When it comes to managing construction projects, communication is vital to project success and completion. Poor communication is one of the top reasons construction projects fail. In fact, it’s the reason one-third of the time, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI). From miscommunication to failing to communicate, poor communication is detrimental to any project, even if it succeeds in the end.
Look at it this way: of the projects with minimally effective communication, just 37% of those are done on time, 48% are completed within budget, and 52% meet their original goals. That’s opposed to projects with highly effective communication– 71% of which finish on time, 76% are completed within budget, and 80% meet their original goals.
These statistics prove that clear and proper communication is vital for a construction project to have the best possible outcome. In this article, we’ll discuss what happens onsite with lousy communication. Besides that, we’ll give some tips on improving onsite communication and avoiding communication-related problems.
5 Effects Of Bad Communication Onsite
1. Confusion onsite
Miscommunication can lead to all sorts of issues onsite. One of the most significant troubles it can cause is confusion, which can hit anyone (from field workers to major stakeholders) and negatively impact the project in many different ways.
Reporting that’s incomplete, inconsistent, unclear, and late can produce other mistakes that turn into delays and cost overruns.
This is why keeping messages clear and concise is essential. They should be short, simple, and direct to avoid or at least lessen confusion.
Also, it’s always preferred to communicate in real-time. Ensure that everyone is in the loop and on the same page to lessens mistakes from happening.
2. Project delays
Delays are one of the worst things to happen on a project. When one thing falls through, it can start a domino or chain effect that progressively accumulates delays. A significant culprit for this problem in construction is poor communication.
Delayed information flow, unclear messages, and talking to the wrong person are just some forms of bad communication that can result in wrong interpretation or confusion. Subsequently, these can cause mistakes and delays.
Sometimes, you may not directly see miscommunication happening, like ordering the wrong materials or forgetting a step. But if you look closely, these faults are associated with poor communication.
It would help if you used a construction planner to keep track of tasks, jobs, deadlines, goals, and workers for the project’s duration. Then, regularly update all who are involved in the project.
3. Overspending and exceeding budgets
Mistakes and delays cost a project a lot of money. PMI says that more than half of all project budget risk is because of ineffective communication and poor time management to communicate with the team.
More often than not, miscommunication and poor communication result in additional and unnecessary expenditure. Because of an issue caused by miscommunication, the project would have to let out money (and time) in order to rectify the mistake.
For instance, the project and procurement manager decide on a change of building material but have failed to communicate it in a timely fashion. Chances are you’ll have to eat the cost of the wrong material and purchase the right one.
Sometimes, the terminology is the reason for mix-ups. Perhaps the term used by the vendor is not the same as what you use onsite.
4. Safety risks
Construction is already a dangerous, high-risk industry to work in, but ineffective communication increases the risks.
Construction sites are riddled with opportunities for injuries, such as tripping or falling hazards, the collapse of scaffolding, and open wires. In the US, around 900 fatal and more than 200,000 non-fatal construction incidents are reported each year, making the industry’s fatality rate higher than the national average for all industries.
While the industry is full of safety risks, you’ll find that inadequate safety communication is behind it all. Three common causes of poor safety training include:
- Workers disengage during safety training because they are unfamiliar with the terminologies.
- Workers think it’s easier to play it safe because they are afraid of being criticized for pointing out potential hazards when they discover them. Without bringing to light this information, the issue will not be handled.
- Most of the time, workers perceive communication about safety as negative. This stems from their experiences or observations that only bad situations are discussed, while the good they do are disregarded.
If safety communications got the workers speaking the same language and are on the same track, work-related injuries could be prevented. Furthermore, team morale, productivity, the budget, and schedules won’t be compromised.
5. Problems with stakeholders
There are multiple stakeholders involved in every construction project. From the clients to investors, from general contractors to the workers, each one is integral to the project. More than that, the success of the project heavily depends on the effective and comprehensive information exchange among them.
When there is failure to communicate, in serious instances, disputes can happen as a result of poor communication (which is one of its leading causes). And delays in the project are not the only adverse effect of disputes. In some instances, when clients are particularly unhappy with how things were handled, your reputation in construction can be sullied. That’s why you should regularly update stakeholders with factual and accurate information.
Tips For Better Construction Site Communication
In 2019, we posted an article on ways you can improve communication in the construction site. Well, here are even more tips so you can manage construction projects smoother with total efficiency.
1. Establish a communication chain of command.
A clear communication chain of command on a project site keeps the project organized, boosts efficiency, creates accountability, and reduces confusion. In a way, it keeps people in line so as to prevent mix-ups in messages. Without establishing this chain, communication will be scattered. When a communication line is clearly established, it ensures that the information gets to the right people in a timely fashion.
The point of a communication chain of command is to have a key person of contact for each team. They are then responsible for relaying the information to their teams.
2. Talk less, listen more.
Communication is not a one-way street but rather a continuous cycle. It does not begin and end with you sending a message and the other party simply receiving it. They would give a response and you have to be able to listen and understand their message.
This give-and-take process is the way information gets through and gets things done. So, be an active listener and absorb what they’re saying.
Here are a few tips on being a good listener:
- Make eye contact.
- Take note of key points.
- Show that you are listening with non-verbal signs (e.g., nodding)
- Don’t interrupt them.
- Avoid mentally forming a response before they are done speaking.
If you don’t practice being a good listener, you could miss a vital piece of information or misinterpret the message. This, in turn, can lead to errors and delays in the project.
3. Avoid industry jargon.
You’d think using industry jargon (industry-specific words and terms) is acceptable since everybody works in construction. This can be detrimental to the project since people come from different trades and are on different levels of experience.
It’s best if you say what you mean and be direct. Avoiding, or at least reducing, the use of jargon will drastically improve onsite communication and keep everyone on the same track.
4. Make your messages clear and concise.
As said earlier, confusion is a major onsite problem miscommunication can cause. An effective way to prevent this from happening is using the KISS method on your messages– keep it short and straightforward. There is no point going around the bush, so be direct with your messages or any other information but keep all essential details.
Additionally, when working on several projects simultaneously for one client, focus your messages on one project each.
It’s also important to know who you’re talking to so you can tailor your messages (and how you send them) to their knowledge level. For example, you may need to be more detailed when talking to stakeholders. This is to explain the implications and importance of the information being relayed.
How Construction Scheduling Software Can Help With Onsite Communication
Using a digital communication tool specifically for construction can dramatically improve productivity and efficiency on any project.
By scheduling everything, from worker schedules to material arrival, you can eliminate mistakes made by miscommunication or lack thereof. Look at it like this: with an organized schedule and everyone in the know, things will run more smoothly with fewer errors.
And with software being cloud-based, you can collaborate with stakeholders to workers in real-time, even if you aren’t physically together. You can save and share essential documents instantly, send alerts, and give out instructions.
With the help of construction scheduling software, you’ll be able to produce a high-quality structure on time and within budget.
If you are a contractor looking for effective subcontractor scheduling software, use Pro Crew Schedule’s Software. Sign up today and get a free 30-day trial with all its features and no strings attached. Request a demo here.