You’ve got a fairly reasonable building business and a team of builders or carpenters working for you. But some of them just aren’t performing up to scratch. Maybe they are not pulling their weight or maybe they lack the skills you need. Should you fire them?
You know that in order to dismiss someone lawfully you need to give them warnings – verbal and written. Further you are expected to give clear direction and assistance to help them improve. But this takes time and you don’t know if it will work out better. So you wonder if it’s worth the hassle going down the warning and dismissal route.
Further, if you do let them go, you have to find replacements. Then, will those replacements be any better or just another headache?
There has to be a better way.
What if you had at your disposal the means to turn your lower performing bunch into a high performing team. What if you could create “A teams!” Would that make a difference to your building business? “Sure would,” I hear you say.
The good news is that improving the performance of your teams is not as difficult as it sounds. But few business owners take the time to figure out how to do it. Also, it costs next to nothing, meaning that the return on investment can be huge.
So in this article I outline some of the tools we use when working with building businesses.
But first, what does a high performing building team look like? Here’s my definition:
A great performing team is a group of people who take responsibility for working together to achieve a common goal. They are capable of accomplishing their assigned tasks and understand the roles of other members. They set and accept individual and team targets, assisting other team members, as required, in order to achieve their targets. Further they learn and innovate.
So how do you start creating a high performing building team?
1 Define the culture you want in your company
Many builders prefer to avoid writing things down – especially long documents – since the right words can be elusive! However writing up your company culture statement need not be difficult. You can start by making a list of the words you want your client to be able to say about your company.
E.g. Truthful Hard working Committed Polite Resourceful etc.
Then ask your team to add words to describe the company they’d love to join.
E.g. Fun Communicative Excellent Successful Consistent Etc.
At a later date you can add more words and a brief explanation. But I guarantee that if you talk about this with your team they will soon come up with a list. You may even find one who is happy to write them up! Nice.
Then remind your team about your culture statement at each tool box meeting. Get the key words printed on wallet sized plastic cards. Print them out on a large card and nail it to the wall of each job then tell your client that this is your company culture statement. Reward members that reflect your culture and hold others accountable. In time you will reap the rewards.
Once you have identified your culture, use the same process to create a set of company rules. These are like the opposite side of your culture statements. They set the boundaries and define actions and behaviours your don’t want – actions that could result in immediate termination.
2 Focus on specific activities
Set clear and measurable achievement targets on a weekly basis – or daily for less skilled people. Don’t assume that your team members know what you are thinking. Tell them. Ensure that each team member knows what is expected and check if their target is commensurate with their skill level.
Should a team or a team member falter, focus on “What would need to happen to get back on track?” rather the bawl them out. Help them find ways to improve. Offer assistance – better tools, more supervision, written instructions etc.
And don’t overlook the power of providing incentives for achieving tasks ahead of schedule.
3 Nail it with training
Some of the more successful building companies we have worked with hold regular in-house training events for their apprentices. Qualified builders are welcome to attend too. Interest is generated by inviting suppliers to demonstrate new tools and materials etc. Again this is an excellent opportunity to take a few minutes to highlight one or more of your points of culture.
If you are a small team why not combine with a colleague or two and run training events together? This makes it very worthwhile for suppliers. It doesn’t take much to put together a list of the things you want your apprentices to master, but it makes a big difference when you know that they have.
In my experience it’s the companies that focus on training their team members that end up with better staff.
4 Create your promotional track
Some of the best building companies have clearly defined promotional tracks attached to specific technical and leadership skill levels along with a sliding pay scale. As a new employee gains skill and ability and becomes of more value to the company s/he progresses up the scale.
Transparency provides the basis for regular reviews of performance. Moreover, because the staff know precisely what is available for them at each level, they provide a clear incentive to learn new skills and to become more useful to the company.
These same companies look for emerging leaders and match positions to personal characteristics – as best they can.
5 Ask for feedback
Get feedback from your team. Ask them what they think, how they view the company and where they think improvements can be made. Ask them what you could do to make them more productive. The bottom line of your building businesses is determined by the performance of the guys on the tools. So get them involved.
High performing building companies don’t just happen. High performing companies emerge from environments where high performing teams thrive.