A breakdown in communication in the construction industry can be… problematic.
One survey found that almost half of construction rework was the result of bad communication and bad project data—resulting in $31.3 billion annually in avoidable costs.
In construction, you have all kinds of moving parts: you have the field workers, the contractors, the suppliers, the clients, the office workers (sometimes). And so on.
If people aren’t on the same page, processes slow down, deadlines get missed, leads don’t become sales—and even safety can be in jeopardy.
So how can you make sure you have the best communication possible?
We’ll go over a few tips to help you make sure your communication processes are streamlined and efficient.
First, let’s go over some communication challenges particular to the construction industry…
As mentioned previously, there are multiple parties involved in projects within a construction business.
Field workers need to make sure they know what’s expected of them.
Similarly, contractors need to be kept in the know about elements of projects that pertain to them particularly.
Suppliers need to know what supplies you need, as well as how and when you’ll pay.
Clients need to be kept up to date with project statuses or new developments.
You even need a way to get in touch with leads—whether that’s employment leads to fill vacant positions, or sales leads to help you get more business.
With all these moving parts, you need a communication process that reaches everyone and makes sure everyone gets all the information they need.
The construction industry often brings together people of different backgrounds and languages.
According to Ivannovation about 25% of construction workers are immigrants, and over 40% of workers report a language skill gap.
Obviously, this can create some communication issues. Language barriers can cause misunderstandings, frustration, and confusion.
You need a communication process that’s able to effectively communicate with everyone on your team—even those who don’t speak English as their first language.
Construction is a complex industry in which projects can have multiple layers, levels, and stages.
One group of people may work on one element, while another one works on another, while another works on another.
You could have a project that involves demolition, structuring, drywalling, laying a foundation, plumbing, electrical work, roofing, or any other number of skills.
In order to keep all of these groups and all of these elements cohesive, you need a communication process that streamlines everything and holds it all together.
Without a solid communication plan, some elements are sure to get lost in the mix.
Having a deadline puts on the pressure.
While this pressure can be good, because it gives you a goal for when to make sure a project is complete, it can also present the communication challenge of needing to reach everyone and manage operations under a time constraint.
You may not have a day or even an hour to think about what you want to say. You need to get messages out quickly.
So you need a communication process that is able to instantly reach people under pressure, to help you meet those deadlines.
In construction, unlike many other fields, there are serious safety concerns at play.
Field workers in particular could be engaged in difficult manual labor. As such, they need to be kept updated about safety concerns, or else they could be put in seriously life-threatening situations.
Incoming storm? A toxic spill? A problem with structural integrity? These workers need to know.
Thus you need a communication process that reaches these people quickly, so that you can prevent any safety issues.
With all of the above challenges in mind, how can you have the best communication in your construction business?
Here are a few tips.
Nothing shuts down good communication like having a confused, unclear process.
People need to know things like:
Having all of these questions pre-determined ahead of time will help prevent scrambling and miscommunication when the time comes to send out an important piece of communication.
Make sure the expectations are apparent to all regarding what the communication process will look like, so that they can have an understanding about what the process is—thus helping to minimize confusion.
For better or worse, email is no longer the best way to reach people.
Although it is still a powerful tool in your communication toolbox, many people do not check their email—as high as 30% of employees don’t read their employer’s emails.
So you just can’t be certain that people will read your email.
This issue with email is especially true of people who may be working out in the field, where checking their email is most definitely not their number one priority.
With all of that in mind, make sure you have other communication processes in place aside from email.
Related to the last point, since email is not the best way to reach everyone, you should consider adding SMS to your communication process.
SMS, otherwise known as texting, is a communication method that is frequently used across all demographics. People are constantly checking the texts on their phone, so you know they’ll see your message.
As high as 98% of texts are read by recipients, so texting definitely has powerful potential to reach people.
And this is especially important for workers who need to be notified of something time-sensitive.
Project X will be shutting down in 10 minutes due to inclement weather.
Lightning is approaching your work area. Please stop all work and seek shelter until further notice.
But this is also useful for following up with employment or sales leads:
We noticed that you filled out a quote request form on our website. A quote has been emailed to the email address provided. Did you have any other questions offhand that we could answer for you?
Thanks for your interest in working with us! What other questions do you have regarding the position?
Assumptions are the bane of communication.
What seems blatantly obvious to you may be totally foreign to someone else.
Recognizing this, you need to make sure the communication in your construction business doesn’t make assumptions about what your recipients know or understand.
For example, miscommunication often comes as a result of different interpretations of terms. So make sure your terms are clear and that if you do need to use jargon, you either define it or make sure it is jargon that your recipients are sure to understand.
Generally speaking, over-communicating is not an issue.
