Collaborative behaviours amongst construction site workers can help improve productivity
Main contractors rely on the supply chain and their site workforce to provide the skills, knowledge, and experience that is needed to deliver their projects. Productivity of the site workforce requires teamwork and collaboration both within and across various trades. Behaviours that promote collaboration and teamwork in the supply chain can therefore be important for maintaining site productivity. When behaviours amongst site workers are not supportive of collaboration and teamwork, problems can take longer to resolve, work can be disrupted and productivity decreases.
A key challenge remains how to raise awareness amongst the site workforce on the impact of their behaviours on teamwork and collaboration and how this eventually affects productivity on site. Also, another key issue is about ensuring that the site workforce possess the skills to adapt their behaviours and maintain strong collaborative relationships both within and across trades when working together on site. These issues were confronted as part of the Innovation Driven Procurement (IDP) programme.
Site workers were engaged through a series of three (3) workshops to explore the effect of their behaviours on collaboration and site productivity. The participants were selected from the supply chain of a Drylining Contractor, Suspended Ceiling Contractor, and a Mechanical and Electrical (M&E) Contractor for these workshops in three (3) cohorts. Activities were used to help participants understand what motivates and demotivates them and to share their experiences of a project where there was good collaboration and what this meant to them individually. Participants also had to compete to solve puzzle games that required group-based collaboration, with the winning team being the first to finish with the correct answer. The key objective of the games was for participants to collaborate in solving unfamiliar tasks, and to understand how their behaviours helped them to solve the tasks correctly. The team that could collaborate better through joint problem solving, information sharing, and good listening came out the winning team during these games.
A listening test was also used to check how well participants listen to each other as part improving communication on site. Participants further explored what gets in the way of listening and how to use good listening to enhance collaborative behaviour on site. This was to help develop the skill needed to listen to what others are saying and comprehend exactly what is being said. Finally, participants explored how they can adapt their behaviour on site to achieve peak rapport on site. At the end, participants shared what they needed from each other to work better on site by answering the following four questions:
You get the best of me when
You get the worst of me when
You can count on me to
This is what I need from others
Participants acknowledged that the workshop was the first time they had an opportunity to know what motivates and de-motivates their site colleagues, revealing several facts that they never knew. Sports, and time spent with family and friends and feeling appreciated for doing a good job were some of the general themes on motivation while lack of consideration, respect, incompetence on site, and poor interpersonal relations where the themes on demotivation. Below are some extracts of what participants shared about instances where they had experienced good collaboration and what it was like:
For instances where participants had experienced good collaboration in the past, it clearly enhanced site level communication and problem solving, making the work more productive. Across all three cohorts, participants recognised that being honest and having the courage to admit if a task was not understood was a key part of good collaboration. The impact of behaviours on problem solving and productivity became instantly obvious to participants through the puzzle games challenge. Participants discussed what they had learnt from the challenge and related this to their various experiences on site. A labourer who refused to load plasterboard to a location of the room that was preferred by the drylining fixer explained how this had resulted from a feeling that he was not spoken to with respect. This affected productivity for the drylining fixer that day. There was generally an agreement that being treated fairly and with respect gets the best out of each other on site or the worst when treated unfairly and without respect. This is evident from the word cloud participants’ responses below:
The workshop activities made an impression on the participants and provided them with the opportunity to reflect on their own individual approaches to working with others. It allowed them to understand their own part in building and sustaining collaborative relationships that are beneficial to them on site and to the construction industry generally.