Communication in construction is one of the most important ingredients in creating successful project outcomes. And when it comes to jobsite communication, the stakes couldn’t be higher. A lack of communication on construction jobsites creates ample opportunity for mistakes, including safety issues, productivity losses, and financial consequences, to name just a few.
Strong jobsite communication can give you the tools to navigate challenges that might arise during a construction project. To not only avoid potential pitfalls but ensure an environment where the people and the project can thrive, improving jobsite communication is one of the most surefire ways to set your construction project up for success, no matter the hurdles you may face throughout the process. Here’s a look at why jobsite communication matters in construction, and how you can improve it.
Why Communication Is Important on Construction Jobsites
Perhaps the best way to explore the importance of jobsite communication is to look at what can happen when it is lacking on a construction project. The consequences of a communication failure on a construction jobsite can range from safety concerns to timeline and budget repercussions, and beyond.
Take, for example, the fact that a communication breakdown on a project is the most common reason for construction disputes. The best way to prevent inaccuracies that lead to disputes is to have a clear and open documentation process. But how can you accurately document something without having strong communication between the owner, architect, contractor and the workers on a jobsite? Something is going to get lost in translation, increasing the likelihood for mistakes in every part of the construction process.
Why Communication Fails in Construction
Communication can fail for many reasons and at any point in the process of a construction project. One of the main reasons jobsite communication can fail is delayed notifications or follow-up, when information isn’t relayed in a timely manner. Moreover, technological issues can lead to communication failures in construction, especially if not everyone is communicating on the same platforms; e.g., texting vs. email vs. phone calls, etc.
Additionally, communication failures can happen on jobsites when not everyone on a team is speaking the same language. Not clearly defining the workflows, standards, data entry, and templates you’re using on a jobsite can put your construction project at risk.
How to Improve Communication in Construction
While poor jobsite communication can have dire consequences for construction projects, there are a number of things you can do to improve communication to ensure your project stays on track for success.
1. Connect Office and Field Teams
Quite often, communication breakdowns happen between office and field workers. As a result, it can create conflicts and hinder productivity. Bridging the communication gap between the front office and the field helps to alleviate heaps of issues which can come up during the project. If your company is working as one, aligned team, errors are limited and morale is higher. Technology plays a critical role here. Finding the right technology to centralize communications and facilitate collaboration will help provide a real-time view into project progress and connect teams across the office and jobsite.
2. Establish Clear Communication Chains
Improving construction jobsite communication starts with creating a communication chain of command. This is usually done in a project’s contract documents, and requires the owners, general contractor, and architect to communicate with each other, typically with the architect as the intermediary. From there, different project leaders should have different roles and responsibilities when it comes to communicating project information to their teams. For example, the architect is responsible for communicating with consultants, and the general contractor will communicate with suppliers and subcontractors. The best way to ensure all information is communicated to the necessary team members is to establish clear points of contact for each workflow, and stick to them throughout the project.
3. Standardize Communication Methods
You can also improve communication in construction by selecting a standard communication method for your message. Everyone communicates in different ways, and people have varying preferred methods of communication—from talking to texting to phone calls and emails. Beyond that, information tends to get communicated in different formats — one team may use one template while another may use another. With so many different ways to communicate, it’s critical to try to standardize to improve project communication.
Furthermore, standardized processes and technology are critical. If you have no set technology, applications, and workflows and workers just run with their own preferences, it’s challenging to relay real-time information available to anyone, making organization tasks more difficult and less accurate. Standards, no matter how small, can do wonders in keeping information consistent, aiding communication efforts on the whole.
4. Establish a Single Source of Truth
Beyond these communication improvements you can make on a jobsite, adopting connected construction technology that allows for the creation of a unified communication platform will also help to improve the outcome of your construction project. In a typical construction project, several tools and technologies are being used to capture, collect, and process data. However, much of this data remains siloed which perpetuates why approximately 96% of E&C data goes unused. This also hinders successful communication.
To improve communication overall, think about where silos can be removed and how they can be combined to create one single source of truth for all information. This means that everything from 2D to 3D documents, financial data, plans, weather, and schedules can all be accessed from one common point. Doing so requires finding software that creates a common data environment, is cloud-based, and integrates with other applications and software your teams rely on.
5. Simplify Communications
Better communication in construction means avoiding confusion, and you can do this by staying clear and concise. The value of having your message understood the first time you send it is immeasurable, especially on a jobsite. To do this, you should avoid using jargon or terms that some team members might not understand. Keep your message brief, simple, and to the point, focused on the most relevant information team members need to know. At the same time, it’s crucial that you provide as much detail as possible so that there’s no confusion among the team about what you’re trying to communicate. Instead of short and sweet, think short and complete.
Technology can go a long way into simplifying communications — particularly when teams have access to intuitive, mobile-first platforms.
6. Build Trust
Finally, when it comes to improving communication on construction jobsites, nothing is more important than building trust. The construction industry is one that relies heavily on relationships. A large part of that includes trusting teammates to get the work done and to be able to communicate effectively. Improving trust in construction involves primarily a culture shift. However, there are key steps you can take to systematically improve trust to enhance communications. This includes defining and measuring trust, minimizing uncertainty, simplifying collaboration, and taking responsibility from the top for all aspects of a construction project.
Strong Communication is the Key to Construction Success
Cultivating, encouraging, and maintaining strong jobsite communication is one of the keys to success on any construction project. Communication touches every aspect of the building process, and can have safety, financial, and reputational consequences when not up to par. You can build a culture of good jobsite communication on any project by establishing a connecting teams, choosing the right communication method and channels for your message, and simplifying messaging. There are also technology resources and tools to help you create a connected construction environment to foster seamless communication among teams. Finally, trust is an essential building block to improving jobsite communication and achieving the best possible outcomes on any construction project.
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