Communication Skills are Critical to Success in the Construction Industry

According to a recent FMI/PlanGrid study, $31.3 billion of rework in the construction industry in 2019 can be attributed to miscommunication and Project Managers spend over 20% of their time communicating each week. So how does your company stack up? Are your project managers proficient in the skill of communicating effectively?

At its core Communication in the accurate transmission of information in a four- step process. The sender communicates the message to the receiver who hears and responds, the sender then clarifies, and the receiver confirms. In this way we can ensure the message received is the one intended by the sender. In today’s 24/7 world, we barely receive a message, much less clarify or confirm and with text and email in abundance we often miss out on the critical components of tone and body language. So, what are we to do?

First, we need to make sure we are matching the message with the method, face to face communication is the best way to build relationships, assess body language and reach agreement. Email is appropriate for follow up and confirming details and agreement. Text messages can help us provide brief direction, such as “I need you at the ABC site tomorrow.” And the neglected phone conversation can help us gain context and avoid the back and forth of email. Regardless of the method, documenting conversations will ensure everyone involved in the conversation is in agreement.

Next, we need to be mindful of the barriers to communication, particularly in construction. Noisy jobsites, industry acronyms, company jargon and multi-lingual workforces all present challenges to accurately delivering the message. Recognizing simple cues, such as women often nod to indicate they are listening, and men nod to indicate agreement can help avoid misunderstanding. And did you know, millennials and Gen Z are better with short, concise chunks of information and prefer graphics over words? Taking a few extra minutes to ask, “can you repeat back to me what you need to do?” or “can you confirm you need me to change out the spec?” can save time and foster collaboration on the project.

Staying focused and making the decision to listen, will also improve communications. Humans speak at about 150 words per minute, but we can listen at about 1000 words per minute, no wonder our minds wander during a conversation. Putting the phone down, maintaining eye contact, responding to body language and asking questions, all let the sender know you are receiving the message. Active listening also build trust and, in an industry, built on relationships, this is critical.

When you consider all the variables involved in executing a successful construction project, improved communication skills are within your control. Ensuring the message, you intended to send is received accurately, matching your message to the method, being mindful of the barriers, asking good questions and really listening, these are skills you can hone every day to improve your company’s bottom line. And if you are not sure the best way to communicate with someone, ask!


If your organization would like to work Communication Skills, please contact us to discuss your specific needs.