Establishing a strong workplace culture in a construction business isn’t an easy task. Here’s how Great Managers helped one client make sweeping improvements.
Construction businesses have a lot to consider when it comes to building workplace culture.
Construction crews face the same challenges as most businesses. However, they also have a unique challenge to overcome. They have huge deliverables that require a lot of practical and hard work. This leads to many construction organisations focusing on technical skills over leadership.
Great Managers recognises the challenges of workplace culture in a construction business. Here’s how we helped one of our clients and what you can learn from our efforts.
Workplace Culture in a Construction Business Case Study
Our client operates a construction business that specialises in home improvement and property construction. They offer several services, including renovations and new builds. They pride themselves on providing reliable and high-quality services to clients. Furthermore, they aim to take the hassle out of the building process for their clients.
Innovation lies at the core of their work. Yet they’re always aware of the common issues that their clients face. Clients want work delivered quickly and within budget.
Their aim is to take control of projects on their client’s behalf. They then oversaw every aspect of the construction, from start to finish.
The organisation knew that its technical skills were up to par. Yet, they also recognised that they had some culture issues to take care of.
Every construction business needs to undertake extensive planning before starting a job. But our client may not have planned as well as they could have. The organisation recognised that this lack of planning led to lost time and money. Avoidable mistakes got made on the job.
In the past, they’d double down and work through the problems. Our clients work in a physical industry and the team prides itself on getting things done. At times, this may have led to them rushing into their work out of eagerness. They didn’t take the time to sit back and think for a moment.
Construction is a very competitive industry. The team worked to very tight margins. This poor planning led to little mistakes that ate into their profits.
They needed help to make a change. That’s where Great Managers came in.
The Great Managers Solution
In many cases, building workplace culture does not require wholesale changes to your existing culture. Your culture may need a little tweak, rather than a huge change.
In our client’s case, we talked about the one-degree shift. This relates to making that small change that has massive benefits to your business.
The key was that they had to recognise that they operate a construction business.
Many in this industry haven’t received training in leadership. They excel when it comes to the technical aspects of building and compliance. But leadership is often seen as something that they will get to later.
Our clients experienced the problems that this mindset causes first-hand. They didn’t apply great leadership techniques in practical ways. Instead, they tried to work harder to overcome their issues. This didn’t encourage positive workplace behaviours. Plus, this mindset may have caused resentment to build in the team.
With Great Managers, they learned how to take a step back and thinking things through. Instead of taking a gung-ho approach to their work, they focused on planning.
They also adopted a simple mantra – do the front end really well. This is one of 3 Great Managers mantras, but it was the most meaningful one to their business.
This led to them putting more thought into the business and planning aspect of their organisation.
The End Result
This one-degree shift in culture made a massive difference for our client. For the first time, the company focused as much on leadership as it did the technical aspects of its work.
Our client overcame its company culture problems. It overcame the behaviours that led to it struggling to complete projects on time and within budget. The little mistakes disappeared as they introduced more positive workplace behaviours.
The organisation’s leadership now thinks in terms of building a business. They also understand the importance of clarity. Our client has established behaviours that it expects its people to meet. Today, the company sets clear expectations up front about the work that they do.
They also take more time to think about their projects. This small shift in their planning routine leads to time and monetary savings and greater profit margins. These come from proper planning that benefits the construction process.
Building a Workplace Culture in a Construction Business – What Can You Learn?
This story offers some invaluable lessons to other organisations.
Here are three tips that you can take away and apply to your own construction business.
Tip #1 – Focus on Leadership
Our client made a mistake that’s common among those trying to build workplace culture in a construction business.
They focused too much on the technical aspects of their work.
The team dedicated a lot of its time to understanding compliance issues. They focused on developing the practical skills of their team.
That’s important. Without those practical skills, you can’t deliver on your projects.
But it’s also important to recognise that there’s a business lying behind that work.
Many construction organisations almost see leadership as a “luxury”. It’s something that they’ll get to at some point, once they’ve handled the other aspects of their work.
The problem is that this leads to company culture problems. In our client’s case, those problems cost money. With no effective leadership structure in place, waste occurs. That means you’re ordering too many materials or not planning your team’s time effectively.
In an industry with such small margins, that lack of leadership spells disaster.
Embracing the importance of leadership is the first step to building workplace culture in a construction business. You have to recognise that your business needs a set structure. This structure must define desired behaviours and practices.
With that recognition comes a desire to learn how to implement such practices. From there, you’re ready to start building a positive workplace culture.
Tip #2 – Take the Time to Plan
Construction organisations face another problem.
They work in an industry where clients value speed. Every client wants their job completed as quickly as possible. If they’re not seeing progress getting made, they start to get worried.
This causes some construction organisations to rush into their work. They complete the necessary planning when it comes to the technical aspects. Yet they don’t take any time to think about the project on a deeper level. They set no expectations for how they expect their crews to act or how they’ll manage the numbers.
This leads to the reactive approach that our client took before. They jumped into their work and reacted whenever a problem arose. For example, if they found they hadn’t ordered enough materials, they just ordered more and ploughed on. This would keep them on schedule. But they hadn’t accounted for these extra materials in their budget. As a result, that one mistake ate into their slim margins.
It all comes down to a simple question that you need to ask before starting the work:
“What do I need to do first before I start the job?”
You need to plan each day out and ensure material orders match the job’s requirements. You have to create an emergency budget in case things don’t go to plan.
Clients need to understand what you plan to do. This means a lot of front-end communication to establish clear expectations.
Your supervisors also have to understand their roles. They need to think like business leaders. That helps them to avoid the mistakes that cost the organisation money.
Tip #3 – Set Clear Expectations
This is where the concept of the one-degree shift comes into play.
In our client’s case, that shift related to the expectations that they set before their projects. Before, they focused almost entirely on delivering the work that the client expected.
That’s crucial. But it also meant they weren’t looking at the business side of things closely enough.
They weren’t communicating well enough with their subcontractors. Our client didn’t establish positive workplace behaviours for their crews to follow. While this didn’t affect the service they provided to customers, it did affect profit margins. It led to subcontractors becoming less efficient. This drove up the costs of completing their projects.
You need to establish clear guidelines for expected behaviour while on site. Everyone, from full-time employees to subcontractors, must follow these guidelines. This may involve training staff in terms of what you expect from them and what you consider positive workplace behaviours.
It’s not just the leadership’s thinking that has to shift. Your supervisors and your people also have to recognise that you’re operating a business.
Every mistake costs money. Often, those mistakes occur because you haven’t established clear expectations.
The Final Word
Leadership is often seen as something of a luxury in more practical industries. The focus often lies on getting the job done, rather than how to do the job efficiently.
It’s a small distinction that makes a lot of difference. Jumping straight into your work may make a good impression on clients. However, it also means you’re not taking the time needed to plan out the job effectively. You’re not paying close enough attention to the numbers behind it. Plus, you’re not establishing clear expectations.
That leads to mistakes that cost you time and money.
Building workplace culture in a construction business requires the one-degree shift that our client made. In their case, they needed to just take some extra time to plan to ensure they get everything right. They had to recognise the importance of establishing clear and upfront leadership. This allowed them to set guidelines for how they wanted their people to act.
This led to a reduction in mistakes and waste, which ultimately boosted profits.
Are mistakes and errors by your staff costing you time and money?
Are you struggling to establish a workplace culture in a construction business?
If you’re a construction business owner who’s experiencing these problems, Great Managers can help you. We invite you to register for our upcoming webinar to learn how you can do things differently.