety information in one place also allows for the delivery of strong, consistent messages, and mobile-based platforms are a key solution. The transparency and ease of access that this technology offers reduce the risk of serious injury or fatality of workers on the front line while also reducing liability risk for construction professionals in the office who need to reach compliance standards and regulations.

Maintaining contact information for every person on a jobsite is a consistent challenge across the construction industry. Organizations are able to more easily capture worker contact information through a mobile-based communication platform, which helps ensure there is a connection between upper management and those in the field. Something as simple as a mobile phone number or personal email can open the door for sending targeted messages that are sent to and received by either individuals or entire crews. It is so important to promote open workplace communication and dialogue. This helps reduce unnecessary workplace stoppages, distractions, and workplace friction. At a glance, management can quickly identify who is on the jobsite on any given day, which can significantly reduce risks, improve culture, and reinforce safety.

One organization in particular, Pankow Builders, has seen success in implementing a mobile communication platform with its workforce. The organization is now seeing a 98 percent training completion rate from workers by deploying engaging training programs through MindForge. Pankow's digital training provides the ability to scale its training initiatives to reach more workers. In addition to being able to more easily track workers' training progress on all jobsites, the company has saved more than $12,000 in training time on a single jobsite alone. Through new training methods, Pankow has been able to reduce its average training time per employee from 8 hours to under 2.

Conclusion

It is undeniable that better communication leads to a safer, more connected, and more efficient workplace with less risk of injuries and fatalities. Utilizing mobile technology is an ideal solution for organizations to implement efficient communication streams and decrease their assumed risk. A mobile platform offers a multitude of benefits for on-site workers, project managers, and an organization's leadership, allowing streamlined training, emergency alerts, and project update procedures. Encouraging the adoption of mobile communication platforms is the next step forward for a fluid workforce like the construction industry.


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