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Construction - 5 min read

8 Ways to Keep Your Labourers Productive

Jason Hook

Head of Sales and Marketing

Aug 15, 2016 9:13:00 AM

Keeping your labourers productive can be as simple as understanding why productivity can lag. In the construction industry, the main contributors to declining productivity fall into three categories: labour, management and industry.

But what do these umbrella terms mean to the average work site, and how can project managers get the most out of their staff? 

Industry-related factors include; the overall design and complexity of the project. Think building codes, on-site technology, design elements (repetition and complexity), laws and regulations, the physical nature of the job, weather considerations and site location. All of these can impact worker productivity in their own way, and should be managed accordingly.

Management considerations include the planning and scheduling of workers, leadership skills of project managers, communication and motivation. To run this arm successfully, project managers need to seriously consider their management strategies and the job conditions they cultivate. 

Labour-related contributors to lagging productivity concern the men and women on the ground. These include labour availability, motivation and skill level. All of the factors listed above can directly impede these three labour-related concerns. 

In short, construction projects are complex beasts. If one cog in the machine isn’t running efficiently, the others can suffer. So how can project managers keep their labourers positive and productive?

1. Run a Tight Ship

As a project manager, it’s up to you to effectively organise and manage all aspects of your labour force. A project demands excellent leadership skills to see its success. Set and stick to timelines, organise workflow, materials and schedules in advance - but leave room for the unexpected.

Communicate the project requirements and delivery needs to your labourers before they commence work. Other things to consider include: on-site management and coordination of workers, the labourer’s job security, labour experience, labourers long-term pacing, delays and breaks in work.


2. Pre-qualify Your Labourers

Any worker you hire must have the ability and expertise to execute their tasks successfully. Recruiting skilled and trained workers means a job is completed to a professional standard. It also ensures the work adheres to construction and project guidelines. Prequalifying your workers saves you from losing money and time on tradesmen who aren’t confident in their abilities.


3. Manage Onsite Disputes

Onsite disputes can demolish worker morale and motivation. Once your labourers lose their positive attitude, absenteeism can increase, sites can be left in poor condition and you may see contract changes with a disruption to work.

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4. Address Underperformance Early

Seek to communicate clearly and openly with underperforming staff as soon as issues arise. Finding the cause of their poor performance can be the first step in the search for a solution. Your labourers may feel overworked, stressed, unmotivated, frustrated with procedures or lack of resources to do their job. Whatever the situation is, address it early.

Lagging labour productivity can be effectively addressed with strong leadership from project managers.


5. Health and Wellbeing

Ensure you schedule suitable working hours for your labourers. Workers who are fatigued will underperform every time. If they are overworked and not getting enough sleep, their cognitive abilities, motor skills and productivity rates naturally depreciate.

Encourage your team to stay well-hydrated, well-fed and well-rested. For other simple solutions for keeping your labourers healthy, check out these 6 Quick Tips for Builder and Construction Workers.


6. Reduce Work Stop/Starts

Work stoppages and restarts can cause labourers to lose momentum on their assigned project. Holidays like Christmas and New Year can be culprits to these losses in productivity.

However, work stoppages like these are vital for maintaining worker morale. Factor in project schedules and workflow by planning ahead, so your scheduling process is mindful of any upcoming holidays. Try to organise blocks of work to be completed ahead of time or after the break, rather than falling in the middle of the project timeline. 


7. Handle Logistics

Set a standard for material handling, procurement practices and delivery of materials. Nothing causes more roadblocks than delays and disruption to material workflow to a construction site.

If the logistics of your project consistently fall through, your labourers will feel frustrated and lose confidence in the value of the project. As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to allow your workers to be at their best, without grappling with preventable disruptions. 


8. Manage Your Manpower

When new workers begin on the project, ensure you take them through the plan and communicate project timelines. Account for a period of adjustment here, as new arrivals won’t always be on the ball from day one.

However, adding new contractors and labourers to an already established team can sometimes cause disruptions. Induct and introduce all new team members, and ensure they have the resources they need to do their job.

Over-staffing construction sites can also cause problems. Too many people on the job increases the likelihood of disputes, decrease motivation and increase absenteeism. Don’t assume that more workers will get the job done more quickly.

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