4 Keys to Communicating with Contractors

There’s no doubt the right contractors can be the key to any successful property development. Their skills and expert knowledge are essential components to making certain a project comes in safely and on budget. Yet, this isn’t something that can happen just by the presence of contracting teams or individual professionals in your development. They still need guidance, clarity and support to have the most positive impact.   As such, great communication is one of the most important elements you must have in place. It makes certain everyone is on the same page by confirming plans and schedules effectively. Perhaps most importantly, it can help to build a solid, positive relationship between you and your contractors. This can be valuable both now and in future projects.   Let’s run down a handful of the key elements to bolster communication with your contractors.

1. Plan Ahead

There is a lot of planning in a successful construction project. It’s not something you can hope to do well on the fly. While it might seem like an unusual concept, you need to take the same approach to your communications with contractors. Don’t allow it to be an afterthought, as this tends to result in misunderstandings and mistakes. Taking a little time up-front to plan your communications strategy means you can stay on top of activities and help to avoid disputes later on.   Start by mapping out a schedule for your basic communications protocol. This might be in the form of weekly in-person meetings to catch up on progress or it may involve more regular phone calls. Whichever your preferred approach is, make sure you formalize it so everyone knows what is expected.   You should also lay out standards for the preferred methods of communication. Make sure you issue these standards to contractors well in advance so they have time to come back with any concerns or requests. Put backups to the primary methods in place, too. In the same way weather, finances, and accidents can disrupt a build, they can also disrupt communications. Predict these elements and make sure everyone has a solid understanding of the alternative methods. 

2. Embrace Technology

Technology has a core place in the contemporary construction industry. Advanced tools are being integrated into construction projects continually to make them more efficient, safer and more sustainable. Alongside the introduction of exoskeletons, drones and 3D printing, there are also some devices you can use to make communications more effective.   This isn’t just from the perspective of smartphones, either. Wearable technology, tablet devices and digital assistants have become more accessible to contractors over the last decade. By embracing their varied forms and uses, you can help to implement an effective communications approach.     However, it’s important to standardize the use of such tools. When there are multiple types of devices utilizing a variety of applications, they can quickly become unwieldy. Reach out to contractors and talk about what devices they use. Ascertain what communications and project management apps are compatible with their respective devices. Utilizing a single app to take care of the majority of daily reporting, time management and real-time communication can make things simpler in this regard.  
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3. Be Collaborative

A certain amount of control is necessary for any well-functioning construction project. However, this doesn’t mean you should be taking a dictatorial approach to your relationships with your contractors. You’ll tend to get better results when you communicate with them as collaborators.   Utilizing professional soft skills like oral communication and interpersonal functioning are not only essential for the professional workplace, but also for project managers in any industrial activity. When you strive to communicate with your contractors on a more collaborative level, there can be immense benefits.    Put in place communication protocols that are more suited to this collaboration. Make meetings more like round table events where everybody has an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. From the very outset of a project, you should encourage an open dialogue.   Invite your contractors to speak out if they disagree with your approach to an aspect of the project or they have ideas. This can set a precedent for issues to be addressed swiftly and bolster innovative thinking. When your contractors feel like they’re meaningfully collaborating in a project this can also increase work satisfaction which in turn may have a positive impact on productivity. 

4. Prioritize Clarity

Collaboration, planning and technology are all great tools for construction communication. However, each of these tools are meaningless if the messaging isn’t clear. When your instructions get jumbled, or if there is a language breakdown along the line, a construction project can fall into disarray. In the worst-case scenario, a failure to be clear can make a building site downright dangerous. As such, above all else, you should prioritize clarity in your exchanges with contractors.   Avoid using jargon. It doesn’t matter if your contractors are all seasoned professionals. Don’t assume they know the shorthand or slang you and your colleagues use. Utilize professional, descriptive language in your messaging and wherever possible, limit abbreviations.  You should always confirm with your colleagues that clarity has been achieved. This applies to whether you’re writing an email, sending a text message or issuing instructions in person. End the message by asking the contractor to confirm if they’ve understood everything you’ve outlined. 

Conclusion

With a solid approach to communicating with your contractors, your building project has a greater chance of success. This isn’t always easy and it is best approached with some thorough planning beforehand. Remember, technology can provide tools to keep all workers connected and in sync, while a collaborative approach can build stronger relationships.   Perhaps above all else, make sure you’re achieving clarity in your communications. It takes work and frequent reviews to make sure you’re applying these methods effectively. The impact communication can have on your construction projects and the relationships with your contractors are well worth it. 

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Adrian Johansen

Adrian Johansen is a writer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She loves sharing information with others, learning along the way! You can find more...

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