July/Aug 2014

How many of you would send your crews out with the wrong tools to do the job?

We all like to think that whatever role we play in managing our business that we’re performing the role of the good foreman. By good foreman, I’m referring to the critical person on each of our jobsites that makes sure the job has the materials that are needed, and the craft workers have the right tools and skills to do the job.

I have begun to wonder if we are sending our crews out with an incomplete set of tools. Recently I read about a large university that has launched a program to evaluate craft workers. Their study approach involves conducting DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness) assessments (aka personality profile) of a large population of construction craft workers. When I first read this, I laughed to myself. “Good luck with that!”

Pondering the 80-plus years my family has been involved in construction, we’ve been blessed (usually) to work with very competent carpenters, electricians, pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, equipment operators, painters and paperhangers, sheet metal workers, ceiling and drywall installers, ironworkers, masons, concrete finishers, pavers, and roofers. All of these trades were absolutely essential to success, but I have to admit, when I read this story, I had a hard time with these folks sitting in a room or in front of a computer completing a DISC personality profile.

Don’t get me wrong—the DISC assessment is a great tool and can be used for a variety of real-life situations. Some companies use it as a way to screen potential employees with the thought that a certain personality type would be better or worse in certain jobs. It can also be used in an educational environment, especially in the development of construction courses for students. This is important because the online setting does not allow for a lot of interaction between the students or teachers, and instructors can use the data to create better lessons that are more conducive to the various learners and have a better concept of how to help or motivate the learner in general.

Yet as conflicted as I was about using DISC personality profiles with the trades, I can see a place where the use could make sense.

Most of our companies have as many as four generations of people working for us. Each generation of supervision and craft comes from very different times, ways of living, cultures, external influences, values, and myriad of other items that make up the human beings in that generation. And it’s never been more important that we factor into our communications plan the generational diversity factor.

It used to be simpler. Dad and my uncles used to explain how they got groups of immigrant craft workers from different ethnic backgrounds to work together. It usually meant identifying the leader of the crew who was conversant in English in addition to the crew’s native language. Today, besides ethnic and language diversity, we have the challenge of generational diversity, which can define our future success.

Most of us understand communicating instructions face-to-face to a baby-boomer worker and providing online directions to a generation-Y worker will typically get you a higher likelihood of success with each. Using a one-size-fits-all style of craft communication, such as putting on a single company-wide Webinar announcing the project work plan, doesn’t work as well.

The job of managing project resources has changed. Today generational understanding is necessary to gain insights into the beliefs, attitudes, values, and perspectives of our craft pools. Doing so can improve how they function on our jobsites, both individually and how our crews work as a team.

Can you see this as a new power tool for your organization?

Jim Kissane is a retired construction industry veteran, having served the design/construction industry for more than three decades. He can be reached at jim@fruitionusa.com

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