Good communication is important in every business sector. But communication at construction sites can be very complex. You have your own project to run, which is all about planning and making sure every party does what they should be doing and when they should be doing it.
But then there are also the external parties; the ones who are affected by your project, but do not have an active role in completing it. These are the local communities, interest groups and businesses.
This means that different ways of communication are needed and with varying methods. The list of all your internal and external stakeholders for your stakeholder management plan just keeps on growing.
Most construction companies engage stakeholders as much as possible. However, this is not always done systematically and properly. The following 5 tips will help you improve the communication going out of your construction site.
1. Appoint a community engagement officer
Internal communication at construction sites is usually done well. There is a clear chain of command; the contractor is responsible to communicate with suppliers, for example, and the architect communicates with its consultants. Everyone has a role to play and as long as the people in charge are aware of the plan, this is passed on to the relevant parties.
Communication with local communities is not often as structured. That is why appointing a community engagement officer (or team in larger projects) is so valuable. They can map all the external parties affected by the project and make sure they are aware of the plan and the actions taken to alleviate their hindrance.
A community engagement officer can use a platform like SitePodium to send out messages about road closures, detours and obstructions. That means that door-to-door distribution of letters and pamphlets can be reduced.
The officer can also work with external external stakeholders, like people visiting the site or staff driving in for work. If there is one person in charge of all the messages going out, you can communicate what is happening at your construction site in a controlled and precise manner. Nobody is excluded.
2. The method of communication has to be right
As mentioned before, you communicate differently with your suppliers than with the local businesses. And with every message comes a perfect method to distribute it with. Whereas you would send local businesses a professional email, local residents would probably not appreciate that type of approach.
There are several methods you can use for communication at your building site.
- Emails and letters: these are formal types of communication, used for professional bodies and written in a style that matches. You communicate notices about temporary loss of access, road closures or landscaping work at your site.
- Face-to-face communication: you communicate face-to-face in meetings with your internal stakeholders, but it is also appreciated by your local community. By organising a meeting in the local town hall or setting up a stall at the square, residents and business owners will be informed and they are immediately able to respond. This type of communication is good for conveying general messages or updates about changes in the plan or the progress of your project.
- A communication platform: SitePodium is a platform where stakeholders are brought together. They can communicate, respond and express concern. There is a news feed, as well as pages for getting into contact, viewing the plan and giving feedback. You can use it for both your internal and external stakeholders. Your community engagement officer regularly posts messages. It is as simple as installing an app to your phone.
3. Do not forget to listen
When communicating face-to-face, remember that listening is as important as bringing your message across properly. By listening to the responses and feedback, you can reply in the correct way and take away worries or concerns. If you only communicate your message and then end the meeting, that could lead to resentment and complaints.
Listen to what people are saying, make notes, show them that you care about them and how they are affected by your project. Also, do not discard complaints but try to solve them, learn from them and implement them into new ideas. You will significantly reduce the amount of time you will have to spend on communication at your construction site when you listen and act immediately. Plus, the chances of receiving complaints are much smaller.
4. Manage expectations properly
The businesses and residents around your construction site already know they will be affected by it for a certain amount of time. There is no need to gloss over facts or to hide the truth if they will experience hindrance.
Communication of bad news going out of your construction site should therefore always be honest, clear and precise. You first tell them what you are doing and why you are doing it. Then you tell them how it will affect them and when. Finally, you show them that you are doing everything to make it as easy as possible for them, by telling them which solutions you put in place.
For example, you are planning landscaping work in one of the streets. Local businesses might experience problems with access to their building. You tell them that this will take place Tuesday to Thursday and that it will make their street more attractive. The solution you put in place is to only do work during certain (quieter) hours of the day to limit the disruption to their business.
This way you manage the expectation of the business owners, you show them that you did not forget about them and that you do what you can to make this as easy as possible. Obviously, you need to give them enough time to put their own measures in place.
5. Focus on the bigger picture
You are upgrading, building something new and the area will benefit. There will be struggles, but the outcome will benefit everyone around. Sometimes it is difficult to see past the current situation to look at the bigger picture.
Keep reminding all affected parties of why you are doing what you are doing. And communication from your construction site does not have to be all bad. Post milestones of big achievements, show your stakeholders your timelines and progeress, and inform them of exciting work to come.
At the end, and if the budget allows it, celebrate together with a street party. That brings a sense of achievement and it compensates your local businesses and residents for the trouble they experienced.
Communication at construction sites with SitePodium
You have appointed a community engagement officer and now you need the best method to reach those around your building site. SitePodium is an app that is simple to use, that allows communication back and forth and that everyone can download for free. Get your local residents and businesses on it, and you have one method of communication to reach all.
Do you want to know more about SitePodium and what we can do to improve communication at your construction project? Visit our homepage and feel free to look at the information we provide. You can download our SitePodium brochure there as well.
We are happy to speak to you about the exciting opportunities SitePodium has to offer. So, contact us, and enhance communication at your next construction project with SitePodium.