Construction's Female Workforce - Why & How
but the resulting profits will definitely justify your efforts.
We need some drastic changes to restore the pride and respect that will attract all of those "Born to Build" craftsmen - both men and women - into our great industry.
Here are some recommendations:
1. At the top of our list (for men as well as women), is "bragging ambassadors." You and your entire management team must constantly be aware of what your employees (and former employees) are telling their friends and relatives about working for your company. It's not hard to understand what they are saying because it is exactly what you are doing. They will tell it like it is and their acquaintances believe it because they've been there!
When they are bragging about the caliber of your company and the positive ways that they are being treated, your success is guaranteed.
2. Our next recommendation is Green & Gold mentoring. Naturally, this is effective with all new employees, but it is especially helpful for any woman entering our traditionally male-dominated workplace. When you find a retired craftsman or contractor who sincerely believes that women deserve an equal opportunity in our great industry, the rest is easy. If that entry-level female employee is both willing and able, your gold mentor will prove she belongs in your company.
Far more important than merely sharing his wisdom and experience are his stature, credentials and respect in our industry. If any of the negative attitudes, remarks, innuendoes, or harassment of any type should occur, you can easily understand how his "gold credentials" would empower him to nip it in the bud. These unfortunate circumstances are very real and difficult for any new or green employee to combat, but almost impossible for a woman.
Most of my clients use a formal 90-day mentoring program - with every new employee - that is primarily aimed at helping the new employee fit in and increase their take-home paycheck as rapidly as possible. Consider what a positive bragging effect this has on their ambassador message.
With these formal mentoring programs as well as the informal situations where an older employee adopts or takes a new green employee under his wing, these two will remain best friends for the rest of their lives. The only negative aspect that I've found with this type of mentoring throughout all of my years is that there are far too many employees who do not do it!
3. Our next major hurdle is entry-level formanship. Who will be that woman employee's boss? What is his track record orientating and training green employees? Is he a "coach" who finds the right position for each individual and helps them fill that position or a striped shirt referee who waits for them to make a mistake and blow his whistle? Is he fair in enforcing company policies? Is he a tiger or a pussycat? Does he have a compassionate bedside manner? Will he have a personality clash with your new employee?
Those questions are very critical for any new employee - male or female - to have a fair chance of success in your company. You also have these additional factors to consider that relate primarily to supervising entry-level female employees:
- Is he concerned with maintaining a chauvanist image with his peers?
- Does he carry "female scars" from previous bad relationships in his family life or social endeavors?
- Is he willing to accept the responsibility of training and supervising female employees?
You should also monitor the progress of each supervisor with each of your green employees and maintain their track records.
4. Use the military approach to training and wages rather than our antiquated dinosaur apprenticeship standards. Our military forces do not send green soldiers into battle for on-the-job training! They are pretrained for specific duties with certification on their papers that go with them to their assignments. This method prevents using your green employees as "grunts" because they do not know how to do your task. The only reason they don't know is because you didn't train them!
You should predict your skill needs on your critical path man-days schedule with enough lead time to pretrain any employee who does not already have those certifications in your data-base skill inventory. I recommend T.N.T. (twi-night training) in your facility. You should also maintain a "how to" video library to allow your employees to learn and prepare at home.
5. Send them home with a bragging fat paycheck. Keep in mind that your government-regulated indentured apprenticeship wage scales are only the minimum that you must pay. I'm not recommending that you give them high wages, but that you help them earn that bragging money by paying for piecework. Piecework is a great incentive because the more they make the more you make! You can easily see how the T.N.T. and pre-certification of specific skills will pave the road for any green employee to earn a top-dollar paycheck.
6. Offer, discuss and provide flex-time opportunities that will resolve and satisfy their personal needs or commitments. As you may have already discovered, this is an exceptionally effective practice with all of your current employees. Due to working spouses or single-parent family responsibilities, there are many women who could not even consider a job without flexible work hours. As we have discussed in several previous issues, flex-time work hour options require a small amount of one-on-one communication and coordination, but it makes money for the company rather than costing you. Here again, you also gain that bragging ambassador recruiting power.
7. There is safety in numbers. As much as possible, work your females in pairs to eliminate any unnecessary tension, assumptions, misunderstandings or harassment. Women look at situations much differently than we do and it is much easier for them to discuss and rationalize with another woman.
8. Make it fun! There is nothing funny on our job sites. Construction is very demanding and dangerous hard work, but your foreman can create and maintain a "happy camper" atmosphere by wearing a smile and respecting the fact that ladies are present. Your foremen's human relations training covers those critical do's and don'ts with foul language, dirty jokes and cruel teasing. Our advice to our foremen is "treat her the way you would want someone to treat your daughter."
Next month, we will share some of my time-tested "tricks of the trade" to help you successfully build and maintain a proud, productive and profitable female workforce.