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For years, the traditional arrangement of project managers visiting worksites to check each construction team was the only way to manage individual construction projects. It is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and most of all, costly. But as modern technology advances, so too does the workplace in the construction industry.
Today, the construction workplace has transformed into one that is becoming increasingly remote.
The change is natural for the industry, as construction involves working on sites far from the main office. But the convenience brought by innovations in communication and collaboration has brought about new challenges for project managers. It can be overwhelming to manage a large and distributed workforce, especially for those who have recently adopted remote management.
Yet, the future of the workplace points to this direction and construction needs to adapt. To give some guidance, here are the top remote management tips for modern construction project managers.
Use one communication platform - and stick with it.
The primary issue with remote management is how to handle communication between teams working on and off-site. Without a well-defined communication system, team members will be contacting you through any available channel, making communication disjointed, inevitably causing miscommunication.
There are a lot of communication tools for construction available on the market that your team can use. In general, you need three types of software. First, you should have project management software where you can set tasks and put everyone on the same page. Second, get a team communication and conferencing software which lets you and your team members talk in real time. Finally, you need an employee scheduling software to fill shifts when they are needed the most.
A modern employee communication solution, such as Speakap, will often allow you to integrate your existing tools easily through an open API. This will essentially create a one-stop-shop for your employees to easily access everything related to their job, and foster two-way communication to increase employee engagement.
Engage in small talk.
Building rapport with every member of the team is vital to cultivating a smooth operation. But without an espresso machine or photocopier to provide a natural venue for small talk as is absent with distributed teams, this can be difficult. Project managers need to be proactive in creating these instances when communicating with team members.
Rapport does not come from just talking about what employees are doing. Instead, make a genuine effort to get to know members. Ask about their family, what it is like where they are from, or what their plans are for the weekend. On your messaging platform, you can create a non-work related channel where you and your members can talk about things apart from work. Actively making social connections will make your remote employees love working for the team even more.
Make remote workers feel included.
Because of the distance between the main office and the construction site, project managers find it hard to make remote workers feel included in the events and happenings in the office. But there are several ways you can work around this issue.
When there’s an office party, for example, send remote workers a message saying you wish they were there. If possible, give them event souvenirs like company shirts or mugs so they feel more connected to the company. Did your remote team achieve safety goals or come up with useful techniques in the workplace? Highlight their achievement in a company newsletter, blog post or on your company timeline (if you are using an ESN solution) and include their pictures. This is a great opportunity to show to upper management what your remote team is capable of.
Get together with your team in person.
Socialization has a huge impact when it comes to managing remote teams, and nothing beats meeting your team’s members face to face in a company get-together. Finding time to visit remote sites at least once a year can boost company morale. It’s fun finally meeting team members and saying, “Wow, you look different in person” or “You look exactly the same as you look on video.”
Meetup's like this will cost the company, but the effect on teamwork and rapport is noticeable. They are the perfect opportunity to discuss big issues about the company, the team culture, and future goals. You can even have this coincide with yearly performance reviews so you can have an in-person one-on-one to discuss productivity and ask for the team members’ opinions or suggestions.
All of these tips have one common thread—communication. Proper communication is the single most important thing when it comes to managing remote construction teams. Talk less, listen more, and make team members feel like they are just one cubicle away.
About the Author:
Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and materials suppliers secure their lien rights and get paid faster by automating the collection process of unpaid construction invoices.