How to Encourage Problem-Solving in Your Construction Workforce

In construction, many of the phone calls and emails received are from companies or people presenting a problem they are experiencing. Construction managers and team members take that problem and form a solution for the customer or their business. To provide quality solutions, construction team members need to be well-versed in problem-solving. What is problem-solving? It’s the process involved in identifying a problem, developing solutions to the issue and then taking the right course of action. Honed problem-solving skills can lead to a stronger team, enhanced construction safety procedures and ultimately better service for customers. But how do construction managers encourage problem-solving in their construction teams? Are there steps that can help employees grow their problem-solving skills? Yes! Construction professionals can help their construction teams improve their skills and empower themselves by following these tips. Problem-Solving Steps to Follow The problem-solving process looks different depending on the problem being tackled, but following a problem-solving guideline ensures construction professionals can solve the right issues and pick the most effective solutions. The steps given below are beneficial for managers to follow and are an excellent resource for team members to develop their problem-solving skills: 1. Identify the problem: First, a construction team must ensure they identify the problem correctly. 2. Analyze the problem: Next, team members should consider the problem’s causes. 3. Brainstorm solutions: A team can work together to generate a list of possible solutions to the problem. Thinking creatively can help with this step. 4. Develop the solution: Look through the list of possible solutions and choose the best one. 5. Allocate roles: Construction managers should decide who will be responsible for helping implement the solution. If necessary, different roles should be allocated to different people. 6. Implement the solution: Go through with the solution and fix the problem. 7. Evaluate the solution: Ask for feedback. Take that feedback and incorporate it into future problem-solving strategies.  What Helps Encourage Problem-Solving in Team Members? An important starting point to help encourage problem-solving in team members is restructuring the team to be a self-directed unit. Self-directed units often are created to tackle projects and tasks and feature ample amounts of collaboration, which is ideal for solving issues and improving productivity in construction. Self-directed teams can help elevate the group and ensure they are empowered to do their job and remedy issues effectively. Beyond self-directed teams, it’s also necessary to embody certain qualities that will ensure construction teams feel encouraged to problem-solve. Trust and Comfortability There needs to be a strong element of trust between team members. This is true whether the team is handling customer problems or internal issues, such as addressing broken construction equipment. Every individual should feel comfortable speaking up with their ideas and potential solutions, especially while brainstorming answers. Team members need to trust each other, and they need to know that their managers trust them. For managers to fully show a team they are trustworthy, workers must be left to make decisions on their own and have at least some level of authority over the choices they make. The team must feel they are united and working together to reach their goal and aren’t continually being overseen by a manager. This allows them to view the solutions they develop as their own and have a sense of responsibility. Responsibility Each team member must build up a sense of responsibility for the problems they are trying to solve. A great way to develop responsibility is for the team to delegate specific tasks to each group member. When the tasks are completed, the whole group can come together and unite their pieces to get the whole. If team members have a sense of ownership over a part of the project, they will also feel ownership over the complete project since every individual will contribute. Having delegated tasks encourages team members to do their best to work toward the common goal of solving the problem. What Can Managers Do to Help Encourage Problem-Solving? The previous section dealt with the hands-off portion of encouraging team members to problem-solve, but managers still need to participate in the process. Managers will still need to guide team members and help encourage their problem-solving skills with the following approaches. iStock-957710044-350x350 
Provide Feedback and Answer Questions
Learning how to effectively problem-solve doesn’t come naturally to some people. It takes work and having that backboard to bounce questions and ideas off of is beneficial for team members learning to solve problems. When something is done right, construction managers should make sure they acknowledge it. Especially in construction, it is easy to breeze over small wins when the team is always problem-solving. If the team is doing a great job, managers should notice them for that and give them kudos. Engage the Team in Focus Areas Engaging your workforce is easier said than done. But it’s worth the effort if you want to target your employees’ energy toward identifying and addressing the biggest issues on a work site. Make this task easier by making training and awareness resources available for everyone. For example, some construction companies take advantage of industry-wide pushes like National Work Zone Awareness Week to offer extra resources and events for workers. Others feature employee spotlights and recruiting efforts for Women in Construction Week each March. Creating specialized events can help expose team members to new ideas and jog excitement about tackling industry problems throughout the year. Give Employees Autonomy For the larger-picture problems that high-authority professionals must solve, they should be sure to include their employees. They should ask workers for their feedback, especially if the issue includes changes to an internal process. Employees need to be allowed to aid in making decisions on the task level, but managers also need to show them they value their problem-solving skills for more strategic questions. If managers can delegate tasks to them and give them more authority, they should do so. If team members feel they have authority, it often makes them feel encouraged. Higher-ups should challenge them with tasks that can help them grow and offer training to support their growth. Problem-Solving Tips for Construction Teams As long as these simple steps and tips are followed, any construction team will quickly develop their problem-solving skills. They will soon have the skills necessary to manage any on-the-job issue, whether internal or external. All the managers have to do is give them the tools they need to succeed, be a mentor for them and trust them.

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Evelyn Long

Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, an informational resource for construction professionals. She writes on green building, construction...

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