By Brady Johnson, Vice President of Operations
Have you every shared an office with someone? What kind of co-worker would you want working in a shared space? My guess is you wouldn’t want to work next to the person who leaves their desk a mess — papers, folders, even trash creeping into your area. What about their work habits? Someone who is always waiting until the last minute or preventing you from being as efficient as possible is sure to get on your nerves quickly. Anyone trying to do their job in that kind of environment would probably ask for a new office, or even a new job, before too long. For our trade partners, our jobsites are their offices. And those same annoying habits that can drive someone crazy in a cubicle, can drive a trade partner to search for a new project. We’re in the middle of a labor shortage crisis in our industry, so losing even one trade partner could derail a project’s schedule fast. So, what’s the atmosphere like on your jobsites? If you’ve never asked your contractor what they do to keep trade partners happy — you probably should start. Here’s 4 things your contractor should be doing to ensure your projects attract and retain the best trade partners.
1. Clean and Tidy
A clean jobsite is a productive job site. That’s a simple idea but very true. Recently, one of our superintendents turned away a critical path trade partner at the jobsite entrance. This was a big job, with a challenging schedule — and our superintendent told them to turn around. I couldn’t have been prouder. His actions might seem like the opposite of progress, but in this case, it was an essential move to ensure the working environment was positive for all of our trade partners. We require everyone who works with us to keep their materials on carts with wheels and this trade partner showed up with trucks full of materials — none of it on wheels. Putting materials and tools on wheels is a small action that has a big impact. Ask any trade worker, and they’ve probably experienced the frustration that comes with arriving on site to do your work and finding someone else’s materials blocking your space. If those materials are on wheels, the other trade partner can simply move their materials out of the way and everyone can move forward. The principle behind this is called “Nothing Hits the Floor” and it’s one of many steps we require everyone who works with us to take to keep the site clean and everyone working efficiently. In fact, the trade partner in this example not only put wheels on all of their carts and continued their work. Their company told us they planned to adopt the lean practice on all of their jobs across the country.
2. Full Steam Ahead
Many of our trade partners, especially those on our multifamily or hospitality projects, get paid by the units they complete. There’s plenty of work to go around right now, so no one wants to sit on a jobsite where they must wait for the person in front of them to finish before they can move on to the next task. We bring all of our trades in on a weekly or even daily basis to create and manage a productive schedule. With everyone in the same room, we can ensure everyone is finishing the work in the most efficient sequence possible. The faster our trade partners are able to work, the faster they are able to move onto the next project — increasing the speed to market for our clients in the process.
3. Accountability for All
It’s not enough to meet and go over the schedule with trade partners, contractors have to be prepared to hold everyone accountable. If someone isn’t completing their work on time, it derails everyone else’s progress. On our jobs, the moment someone’s work falls behind, we talk to them, find out what’s slowing them down, and create a solution together. When other trade partners see us holding someone accountable, it shows we are looking out for everyone and are invested in everyone’s success equally.
4. Never Settle
We believe in the continuous pursuit of improvement. Simply put, we understand the “way it’s always been done” isn’t always the best way. For example, the traditional way of building was all about the hand off. Architects would hand us a set of drawings, we’d create a schedule, and then pass it on to our trade partners to build. Now, we know collaboration is a crucial key to a project’s success. That’s why we engage our trade partners early in the planning process and give them a voice in how the work is scheduled. Our pursuit of improvement is one of the many reasons we have a safety program that goes above and beyond OSHA requirements. Our industry is evolving — buildings are getting taller, developments are more complex, and we constantly adapt our safety plan to keep up with the changes.
For contractors today, it’s not enough to be the person that opens the gate in the morning and closes it at night. You need a builder who is invested in making your jobsite the place every trade partner wants to work. If they know they can work without waiting and complete their work on schedule in an environment built on respect, they will pick your job over another that can’t offer those benefits. Creating a positive working environment on the jobsite is a critical step in the trade partner recruitment process. To read about other actions your contractor should be taking to deal with the labor shortage crisis, click here.