5 Steps to Streamline Construction Communication

Do you want your builds done under budget and ahead of schedule? It won’t happen without consistently getting one thing right: communication.

Communication underpins every successful construction project. Unless you’re speaking and writing clearly, succinctly, and precisely, you'll likely fall behind schedule and go over budget.

People go to school for years to learn communication, so don't feel bad if your act isn't together.

Just follow our 5 steps to streamline construction communication, and we’ll get you well on your way to being under budget and ahead of schedule.

  1. Choose One Communication Platform
  2. Write Clearly and Concisely
  3. Use Visual and Written Communication
  4. Create Common Frames of Reference
  5. Don’t Let One Person Drop the Ball

1. Choose One Communication Platform

Issue

Letting everyone pick their preferred method of communication is a recipe for disaster. You’re asking for lost messages, misunderstandings, and delayed response times.

Humans are shit at multi-tasking, yet we have more methods of contacting people than ever. People just can’t effectively juggle chat services, emails, phone calls, and texting without dropping the ball.

The more you scatter your communication channels, the more scattered your construction project will be.

Solution

Find one communication platform and make everyone stick to it.

You’ll see several chief benefits from this:

  • You’ll know exactly where to go when you’re searching for a piece of info.
  • You’ll reduce missed messages by keeping people from juggling multiple systems.
  • Depending on your platform, you’ll be able to analyze communication patterns to remove inefficiencies.
  • You'll eliminate the excuse of not getting alerted about important updates and notifications.

This doesn’t mean you will never receive another phone call, email, or text. But, without pushing 90% of your communication onto one platform, the rest of the steps in this guide won’t provide the results you need.

2. Write clearly and concisely

Issue

"When you assume you make an ass of u and me." This old phrase applies perfectly to written communication. The issue with writing is it's easy to forget to include details you assume people already know, and this quickly leads to miscommunications.

The other problem is people don't read. You're probably doing it right now, just skimming this article for the main points. Don't feel guilty, we all do it. What matters is acknowledging this trend and formatting your writing to adapt to it.

Solution

There are a few quick and easy ways to write effectively:

  • Use bullets to call out your main points.
  • Use bold font to reinforce particularly important info.
  • Cut flowery language and unnecessary sentences.
  • Clearly state the main point at the beginning of the message and clearly reinforce it at the end.
  • Break up your paragraphs into no more than two or three sentences.

None of this guarantees you'll get your point across. However, if someone does miss something, you can point to your well-formatted message and tell them there is no way they should've screwed it up.

3. Use visual and written communication

Issue

It's easy to feel like you've adequately explained a problem when you're looking right at it. But, even the most clear, concise message can benefit from a picture.

Without a visual frame of reference, the person on the other end can easily miss a crucial detail and give the wrong advice, order the wrong part, or just generally screw up.

Solution

Pictures. It’s really that easy. Every message discussing an object on a construction site should include at least one, if not multiple, pictures.

Bonus points if you pick a communication platform that lets you draw on those pictures, organizes them, and allows easy uploading from anywhere.

4. Create Common Frames of Reference

Issue

You've got multiple projects spread across multiple sites and you're likely doing similar things on all of them. If you confuse RFIs, deliveries, equipment orders, or cross wires in any way, you risk disrupting several builds.

These mix-ups happen when people don't have a frame of reference within a conversation or message. Without actively identifying the context for the issue, you risk confusing job sites.

Solution

There are two ways prevent this:

  1. Standardize your forms and make people fill out information in detail for every communication
  2. Get a communication platform that automatically georeferences all your messaging

We believe this is one of the most overlooked problems in construction, and it's why we have designed the entire Unearth platform to automatically store your communications by location.

5. Don't Let One Person Drop the Ball

Issue

The final piece to getting under budget and ahead of schedule, and maybe the most important, is getting people's accountability in check. Construction has a classic linear communication model. Information is typically passed up and down the chain of command, with people reviewing it and then moving it along as necessary.

While this model has its merits, it's outdated. We live in an era of instant communication, which means you can easily miss important messages in your hourly flood of inbox notifications. If progress rests on the shoulders of one person, and they miss the message, you may wait days or weeks to get an answer.

Solution

The solution is to always have multiple eyes on a conversation. You can do this in two ways:

  • Use the 'CC' feature of email.
  • Bring your team onto a platform that supports group chat and notifications.

We recommend the latter. CC is great, but email is a flawed system. Without a communication platform tuned to the needs of construction, you'll drop the ball on the other four steps in this process.

New vs. Old Construction Communication

It’s a lot to take in. Check out this table below for a simple summary.

Common Communication Platform

New Method (Effective)
One medium that stores and organizes all your conversations

Old Method (Ineffective)
Emails, text messages, phone calls, chat services, and paper documents

Clear, Concise Writing

New Method (Effective)
Quick, scannable, and effective messages

Old Method (Ineffective)
Hefty notes of long paragraphs and unnecessary language

Visual and Written Communication

New Method (Effective)
Annotated photos that are stored and organized with all your messages

Old Method (Ineffective)
No sharing of photos

Keeping a Common Frame of Reference

New Method (Effective)
Automatically geo-referenced conversations

Old Method (Ineffective)
Time-consuming form fields

Increasing Accountability

New Method (Effective)
Group chat capabilities with multiple eyes on a conversation

Old Method (Ineffective)
Linear chain-of-command like a game of telephone.

Easier said than done, right? The difficulty you'll face integrating these steps into your company will vary depending on the size of your organization. Luckily, there’s software to do it for you. Our platform offers one solution to address all of these issues, and we know we’re biased, but we do it best. You can check out our product page or request a demo for more information.

But, we’re also not going to leave you hanging. Feel free to check out some of the other software out there. They do some of the same stuff we do, but with a different focus. Head on over to our Top 5 Construction Software Platforms post to see our breakdown of the industry.