Some solutions to your management problems.

Last month we shared 10 innovative ideas that some of you tried but found out they didn't work in your company. Before we go into specific situations, you should review these basic management procedures. You can surely understand why something won't work when you don't practice good management.


A. Written and posted chain of accountability.

B. Job descriptions for all white-collar employees.

C. Written and signed company policies and rules.

D. Performance files current on “stars” and “strikes.”

E. Yearly performance reviews with merit wage adjustments.

F. Written checklist for hiring and orientation.

G. Database skills inventory for training and dispatching.

H. Human relations training for all supervisors.

I. Grievance procedures to minimize turnover exit interviews.

Flextime Problems

Let's begin with flextime. It is the most appreciated benefit you can offer that benefits the company even more than the employee.

  • By giving your employees an option to work whatever days and whatever hours that will satisfy their personal needs or pleasures, you will attract more good help and retain those you have developed.

  • You can meet or beat all of those critical job schedules.

  • You can use part-timers for prefab and on-site installations.

  • Your employees can avoid frustrating rush hour traffic jams.

  • You can save money on travel and subsistence on your remote distant projects.

    How could anything this good not work? Here's why:

    Problem A. We worked four 10-hour days to get desirable three-day weekends and our employees just loved it. Our customers complained because we did not have any employees on their jobsite on Fridays to move materials and coordinate our work with the other trades.

    Solution. You can provide three-day weekends by alternating your employees. Employee A works Monday through Thursday, while Employee B works Tuesday through Friday. You can also cover Saturdays when necessary by working one crew on Wednesday through Saturday.

    Problem B. Some of our employees preferred working traditional five eight-hour workdays, so we did not change.

    Solution. That is why you can offer flextime only as an option. Each individual employee can select his or her preference as long as all can coordinate those hours with your needs.

    Problem C. We tried alternating the 10-hour days, but our employees squabbled over who must work Fridays as well as Saturdays. They didn't like counting Monday as part of their weekend.

    Solution. The amusing part of that problem is that most of our three-day legal holiday weekends include Monday. Here again you have options to resolve the squabbles:

    • You can give seniority first choice.
    • You can toss a coin.
    • You can take turns.
    Problem D. Some of our jobs are in gated communities with curfews that will not permit extended work hours.

    Solution. This is a good opportunity for those employees who prefer the traditional five eight-hour workdays. Do not discontinue your flextime options on your other projects that have no restrictions.

    Problem E. We tried four 10-hour days on two of our bigger projects where we cost-code our labor. One project barely matched our estimated labor budget, and the other was a little higher. We expected better numbers and went back to our five eight-hour days.

    Solution. You cannot control your unit labor costs with the number of hours nor the number of days your employees work. You have a very viable cost-control option with piece work. It works well, regardless of your work hours. It is especially effective for those three 13-hour days that give you a long work week and your employees a very desirable four-day weekend every week.

    Training Problems

    Controlling your labor costs leads us into our next profit-oriented idea that didn't work. Contractors are fully aware that their foremen desperately need OSHA certifications, as well as leadership, human relations and management training. They are totally dependent on each foreman's ability to:

    1. Maintain the job schedule and control labor and material costs on his projects.

    2. Train, motivate, direct and measure every employee on his jobsite.

    3. Communicate and cooperate with the customer, general contractor and the other trades.

    4. Maintain an accident-free, safe work site.

    5. Provide accurate, on-time documentation and constant communication with your office.

    6. Maintain a proud and professional image for your company.

    How could something this critical not work? Here's why:

    Problem A. Our foremen are seasoned craftsmen with years of practical on-the-job experience working with their tools, as well as supervising. They think foremen training is only for beginners.

    Solution. You need to explain that their job description is the “scope of work” that they agreed to perform for their paycheck. By keeping score on these critical functions, you can easily determine and convince them what training is necessary.

    • Jobsite morale, productivity, recruiting new employees and minimal turnover.

    • On-time and accurate jobsite paperwork.

    • Maintain safe site without accidents or OSHA citations.

    • Meet or beat job schedules and labor budgets.

    • Minimal punch lists.
    Any of your foremen who are doing great with all of these critical items could qualify as your trainers.

    Problem B. We sent our foremen to a supervisory seminar taught by a college professor who was never on a jobsite. He tried telling our foremen to do what he read in those management class books.

    Solution. What is in those books does have value, but it must be adapted to our construction situations by someone who's “walked a mile in those moccasins.”

    I learned this back in the early 1950s and, in 1972, I began devoting my personal efforts to spend at least one day with each foreman who faces all of these challenges.

    I've presented one-day human relations seminars for jobsite supervisors throughout all 50 states and most of Canada. They understand and appreciate my message because I've been there.

    Problem C. We can't pull our foreman off the jobsite to attend these training seminars.

    Solution. We recommend 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. seminars to allow your foremen to organize their jobsites and leave at noon. Some companies prefer Saturday programs. You also have a great option with flextime to do this training.

    Problem D. We can't afford the cost for all of our foremen to attend a seminar.

    Solution. It is far less expensive to do an in-company program at your shop, which can be designed specifically for your needs and situations.

    When you consider what it is costing you to have untrained supervisors on your jobsites, you will realize that you cannot afford not to have all of your foremen attend a human relations seminar.