Train your employees before they move up the management ladder.

Last month we began our Pre-Job Training (P.J.T.) discussions with the critical importance of jobsite documentation. Our next rung on that management ladder is familiarization with the plans, specifications, contract documents, building codes, job schedules, cost codes, legal responsibilities, etc. Your craftsman needs to know and understand all of this before he or she is dumped into that foremanship role. Don't you wish someone had mentored you rather than relying on that dinosaur-age On-the-Job Training (O.J.T.)?

You have several feasible options for this P.J.T. You can use role reversal by putting your protégé in charge of an experienced foreman. You can utilize our 90-day mentoring program with Green & Gold or one of your willing employees. You can send your protégé to our one-day working foreman seminar or allow me to work one-on-one as my client Dick did with Ray. Simply moving them up that rung from craftsman to foreman without pre-training is definitely not an option.

Training Basics

As you review these critical “know the job” training basics for climbing to the foremanship rung, you might also want to consider some remedial training for any acting foreman who accepted that responsibility without it:

1. Allow ample time to review the entire set up of blueprints and visualize what the job will entail. Make notes and ask questions. Experienced craftsmen should always value-engineer those drawings looking for the ever-present better way, and what could be prefabbed.

2. Read the entire set of specifications and not just “your section.” Your company is liable for anything called for by your trade in the general conditions, as well as other sections. Emphasize the reference to comply with all local building codes. Naturally your foremen are already familiar with the code and will have a copy of your codebook on their site.

3. Review the entire estimate with your estimator.

4. Carefully read your entire contract and any subcontracts you may have issued.

5. Review the critical path job schedule and delivery dates along with required submittals.

6. Check and approve all shop drawings and catalog cuts before they are submitted for approval. Maintain the approved copies in your jobsite files.

7. Review critical cost coding requirements along with submitting on-time time sheets and delivery tickets.

8. Explain the importance of daily, signed extra work orders and time and material change orders.

9. Go over every single item on your daily log to ensure proper documentation for future reference. Be sure to include jobsite problems and delays.

10. Maintain a jobsite copy of rental slips to expedite on-time returns.

11. Review the building permit for required inspections.

You should use this check list plus specific items related to your company policies as well as specific projects for P.J.T. orientation on every project.

Job Descriptions

Naturally every foreman should have signed your written company policy and received a written job description (scope of work). This eliminates any doubt about what you expect from that foreman. Here is a sample:

Job Description: Mechanical Contractor's Working Job Foreman

1. Provide safe site - safety equipment - safety meetings - notes

2. Code compliance - plans & 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 - trade-offs

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

18. Job morale - smile - grievances - counseling - respect

19. Crew sizes - job assignments - overtime control - co-op

20. After-hours training - code - prints - tools - welding

Please review each item in this job description with your present foremen. You will be amazed how many foremen never had any idea what was expected of them. You might need to add or delete some of those duties depending on the type of work you do and your other management personnel responsibilities.

New Responsibilities

You should also explain your foremen's “white collar” responsibilities. They are management employees of your company and represent you legally, financially and morally. Everything they say or do has your company's name on it:

• When they commit to doing or furnishing something, you must pay for it.

• When they commit an unfair labor practice, you are liable.

• When they discriminate against EEOC guidelines, you must pay the penalty.

• When they are involved in sexual harassment, you are involved.

• When they install shoddy workmanship that is not according to the plans, specs, code and/or contract, you must remove and replace it.

With all of this in mind, it is very hard to understand why any contractor would promote a craftsman to a management position without proper orientation and training. That's called “Russian Roulette.”

Union Matters

You have another complicated responsibility to explain to your foremen about dealing with the unions:

1. If you are a signatory union contractor, your foremen should have copies of the work rules for the local where you are working. How could you expect your foremen to get your half of that bargain and enforce those rules if they never even saw them?

2. If you are an open shop, your foremen need to know what to say and do when confronted by union members or a picket line at their jobsite. This is a legally sensitive situation that should always be clarified before a costly mistake occurs. Keep in mind, your foremen speak and act for your company.

Train Now, Earn Later

Surely most of you can understand my concern about using pre-job training rather than exposing your foremen to the test before you give them the lessons. Having spent a quarter of a century working as a job foreman, jobsite superintendent, and traveling superintendent, I witnessed embarrassing and expensive challenges facing trade foremen. They were all good craftsmen with good intentions, but were unfortunately never trained or prepared for management responsibilities.

In 1972 I decided, “you cannot take all of your life without giving something back.” My wife and I moved our family to Orlando, Fla., and started our consulting business to share my experience and wisdom in an effort to help diligent, construction employees succeed in management positions.

If you are still waiting for that pre-historic O.J.T. to prepare your management for today's construction industry's difficult challenges, give me a call. E-mail:, fax: 407/695-7225 or phone: 407/699-8515.