Attitudes and morale go together like peanut butter and jelly, and separating the two is just as hard. But, there is a lot of evidence suggesting that construction companies with good morale usually have good employee attitudes. Here’s what’s behind the connection and ideas for improving morale and attitudes.
Does your workforce seem willing, confident, disciplined and cheerful? Those are the hallmarks of good attitudes, and they usually support good morale. You can also substitute the word ‘engagement’ here for it’s all about how well your business goals mesh with your employees’ goals (or, vice versa if you prefer that view).
Construction work has its own set of complications when you’re trying to build a team with good attitudes and good morale. That’s because there’s a lot of facets to the job. It happens in all types of weather, requires a lot of physical effort, poses dangers, changes direction, happens at different locations for each project and involves multiple players.
So, start by focusing on a few prominent factors.
Conflicts and Disputes
If your company culture encourages asking questions and people speaking their minds, that’s a healthy approach. It encourages innovation and better decisions. However, things get out of hand when ownership of ideas is so strong that people or business units are certain their ideas are the only right ways, then you’ve got problems. Not only does single-mindedness lead to stagnation, but it also opens the door to conflict whenever the familiar meets the unknown.
Not only does single-mindedness lead to stagnation, but it also opens the door to conflict.
Conflicts of all types erode cooperation and collaboration, so take steps to resolve conflicts as soon as they surface. Ensure your business practices don’t foster conflict. If so, change or adjust them to remove barriers to cooperation.
People constantly face hazards, whether at work or not. That makes safety consciousness a bona fide benefit to any employer. Not only can you have workers who operate more safely, but you can also prevent lost time due to off-work injuries.
Take the first step by setting up and using a safety program. Involve as many of your employees as possible. Have people participate by creating the safety requirements for their own jobs. By involving them, you send a clear message that you’re interested in running a safety program that’s meaningful and well thought out. You also raise safety consciousness because participation requires people to think in-depth about safety.
Studies have consistently shown that working more than eight hours a day or 50 hours a week decreases productivity. Workers are more prone to accidents, physical ailments, and negative attitudes. It’s a no-brainer to avoid scheduling overtime. But, when there’s no other way, plan ahead so you can give employees notice. Then, use it in short bursts and make sure it’s not always the same people on the overtime roster. Consider cross-training people for work that often requires overtime.
You know the drill. You’ve spent half an hour studying the plans, you’ve got the people, materials and tools in place, and you’re ready to go. As soon as the task gets started, you find out something’s changed. Worse, you complete the task before finding out.
When people face too many surprise changes, they get cynical and start to feel like their good work is pointless. People who work in construction really do want to build things, but they prefer to do it once so that they can get on to the next task.
Changes are inevitable. However, as soon as you start seeing a series of changes, something’s not right. Track down the source or reasons so you can limit them. Otherwise, when added to other factors, they will definitely affect employee attitudes and morale.
Mobilization and Demobilization
For many construction activities, preparations take up more time than actually completing them. It’s all those tasks people hate, like moving and staging tools, equipment and materials. If your mobilizations and demobilizations leave people waiting and wondering, they’re going to get disillusioned. Add in waiting and wondering in inclement weather or uncomfortable situations and it’s a matter of time before their morale starts to drop.
If your mobilizations and demobilizations leave people waiting and wondering, they’re going to get disillusioned.
Streamline your mobilizations by planning so that everything crews need is available when the work begins. Try using a dedicated employee to oversee mobilizations and demobilizations. Or, train your crew leaders and give them the tools and authority required to manage getting on task and leaving it. Have backup plans for specialty tools and equipment, and make sure materials are protected from theft and weather.
Each site is unique, and each one offers conditions that will make life difficult for workers. Mud, snow, ice, congestion and tight spaces add to the chaos of getting people to and from the job.
So, don’t overlook site planning as you build your work breakdown structure. Right at the top, consider the kinds of weather you’ll face during the project and how it will affect the site conditions. Then, put plans in place to deal with the resulting melee.
Position snow and ice removal items. Have geotextile mats on hand to drop onto problem areas. Use silt fences to divert troublesome water flows, and consider how you will heat and cool indoor workspaces.
You might need to think beyond the site if working in the inner city, congested area or in a remote location. Maybe you can provide group transportation from a nearby parking lot or encourage carpooling.
This short list of attitude and morale busters is a good starting point. Once you’ve dealt with these, consider addressing other factors like absenteeism, loss of work continuity, administrative irritants, and dirty workspaces.