6 Tips for better communication as a construction project manager

6 Tips for better communication as a construction project manager

People in the construction industry are often known for having strong work ethic and excellent technical skills, but due to this, the development of soft skills can often be overlooked. In reality, communication is one of the most fundamental skills for construction project managers. Considering the vast number of employees working on different tasks throughout a project, confident, clear, and reliable communication are crucial to the success of the project for all parties involved – and it starts with you as the PM. Practicing the following 6 tips will not only improve your overall effectiveness in your role, but generally make life easier for you, your team members, and stakeholders. 

6 Communication tips for construction management:

  • Establish a Formal Communication Chain
  • Use the Best Mediums
  • Allow for 2 Way Communication 
  • Listen 
  • Keep It Clear and Simple 
  • Leverage Tools and Technology

Establish a Formal Communication Chain

As a construction project manager, you do not have time to communicate with each individual team member about every specific detail or problem. You have many competing priorities and responsibilities, and while communicating effectively with your team should be one of the highest-ranking priorities, this does not necessitate consistently communicating with everyone. 

To facilitate more effective and efficient communication, it is helpful to establish a formal and clear chain of command for communicating. This helps team members working on your projects know who they should find to communicate with about specific areas of their work. If a subcontractor can’t deliver on a job according to schedule, this is probably something you should be aware of. However, if a site staff member needs clarification for a specific task, it may not be productive for you to spend the time clarifying for them. It would instead be more efficient if they communicated with the project engineer, or whoever else is directly above them in the communication chain and is more relevant for the questions being asked. 

Having an established chain of communication can ensure the right information gets to the relevant stakeholders within the necessary time. It also reduces inefficiencies related to employees not knowing who they should take problems to or asking the wrong individuals for clarification. 

Use the Best Mediums

Most people think of email as the best method for quick and effective communication but that’s not necessarily the case for your employees on site. To increase the effectiveness of your communication as a construction project manager, think about what medium allows the best access to information for all of your team members. Having a dedicated communication medium also makes it less likely that information is lost or goes unseen, reducing the likelihood of delays. 

Maybe the norm in your company is for each site to share a group chat, or instead for all conversations to occur through interpersonal communication on private mediums. Each company will have their own norms and expectations, and it is your responsibility as a construction project manager to use the methods and mediums that best suit your team and projects, rather than what you personally prefer. 

Encourage Two-Way Communication

Communication is not a one-way street, and as a construction project manager you need to be there to hear from your subordinates as much as you need them to be there to listen to you. By encouraging two-way communication, you are inviting employees to provide feedback, ask questions, and provide input on projects and tasks. You are allowing communication to flow openly throughout the hierarchy of an organization.

This helps build trust in employees, as they feel respected and included in decisions and feel comfortable bringing up issues or concerns as they arise. As employees feel listened to and respected, they will also become more engaged. This means they will listen better, need less clarification in the future, have higher motivation and productivity, and be less inclined to leave a company. A positive and safe work atmosphere can create a more efficient working environment on a job site, and ensures problems are communicated as they arise, as opposed to when a manager realizes. For tips on improving communication, check out this article.

Listen

Continuing on the point of team engagement, a crucial and underrated part of being a good communicator is being a good listener. You want your employees to feel comfortable coming to you with issues, but you also want them to feel as though they’ve been heard. Taking the time to be an active listener means focusing on what the other person is saying, not talking, and then asking questions to clarify. It can be helpful in conversations to summarize what the other individual said, to show you truly understand the message they are trying to communicate and that you care to hear what they say.

As a project manager, this can be one of the most effective ways to improve your communication, while also increasing your leadership abilities. Through being an active listener, not only will you build rapport with your team members and reap some of the benefits mentioned above in the two-way communication tip, but you also instill a norm and expectation of active listening, which will help you and your employees become aware of and respond to issues in a more timely manner. Click here to read our 5 key components of effective leadership in construction project management.

Keep It Clear and Simple

As a construction project manager it is one of your responsibilities to ensure everyone working on a project has the necessary and relevant information for their roles. Using a specific medium you know will reach your employees is one part of that, but so is communicating information in a way that is understandable and simple. Keep in mind that different roles on the project will have varying levels of technical understanding and expertise. To reduce the need for clarification, and the risk of miscommunication, do your best to keep your communication clear and simple.

For specific projects, it may be best to take the interpersonal communication route and take some time to go through the specifics and details with the relevant roles to ensure their work is completed according to specifications. But for general communication or company-wide messages, try to avoid using jargon or technical terms, and keep the message simple so that everyone can understand and be on the same page. Keep your messages concise and to the point, and you will see better results relating to misunderstandings and delays caused by miscommunication. 

Leverage Tools and Technologies

There is plenty of construction-specific tech and software that can help you increase the effectiveness of your communication. In your role as a project manager you can expect some leeway to be able to introduce or integrate these tools into your project teams and processes. Similar to using the best communication mediums, you should find what works best for you and your team.

There may be some pushback from some employees on your project teams who are less tech-savvy so keep in mind that not everything has to be digitized. However, you should communicate to them that by leveraging technology it can help you circulate information much faster and more efficiently, making their work easier as well. Certifications can help you better understand how to leverage technology for better communication and interactions with your team. Using technology to enable and amplify your communication can help your project teams stay on track with one another, raise the overall level of collaboration, and make managing the project easier for you. To find more information on some of the options available, check out this quick post detailing the best software for construction project management. For a list of the top certifications for career development, check out this article.


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Lauren Lake

Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more.

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