Managing people can be challenging. Everyone has a different personality and understanding of how and what to do. Some people work better independently, and some are great collaborators. Some contractors work fast, and others need clear structure and guidelines to be productive.
Selecting the right construction management team during preconstruction will set the tone for the entire project. Managing construction teams can be particularly challenging. It inherently has a high turnover rate just by the nature of the work. When projects start, contractors add crew, and the crew is often let go at the end of the project. For smaller jobs, contractors often hire crew as day laborers in the morning and pay them in cash at the day’s end. Contractors may not have detailed records of who worked for them one day to the next. Having the crew change so frequently lends itself toward a dynamic and fluid workforce, which can be challenging to manage. Some may not have the required expertise for the task and the quality of work may suffer.
Making matters even more complicated is the high incidence of work-related accidents and injuries in the construction industry. Construction laborers are frequently exposed to hazardous work and periodically get hurt on the job. An OSHA study finds that one in ten construction workers are injured each year, with fall incidents being the most common. The high degree of accidents is indicated by safety signs throughout the construction site. Any moderate-sized construction project has signage indicating how many days it’s been since a workplace accident. These are updated each day to remind and encourage everyone that safety comes first.
Another factor that makes managing construction more challenging is the work hours. It’s not uncommon for projects to require the crew to start at 7 AM, or earlier. Some jobs call for a second-shift, while others run graveyard shifts or weekend work. If you ever want to see a construction worker’s eyes light up, just announce that overtime has been approved. The rules regulating overtime pay vary by state, but it’s typically 1.5x to 2.0x. Occasionally, a job will tip into the triple-overtime range when the owner wants to make a deadline. The extra money may look good in their bank accounts, but tired workers can be more prone to accidents and less attentive to directions.
When you consider these factors that affect a typical construction team, it quickly becomes clear why so many projects fall behind on their budgets and schedules. What starts as an architectural plan designed by a highly trained and experienced team, is built by a much more varied group. All the planning, rigorous checking, and permitting is put to the test when the construction crew arrives on site.
That’s where the construction management team comes in – to translate the architect’s vision into a tangible reality. Selecting the right team to lead the project and construction crews will make an enormous impact on the project’s overall success.
So what are the most essential characteristics of a construction management leadership team?
Years of Experience
A seasoned leader can make a world of difference. They’ve worked on several jobs with a wide variety of people. From field-work management to change orders and a myriad of situations that can happen on-site, nothing beats experience when selecting your leadership team.
Experienced project and site managers will be able to set schedules, deal with labor issues, worker safety, delays, material shortage, vendor coordination, staffing, set up, close down, equipment, licenses, and every other aspect of the job. Having at least a few “old-timers” on a construction management team can go a long way in working through the many situations that arise in a construction project.
Specialization on Similar Projects
While years of experience are a great start, having specialty contractors with experience on similar projects is crucial. While no two construction projects are the same, a background in related projects will help a lot. For example, if suppose a project requires grading and backfilling a compacted foundation before building. In that case, they’ll be familiar with the process of removing the soil and then building it back up, layer by layer. Or if it requires a lot of woodwork, they’ll be familiar with storage, maintenance, cutting, safety, and streamlining the process. Each type of construction has its nuances and is learnt from working on previous jobs.
As noted, construction crews have a diverse set of backgrounds. The leadership team needs to be able to gain and maintain their respect. This is done by providing clear direction, authority, and paying constant attention to the project. Foremen have a reputation for being tough as nails for a reason- they need to earn the respect of their crew. If workers feel they can cut corners or sense a general lack of clarity, their performance may start to falter. The best construction leaders actively engage with every aspect of the project and every person on the job. By maintaining a constant presence, they can keep the project on track and everyone on task.
Prior Relationship with Owners
The best construction managers are those you’ve worked with successfully in the past. They know how to communicate with the owners and keep the project moving throughout. While laborers and construction workers may vary from job to job, working with the same construction managers is often beneficial to the project’s long-term success.
Prior Relationships with Contractors and Crew
Construction managers with a lot of experience will likely have established rapport with local construction companies and their team. Hiring a construction manager who can call a trusted contractor to take care of a job will keep things moving in the right direction. Contractors each have a reputation based on previous projects. A well-qualified construction manager will know who’s reliable and can deliver high quality work. People also tend to work better for those they feel a long-term commitment to. By completing one job successfully, they’re likely to get more. So they’ll go the extra mile to ensure the owner is happy with their work.
While this may be considered an afterthought, or maybe a given, it’s always helpful to consider a construction manager’s credentials. Having the required training and certifications in construction management is foundational to a successful project. Formal classes and training will teach everything from scheduling to managing budgets, crew, contractors, regulations, and more. While all industries have a gap between what you learn in class and how things work in the field, having an educational foundation to build upon will give people a starting point for running successful projects. Along with a formal degree, there are numerous industry-specific certifications that construction managers can earn such as Construction Certified Manager (CCM) and On-site Safety Certification.
While most construction managers will provide top-quality service, a large amount of leeway happens while on site. Crew and contractors can find ways to cut corners or deliver less than what they promised. The reality is the ever-changing and unpredictable nature of construction projects will require concessions. Some of those changes will be through the formal process of change orders, and others will be solutions that contractors come up with to keep the project moving. Having a construction manager who holds themselves to a high level of integrity will ensure large and small decisions are in the spirit of what’s best for the project.
Building a new project is a new challenge every time. With strong leadership and respect, the varied contractors on the project can become a well-tuned and efficient team. Hiring the right construction management team is one of the most critical steps during preconstruction to ensure a successful construction project.