OE Construction Corp

When You’re Hiring a Field Supervisor, What Skills Should You be Looking For?

Construction projects can succeed or fail based on a few factors, and one of them is the effectiveness of your field supervisor(s).

Hiring is always a difficult process. A lot of people will say to ‘hire for personality, build the skills’, but when it comes to a supervisory role on a construction site, it’s often a case of needing someone who can hit the ground running. So you want the personality AND the skills, and that’s not always easy to come by.

If you can’t promote from within, having a strong sense of the skills that you need to be looking for in a hire is essential, to avoid wasting time and money with the wrong candidates.

Here are some essentials that you should be looking for a new field supervisor hire:

Technical skills

While a person can grow into a role with softer skill set requirements, a field supervisor has the lives of their team, as well as the success and overall cost of the project, to manage. That requires experience and knowledge that can’t be built ‘on the job’. This isn’t to say that the ideal candidate will be a rock star in every aspect of the project, but they need to be knowledgeable about every aspect to be able to recognize the skills they need to leverage in their team. 

construction workers sunset

Planning and problem solving skills

A good supervisor will understand that thorough planning is vital to the success of any project. They will also know how to problem solve sudden events with grace under fire.

If the better part of a supervisor’s day is spent putting out fires, however, it can mean that the planning and scheduling hasn’t been given enough thought. Both are necessary to ensure project success. 

While bad weather can come up suddenly, it can still be planned for, in terms of how it will be dealt with. Delays due to foreseeable problems, for example such as contravening local construction regulations by not understanding them, are entirely avoidable with proper planning.

Ability to balance cost, productivity and risk for both humans and machines

It’s a fine line to be able to look at the productivity of people and machines, as well as anticipate failures in either capacity, and evaluate the risk of costs increasing if there are issues with them. Having either people or machines sit idle due to poor planning is also an enormous risk that will add to the overall project costs. 

Yes, projects need to run on time and be productive, but planning needs to include the possibility of equipment failure, or a change of personnel on the field, both of which can affect productivity profoundly, and therefore add to the cost of the project. Labor represents a huge percentage of the overall cost of any project, so understanding everyone’s strengths and leveraging those skills to the greatest advantage, without burning people out, is a particular skill a supervisor needs to have.

construction site woman

Values quality and safety

So while productivity and its relation to cost is vitally important for a supervisor to manage, as noted above, it should never be at the expense of quality and safety. First and foremost, a supervisor must be a team player, must respect the team and each of its members and must make safety a priority.

Communication is key in keeping everyone safe and showing them the respect they deserve. Ensuring that everyone on the team knows what they’re supposed to be doing, when and how, at all times, goes a long way to creating a satisfying work environment; the result of happy workers is a project that is well done, with minimal injuries or disruptions. 

Why Project Superintendents are Key to Winning Repeat Business – An Army of Salesmantendents

The construction industry can learn many lessons from other industries that have expended resources to reach and serve the customer at the “field level.” Retail firms such as Starbucks, Target and Home Deport have instilled an entrepreneurial instinct in their associates. For example, Home Depot management has ingrained in their associates the importance of the customer. Floor associates will not only greet you but also stop what they are doing and escort you to the product you desire. How can this same attitude correlate to a construction project? Oftentimes, construction firms view the customer as an impediment—an impediment who will ask silly questions, waste precious time and distract you from building the project.

Construction superintendents tend to be hands-on, process-driven people. They understand the elements needed to create a building. They see the end result—a school, a factory, an office, a warehouse, a bridge. Superintendents who are goal-driven tend to be very successful. However, superintendents who charge forward with the single priority of finishing each task regardless of their surroundings fail to see critical customer service opportunities. Sometimes their supervisory strategy focuses on what they think is important rather than what the customer thinks is important. But by extending a deep passion about his or her project, a superintendent conveys a message of “we care” to the customer. If it weren’t for the customer, the superintendent would never have a project to work on.

Site engineer on a construction site

The attitude of the superintendent directly correlates to the image of the jobsite. A positive, proactive customer service salesmantendent will exhibit many of the following features:

The “Selling” Jobsite – Salesmantendents understand that the customer may visit and that a customer’s customers may visit. How welcome they feel, how they are treated and how the site looked during that visit have a great impact on their perception of the superintendent and the company as a whole.  

People like working with individuals with whom they have a positive relationship. By the end of the project, the superintendent has had the most opportunity to be with a customer. Has the opportunity been lost or capitalized upon? The opportunity for repeat business hangs in the balance.

Firms spend countless dollars searching for talented young managers and supervisors. Curriculums in engineering and construction management schools across the country are slowly starting to incorporate courses that teach future generations skills in management, sales and, most importantly, communication. However, superintendents are faced with the daunting task of learning these softer skills through alternative means. Promoting a culture of salesmanship must pervade every aspect of an organization. This includes forcing the superintendents to shift from a process-driven mentality with a single finish line and small prize to a goal-driven mentality with multiple finish lines and the grand prize. The grand prize is a customer who cannot live without your services. Salesmantendents do more than build buildings; they build relationships.

With all of that said, does it sound like a good field supervisor is a construction industry unicorn? Not really: it’s about finding the candidates who have most of these skills and traits and knowing that anything missing can be taught. The key is a willingness on the part of the supervisor to grow and change and the company to show them the way. An open mind leads to well managed projects!  We at OE believe it takes An Army of Salesmantendents  to build a project and retain repeat customer business.

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