People need reminders and explanations and lots of clear communication to make sure everyone is on the same page.
That being said, you should be respectful of people’s time and personal space. If your employees are at home after work hours, you should avoid contacting them unless necessary, so they can have an easier time keeping work at work.
In addition to being respectful of people’s time, you, of course, also need to be respectful of people overall. Use thoughtful and appropriate language. Don’t be harsh, rude, or condescending.
Related to the previous point about not making assumptions, be clear in all your communication. Don’t be vague or wishy-washy.
You don’t want people to be confused at the purpose of your message or at your word choice or at what they’re supposed to do as a result of your message.
Let people know the purpose for the message, as well as any relevant action steps the recipient needs to take.
If no action is necessary, you can even clarify that by saying something along the lines of “No action necessary.”
Sometimes clarity and conciseness go hand in hand. Sometimes the more to-the-point you can make your message, the clearer the message is—your points won’t get lost in a sea of unnecessary words.
So make your points, and make them clearly and succinctly.
When you use multiple communication channels, you are more likely to really reach the people you’re trying to reach.
For example, you can send an email and a text message together at once, increasing the visibility of what you’re trying to communicate.
We’ve already mentioned email and texting, but here are a few communication channels you could consider using for different purposes:
One thing you can count on is that people are constantly on their phones, so digital communication methods (such as SMS) can be particularly effective in our current society.
People all need reminders.
We have a lot going on in our lives and it’s easy to forget important meetings, deadlines, and events.
Knowing this, you can use communication tools to send important reminders so that people remember to attend meetings or to abide by safety guidelines or to turn in their time sheets.
You may be amazed at how sending a simple text message reminder can make a big difference in people following through and doing what you need them to do.
Reminders are especially powerful when they come in the form of a reminder text message, since people check their phones more often than they check anything else.
Reminder! Mandatory safety meeting today at 12pm. Lunch will be provided. If you can’t make it in person, you can Zoom in using this link: http://mbltxt.com/tzW
Don’t forget to turn in your timesheets to Tina by 5pm today.
We’ve mentioned how SMS is an important way to get in touch with people and make sure they see the messages you need them to see.
In order to get in touch with people via SMS, you’ll need to use an SMS platform like Mobile Text Alerts.
An SMS platform allows you to manage your contacts and send out mass text messages. You can even sync up your Procore database into the texting platform, so that your contacts can be automatically added over.
Here are some tips on how to use an SMS system for your construction business, as well as some general tips for setting it up.
Many SMS platforms will offer a free 1-on-1 walkthrough to take you through the different aspects of your SMS system.
This allows you not only to see how your platform works but also to give you access to an “SMS expert” who can give you advice specific to your situation, and to answer any of your questions.
Doing this can help you get a good feel for everything you can do with your texting platform, so that you can take full advantage of it.
You can save some time and hassle by setting up message templates ahead of time, particularly if you have messages with similar content that you’ll be sending out on the regular.
Setting these up ahead of time within your SMS platform means that whenever you’re ready to send the message, you can have it all ready to go without having to type it all out again.
This is particularly important if the message is time-sensitive (and especially if it’s related to safety).
If there’s lightning near a construction site, for example, you don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to craft a message. Instead, you can have a template set up beforehand.
Having your contact list organized into groups means that you can sort your database into “segments” that are relevant to the messages you want them to receive.
For example, you could have “groups” called “Management,” “Office Employees,” “Field Workers,” “Contractors,” “Sales Leads,” or any other relevant segment.
That way, when you’re getting ready to send your message, you can easily select whom you’d like to send the message to.
You don’t need to confine your SMS usage to internal company notices and reminders.
You can use SMS to get in touch with leads or potential leads. You can follow up on their interest and try to convince them to move forward with a project.
Since everyone reads their texts, you can imagine the powerful potential this can hold to help you land new clients.
(You just want to be careful not to spam people who don’t actually want to receive messages!)
We’ve mentioned it a few times now, but SMS is an effective way to communicate “emergency” information.
By “emergencies” we mean anything urgent—it could be a real, life-threatening emergency like severe weather moving into a construction site, or it could simply be a time-sensitive update.
For example, you could send texts about needing to fill work shifts or about cancellations.
We need someone to fill in tomorrow morning. Bonuses available if it’s not your normal work hours. Reply AVAILABLE if you’re interested in filling the shift.
All work projects are on hold tomorrow due to the inclement weather. We’ll plan on resuming on Thursday. Contact your supervisor with any questions.
As we've seen, communication in the construction industry is vital. You want to do everything you can to make the most of your communication.
To help with that, you can try out SMS for your construction business for free, to see how it works and how you could use it.
Get a free 14-day trial today and see for yourself.
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