Most construction jobs, even those that seem simple, require plenty of administration. Contractors have to be vetted, materials have to be secured, and plans need to be processed all before ground is ever broken on the job. This is why time management and efficient scheduling is so important to construction crews, as well as the people that hire them.
However, construction crews are made up of people, and it can be hard to manage several people at once, even with proper administration. General contractors may find themselves up against common issues that they must learn how to manage effectively.
It can be challenging for general contractors to find the right number of people for a project all available for the same length of time, especially if they’re juggling multiple projects at once. This is especially true for general contractors who work with independent subcontractors. Projects may be delayed—or outcomes underdelivered— if there is a less than ideal number of workers on a project at any given phase.
Additionally, the industry is currently dealing with a shortage of construction workers which makes finding qualified individuals for even the most standard jobs harder. Due to their high value, experienced workers may be in higher demand, causing scheduling difficulties.
Need for specialized skills
Some crews will need team members with specialized skills or qualifications to complete certain jobs. For example, electricians or heavy machinery operators may need to be called in to finish off detailed work or move large materials for work to continue.
However, these individuals likely won’t need to be around the entire length of the job. While you could hire them for an extended length of time to cover allpossibilities, some companies may simply be unable to afford to have these specialists on retainer.
However, while waiting to book these specialists can help save money, the longer you wait, the less likely it will be that the people you need are going to be available. The absence of these specialists, either due to the labor shortage or scheduling conflicts, can create more delays, cost more money, and create tensions between crews, clients, and project managers.
Tracking crew members
It can often be difficult for managers to oversee all of their crew members at the same time. This can be due to large worksites, managing different crews on different jobs, and other demands of being a project manager.
Productivity can suffer and avoidable mistakes can occur when workers don’t have enough oversight on the job. However, too much supervision and micromanaging can have the same detrimental effect on productivity and job satisfaction. Balancing that line can be hard, particularly in a job with such fluid daily expectations.
Unanticipated absences by individual employees are common when working with larger crews. Reasons behind absences may range from illness and injury to personal or family emergencies.
When workers call out sick, project managers should anticipate a short-handed staff which could lead to more delays and incurred costs accrued from replacing said worker or waiting until work can resume again.
While it may be tempting to overstaff your crew to avoid unexpected absences, this can lead to running a budget deficit or an overcrowded worksite, which can increase the risk of injury. Remember, different sizes of crews need different insurance coverages. Increasing your crew size in the middle of a job may require you to update your coverage, which can take time and money.
Balancing personal schedule conflicts
Coordinating a crew of several people can be difficult, as everyone has different personal schedules.
However important it is for work to be done, project managers must be aware and respectful of their crews’ personal lives. This is why communication is key between project managers and crew, regardless of the size of the crew a project manager may be responsible for.
How can project managers overcome these challenges?
There are several different ways for project managers to address the challenges discussed above, as well as improve their ability to respond to any other conflicts that may arise on a job site. Not only can these strategies ensure a job goes smoothly, but they can also help increase trust and productivity among a crew.
Monitor crew activity
Project managers can help prevent errors and encourage productivity among their crew by tracking the work done and engaging in active supervision. By combining daily reports from productivity trackers with on-site supervision, general contractors can get a complete picture of the productivity levels of their crews and a better understanding of how to address any shortcomings.
Providing oversight, however, can easily bleed into micromanagement. To prevent poor productivity and attitude among a crew, project managers should learn the difference between the two.
If you can’t get out to all your worksites daily, then appoint someone you trust to report to you with any advancements or issues from the site. This could be a single person, or you could create a committee.
Utilize integrated solutions
Integrated project management solutions can help make it easier to schedule and oversee work crews. An integrated solution is a process that integrates two or more functions in a business. This could be especially helpful for construction crews, who utilize several functions during a job such as inventory, time cards, invoicing, and checklists.
Integrated solutions also improve accessibility to schedules and data across crew members. This can help improve transparency and reduce the margin of error. Utilizing an integrated solution can also help integrate third-party apps, like invoicing, that may not be a part of the same company or suite.
Prioritize quality leadership
General contractors can increase productivity and efficiency through quality leadership. This may include improving your leadership skills or appointing trusted individuals to lead crews. Knowing when to delegate is an important part of being a successful leader and can help prevent micromanagement.
Delegation has several benefits to project managers, including but not limited to:
- Saving time
- Reducing margin of errors with thoughtful oversight
- Helping develop leadership skills on your team
- Preparing delegates to manage larger teams
- Inspiring employees to perform better
All of these are crucially important to creating efficient teams.
Good qualities in a trusted leadership include:
- Time management
- Clear communication
- Good standing with the crew
These are important qualities of someone who is both working with upper management, as well as spending face time with the crew.
Managing time and your staff is a complex task for general contractors. Understanding how to manage scheduling difficulties to maximize efficiency can help keep schedules on track and employees happy.