Foremen are in the best position to train employees.

Photo credit: © Melniciuc

Your biggest profit-producing Value Engineering University potential occurs with your jobsite foremen consistently asking each crew member for suggestions for doing it a better way and sharing that information with you and your entire management team.

Value engineering is critically effective on every job from pre-bid to punch list to warranty fulfillment. Most foremen also will share these Value Engineering University advantages with members of their crew.

A jobsite foreman is your No. 1 profit producer on a project. His pride, efficiency and time control will meet or beat all of your labor and material budgets. The foreman can control wasted labor hours with strict discipline and provide profit-producing motivation with something as simple as a good attitude, a smile and asking rather than telling employees what they should do.

Your foreman also is in the best position to train your employees and build a competitive profit-producing team. 

Our industry has adopted a very questionable four- or five-year indentured servant/apprenticeship routine, involving reduced wages and grunt work. After your foreman served his sentence to be recognized as a craftsman, how much actual training did he receive to become a qualified, effective, white-collar team-building foreman? That is an embarrassing question I enjoy asking my clients.

Foremen should have a negotiated, one-page written job description and scope of work. Only their immediate supervisor on your written chain of command can tell them what to do or whatever they may have done wrong. This written record provides pertinent information for wage reviews and promotions. The following is a sample job description:

Job Description: 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 and 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 for 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

Your foreman must view production as work occurs daily, sometimes hourly, and document for each employee’s performance file. He must assure true recognition at the employee’s review and a fair reward. Some employees look forward to promotions, but all employees want more wages!

Difficult Tasks For Foremen

Let’s say you are already utilizing a database skills inventory to identify who needs training as well as whom to assign to each task. That inventory also clearly shows how effective your foreman is with his training efforts. Unfortunately, far too many untrained foremen think their employees will learn simply by watching someone else do it.

Possibly the most difficult task for a foreman to learn and accomplish is discipline. “I hate to have to give my buddies hell!” “I don’t want to lose his friendship!” I’ve heard that same statement from exceptionally qualified foremen and the answer is always the same: “If he was truly your buddy, would he ask you to sacrifice your position because he doesn’t want to follow the company rules?”

That buddy is just another employee who would like as much wages as possible, a chance for promotion and a secure income. Be certain your employees have signed your company policy and agreed to those rules and restrictions.

Foreman-Employee Relationships

A question clients often ask is, “Should my foreman go out drinking or socializing with members of his or her crew?”

What your foreman does after work hours is his business and should have no effect or repercussions on your job. But the most damaging mistake is to talk shop while doing things together. Your foreman is in a management position and is very quotable.

I highly recommend eating lunch or socializing with your crew during coffee breaks on the jobsite. This provides a very productive comradery and relaxing atmosphere for your proud group of discerning value-engineering employees to air their suggestions and comments. During lunch break, we are not in a boss vs. employee status and the value engineering flows much freer. Usually, the employees are doing the asking and everybody gets involved.

We all have different abilities, skills, ambition, desires and dreams. The foreman needs to identify what employees want, what they are capable of accomplishing and mostly how hard they are willing to work toward their goals.

The greatest motivator is called momentum:

  • They like what they are doing because they are good at it.

  • They are good at it because they like it.

  • They get more done, make more money, have more promotions and flattering job titles.

  • They want to help you since you helped them.

Every foreman should be taught to watch for an opportunity to help any employee on his jobsite. He has tools, equipment and materials that could easily be lent to help an employee get a personal home project completed. Although everyone on your jobsite is there to earn money, whatever your foreman can do to help employees personally will be greatly appreciated and will maintain a cooperative horse-trading atmosphere.