Upward communication from employees has always been a major concern for contractors. Let's take a look at some of the positive techniques that will keep the channels of communication clear. We'll begin with Chapter 1 of Human Relations 101, or, since we have many unique situations in our great construction industry, I prefer to use the title, "Humaneering 101."
While the list of roadblocks to open communications is long, at the top is the cause for all the rest - fear. What will happen if I say the wrong thing? Am I rat fink for telling what someone is doing wrong that affects me or my job? Will the other employees think I'm a suck-up for trying to help?
You've probably heard plenty of other variations of these sentiments. To help provide a conducive atmosphere for upward communication, consider the following:
While the notion may seem old fashioned, also consider using an ongoing suggestion box. Some contractors reward the best idea of each month and accumulate these for the best idea of each year. I have clients who have added a couple lines on their weekly time sheet for each foreman to suggest positive changes. Suggestion boxes were very popular back in the 1940s and 1950s, but died off due to a lack of response from management.
A new twist on the suggestion box may be today's preference for e-mail. While a personal meeting is best, e-mail does allow the ball to get rolling. At the very least, your employees can now send you their messages without attracting attention from other employees. You must respect their confidentiality, however, to maintain this open channel.
Finally, I've saved the best for last. Using my Green and Gold mentoring program has many natural advantages when it comes to fostering upward communication. For one thing, there's no fear of retribution when discussing concerns with a mentor. Plus, a certain level of trust has already been established. In addition, senior workers have already experienced plenty of ups and downs working on jobsite after jobsite with all the attendant personal and family joys, problems, frustration and resolutions that someone just starting out is beginning to experience.
Most of what I've described this month is only the beginning for creating and maintaining effective upward communication. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and you need to hear what they are thinking. Next month, we'll look at opening up this upward communication through your jobsite supervisors.