I am quite certain that most of you will agree that the majority of jobsite foremen in every trade that you encounter are not properly trained for that critical position. Common sense tells you that foreman training is very necessary, but it is only a good start. After your foremen know what to do and how to do it, you must then keep score to provide the ever-so-critical recognition and appreciation. How long would anyone continue to give 100 percent effort without it?
Your foremen can effectively measure each of their employee's performances because they constantly tell them what to do, how to do it, and work with them side-by-side. But you do not have that convenience to motivate, measure and score your foremen, nor any of your other supervisory and administrative staff.
Keep in mind that anyone good wants to be measured! He or she wants to be measured fairly and that score should reflect on his or her wages, salary, perks and promotions.
The Due-Line: You can accomplish this by negotiating a written scope of work (job description) detailing what services you want to buy from that individual, along with how much it is worth in compensation. This establishes a fair measure of not only what is expected, but exactly what you purchased. We call this a due-line.
Here is a sample job description for a mechanical contractor's working foreman:
Mechanical Contractor's Working Job Foreman
1. Provide safe site: safety equipment, safety meetings, notes
2. Code compliance: plans and specs, subcontract, local codes
3. Quality product: company image, personal pride, clean job
4. Job schedule: coordination, documentation, detours
5. Planning: pre-job, weekly, daily assignments, phone calls
6. Subcontractor schedules: coordination and control, quality
7. Time control: efficiency, coffee breaks, starts and stops
8. Material control: lead time, inventory, handling devices
9. Ladders: scaffolding, boom trucks, platforms, railings
10. Proper tools: every employee, care and use, sharpening
11. Trucks and equipment: selection, use and maintenance, clean
12. Customer relations: inspections, meetings, tradeoffs
13. Utility company coordination: temporary and permanent tie-ins
14. Extras: change orders, documentation, signed, materials
15. Job log: time sheets, cost codes, as-builts, letters
16. Leadership: training, motivation, merit reward, image
17. Company rules: discipline and documentation, your rules
17. Job morale: smile, grievances, counseling, respect
19. Crew sizes: job assignments, overtime control, co-op
20. After-hours training: code, prints, tools, welding
If you have a collective bargaining agreement and use union foremen, your job description and wages must conform to whatever is in your local's contract. I hope you go overboard to establish the respect and pride of a loyal “company man” that your union foremen need to make profit-oriented decisions. You can imagine the negative peer pressure they face at their locals with jurisdictional awards, overtime, layoffs and especially discipline.
A union foreman sits on both sides of the labor vs. management fence. You need to ensure that he or she has a copy of your work rules and intercede when any tension arises between jobsite stewards or business managers.
You also need to provide all of your company's management perks and include your foremen in all company meetings and social events. There is no better perk for a union foreman than the prestige of driving a company vehicle. A true company man always drives home in a company truck.
You can easily understand why each foreman needs to negotiate a detailed “scope of work” to eliminate any misunderstandings or unfair expectations.
Reviewing Performance: With this negotiated due-line in place, you or your traveling supervisor (project manager, general superintendent, etc.) simply need to visit your jobsite and assist your foreman with these assigned responsibilities. You must follow your company's written and posted chain of command to be certain that your foreman answers to only one boss. It is imperative that he not be measured or judged by two different traveling supervisors.
Your traveling supervisor must check and confirm that each and every item on that negotiated scope of work is fulfilled properly. When your foreman furnishes you with everything agreed to on his job description, you simply furnish what you agreed to on that same due-line. A simple “well done” comment is all that is necessary.
When your foreman does more than what was due, you should always compliment him and put an “atta boy” note in his performance file with a date. This could be “value engineering” that saves you valuable time, labor, materials, rental, etc. It could also involve extra hours, problem-solving on other projects, recruiting new employees or new customers, etc. Anything above what was negotiated in the job description should always be recognized and appreciated. You cannot trust this appreciation to memory. You must acknowledge it when it happens and document it in his file for future reference and negotiation.
If you should discover a mistake or lack of performance with any agreed-upon responsibility, you need to discuss that with your foreman privately. Your foreman has total control over his entire crew, which makes him totally responsible for whatever they do, good or bad. He either made it happen or allowed it to happen. You should explain the costly circumstances and solutions to prevent any reoccurrences. Here again, you need to document this incident, date it and place it in his performance file.
You may review this performance file with your foreman at any time, but at least once each year. Some contractors select a convenient time to review all of their foremen, and many will review on each foreman's birth or hiring date.
In order to be fair, nothing can be discussed at this review unless there is a note in the file. If it was not discussed and documented when it happened, it never happened! We want absolutely no surprises.
Occasionally one of my clients will ask me which of these responsibilities is the most important. My answer is always a simple question: “Which of these items is not important?” If you do not need your foremen to take care of one of your duties or responsibilities, do not put it in their scope of work. Keep in mind, you are buying everything in the job description. If you don't need or want something, why would you pay for it?
You should compare your management team's job descriptions to a purchase order for services similar to everything else that you purchase. You always check to be certain that each vendor furnished what you bought before you pay that bill. This eliminates any misunderstandings, shortages or hard feelings.