How to effectively manage your employees.

Last month we covered using a written and posted organization chart to clearly establish who each employee is responsible to, as well as who they are responsible for. That chart will eliminate 95 percent of any frustrations or de-motivation caused by blaming the wrong person. With that written chain of command in every employee's company policy, you can then effectively define exactly what you are paying each employee to do.

Let's look at how you get that last 5 percent. We have two totally different management situations, but keep in mind that no employee can answer to two bosses.

Field Personnel

Our first situation involves employees who are fully supervised on our jobsites, who are verbally instructed for each task that they are assigned and being paid to perform. Depending on their experience and skill level, their foreman will monitor their productivity and quality and assist, comment or discipline.

That foreman's evaluation of their performance is based totally on his or her own ability to perform that work. That's why a foreman must have hands-on experience to effectively supervise craftsmen.

In addition to performance with their tools, each employee needs orientation and a copy of your company policy and safety standards. They also need written proof of HAZ-COM training as well as training for fall protection and trench safety requirements.

These jobsite employees should never receive orders or criticism from the contractor, project managers, traveling superintendents, or the owner or general contractor's representatives. They work only for your jobsite foreman and that allows him or her to have total control and full responsibility for what they perform. Praise as well as blame!

The praise should be done openly in front of the crew but criticism or discipline should always be done privately with only that employee!

Unfortunately, the majority of Americans' jobsite foremen are not properly trained (or even aware of) how to properly handle these management responsibilities. Contractors typically promote a good craftsman to foreman level without any management training or guidelines and then wonder why it won't work.

I have been training foremen for over 50 years for our own company and also for contractors in all 50 states and most of Canada. My one-day seminar addresses these situations for foremen and superintendents. Newly appointed and potential foremen are interested in learning but the old-timers are amazed at what they should have been doing.

You can easily understand the negative effect that an untrained foreman has with turnover of new employees and de-motivation of those who stay.

Office Personnel

Our second situation involving management and office personnel is not so simple. These employees must be self-motivated and make their own decisions and priorities of "what to do" as well as "when to do it." More often than not they aren't within reach of their superior who is totally responsible for what they should be doing.

Fortunately we do have a workable solution to get the job done and eliminate any misunderstandings about who is to blame if something is not done as expected or required. Since you cannot issue verbal instructions without being present, you must rely on written specifics that are clearly explained and agreed to by both parties.

Here again, each employee needs orientation and a copy of your company policy, safety standards and written proof of HAZ-COM training. Employees who use company vehicles also need to read and agree to your rules for use and maintenance.

Job Descriptions

With that in place, you now need written tasks or duties defining what exactly you are paying that employee to perform. This is commonly referred to as a job description. Unlike the written chain of command, that is rarely used by contractors, these job descriptions are being used by more than half of all the contractors I have worked with throughout the years.

As many of you have already discovered, the majority of these written job descriptions are not effective:

  • Without a rigid, written chain of command, your employee will receive orders from other bosses that eliminate any possibility of fulfilling their job descriptions. The good employees will soon quit and the clever ones will stay on your payroll and play games, pitting one boss against the other.

  • Many contractors will use a generic job description for a typical position which includes duties that employee does not have, along with not defining specific duties they must perform.

  • No one explains each and every task.

  • No one checks to see if those tasks are properly done.

  • No one is keeping score. Employees soon find out that they will make the same wages whether they do good or not. They also become frustrated and de-motivated by being blamed for what was really not their fault.
Does all of that mean you shouldn't use job descriptions? Absolutely not! This is a very good management tool but, like all of your tools, you must use it properly.

A good purchase order or subcontract guarantees that you are getting the right price with everything you wanted or expected included. It also allows you to check and verify that the entity furnished everything that you are paying for without any haggling or misunderstandings.

You can relate these business practices to dealing with your employees since you are actually purchasing services. You will be amazed at the number of key employees who are underpaid when their salary is based on seniority alone. You might also be shocked by what you are paying for some of your services without defining what you need or want and negotiating with the caliber of individual willing and capable of providing them.

In my opinion, these wages are very important for controlling your overhead costs and bottom-line profits. What is even more critical is having the right person responsible for each task. Good management dictates that you delegate each task to the lowest-paid employee who can perform that task properly. We could use hundreds of bad examples, but the most common and most costly with contractors is jobsite paperwork.

  • Time sheets are not completed properly, not cost-coded, nor turned in to your payroll department on time.

  • Job logs are not maintained daily with pertinent information to defend yourself in court or arbitration or to collect for delays or changes.

  • Extras are not documented or signed.

  • Material is signed for without counting or checking for damages.

  • Tools and materials are not inventoried or maintained.

  • Shop drawings and other pertinent paperwork is not filed in an orderly and accessible manner.

    These costly tasks are generally expected to be performed by your most qualified and productive foremen, who are more interested in getting the job done to make you money and please your customers. Instead of praise for a job well done, they get blamed for whatever chaos resulted from that lack of proper documentation.

    Here again, the solution is simple. That clerical work should not have been in that highly paid foreman's job description. These duties can be assigned to a jobsite clerk on larger projects and to an apprentice or helper on smaller jobs.

    Your employees are 100 percent right. It is not their fault. You own that company and when something goes wrong -- you are the boss.

    You either made it happen or allowed it to happen.

    It is definitely your fault!

    Paul Ridilla At ISH NA

    Paul Ridilla is a scheduled speaker at the ISH North America tradeshow debuting in Toronto Oct. 31-Nov.2. Paul will present two sessions of "Manpower Miracles: How to Recruit, Motivate and Retain Employees" on Thursday, Oct. 31: the first running 10-11:30 a.m., and repeating at 3:30-5 p.m. To register for the show, visit