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The Star Concept – How to Increase Crew Power

First of all, the Star Concept gets its name from a strategy I used several years ago, not only with my company but also with many other contractors over the years. It is a process of engaging more of your workers to participate on their crews. A number of reasons caused me to consider such a strategy.

  • Employees who are more engaged with their co-workers usually have better attitudes
  • Workers who are involved with their crews are normally more productive
  • One foreman can’t have his eyes on every area of his crew
  • Crew members who are more involved with making their crews better and safer typically stay with the contractor longer
  • The Star Concept actually provides a subtle but positive training opportunity for a future crew roreman

All five reasons above still hold true for many contractors today. So now, let’s look at what the Star Concept is and how it functions.

There are several areas within each construction crew that are either directly or indirectly impacted by the workers. The five most visible areas, each represented by a point of the “Star,” are:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Maintenance
  • Schedule
  • Production

Again, each crew member impacts these five areas in some form or fashion. The one constant within any crew is the crew foreman. He is responsible for the positive results of all five areas yet cannot really be 100 percent focused on any one area for very long during the workday.

Because the crew foreman is only one person, it is important to get support and assistance from the crew members. Let’s face it: construction is more challenging today. With all the required safety, DOT, state and federal laws or guidelines that exist, the responsibilities of a crew foreman are simply broader than ever.

The Star Concept works to assist the crew foreman by getting more support from those already engaged to work on the crew while still holding the crew foreman responsible for the final results.

How the process works

To begin the Star Concept, select one or two of the five points of the star shared previously in this article. I often coach contractors to start with safety and maintenance. Next, you need to select a crew member to take on the role of a “coordinator” for each area.

Let’s look at the role of “maintenance coordinator.” I would begin by selecting a crew member who has demonstrated a bit more attention to making sure that a tool is in working order or that one of the pieces of equipment has enough oil. Or it might be the employee who has a bit more mechanical skills or interests.

After you select your maintenance coordinator (MC), you’ll then need to educate him on what he will do in the role. Consider a general overview of this role that you might use:

The maintenance coordinator can assist his crew by assessing the condition of tools and equipment needed by the crew. If something is not in working order or needs maintenance, the MC informs the crew foreman of the need. The MC is not responsible to fix or maintain the crew’s tools or equipment but initially serves as an extension of the crew foreman to see that the tools and equipment are in working order for the crew.

A more detailed maintenance coordinator description is needed.  Such a description should answer the questions highlighted in the sample below.

MAINTENANCE COORDINATOR

WHY?Well-maintained equipment provides for better-conditioned equipment, greater equipment availability, better quality of product, longer equipment life, less overall maintenance costs, and happier team members!
WHO?
One or more team members coordinate a maintenance “check” on all equipment within the team. The coordinator serves as the crew’s formal point of contact to other crews and the maintenance department of the company.
WHAT?Coordinates with the mechanic when equipment is scheduled for major maintenance work. Works with their crewmembers on maintenance activities that others can handle. Develops a monitoring chart that is to be completed daily/weekly to ensure maintenance checks are regularly completed. Coordinates a weekly machine check to identify potential breakdown reasons. Key to the effort will be scheduling maintenance people to provide training on equipment and/or tool maintenance techniques that would be easier and better for crewmembers to perform.
WHEN?Daily checkup with individuals to monitor equipment. Assist crew foreman, as needed, whenever a maintenance issue arises that requires inspection or scheduling a repair.
MEASUREMENTS?Check-sheets that measures all equipment or tools that received daily inspections.Process Interruption Sheets for downtime and causes.Recording the cumulative hours of use for equipment per maintenance specs.

The Star Concept works! It brings more workers into participating with the well being and performance of the same crew of which they are a member. When more workers participate in something like the Star Concept, there is a healthier work culture. More workers feel more needed and thus more important.

Using the maintenance coordinator as an example, you can follow the same process to add to your crew’s “star points.” If your crew size is in the five to 12 member range, then fielding a coordinator in all five of the suggested areas might be possible. If your crew size is more like the three to seven-member size, then perhaps only two or three “star points” might be considered.

Keep a few final thoughts in mind about incorporating the Star Concept into your crew strategy for greater crew safety, performance and motivation:

  1. “More is not better!” You would be wise to begin with one or at the most two of the areas. You can always expand as needed.
  2. Don’t initially ask for volunteers to fill the coordinator roles. Personally invite selected employees to consider taking on the role. Start with your “winners” first to pave the way.
  3. Create the coordinator description that is best for your crews. Remember, the coordinator IS NOT another crew foreman. Not getting that point across will kill the one chance you might have to build greater participation.
  4. Do you need to offer an incentive? Maybe. Giving an employee another five to 25 cents an hour might be a great bargain for the extra attention he might bring to the crew.
  5. Can you have “co-coordinators”? Sure, BUT be careful that the “co” think doesn’t become a social experience, taking two workers away from performing their jobs within the crew.
  6. Provide training for each coordinator selected. Provide some basic overall understanding of the area and give each coordinator a list of items you need them to execute.
  7. Have a coordinator meeting once or twice a month. It’s important that the coordinators are supported by their crew foreman and you, the contractor. This meeting can be short but should entertain challenges, problems and opportunities.
  8. Allow your coordinators to grow into their role. Often, the coordinator matures into a very effective assistant to your crew foreman. Certainly be careful not to allow any coordinator to be “the boss” or to act “bossy.” Do, however, allow them to grow in their area of focus, coverage and insights.

Integrate the Star Concept into your crews this year. You may be surprised at the support and enthusiasm of your workers after they get a real feel for the benefits of having another point person for one or more areas of crew work.

If you have any questions about the Star Concept, either before considering its use in your company or even after you’ve installed it, please write me via our blog. As they say, “Shoot for the Stars” and you just might find your crew’s productivity, enthusiasm and attitude about work moving skyward!

Coordinating the Stars!

© Brad Humphrey, Pinnacle Development Group/The Contractor’s Best Friend™

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10 Reasons Why Construction is Your Best Choice

Do I go to college?

Should I quit college now and get a job?

What’s the best job for me?

I’m getting a degree, but I can’t see myself doing what my degree is in. Now what?

 

Hey, if you think you’re the only person to have ever asked these questions, and thousands more like them, you must be smoking banana peels! (Yuk!) So, stop and smell the reasons why construction might be just for you!

#10 – Construction isn’t for “dummies.” Never was! Construction provides you with daily challenges that bring out the best in your brain! Contractors are now looking to hire workers with a head on their shoulders!

#9 – Working in the “great outdoors,” and sometimes indoors, allows a person to breath freely and not be stuck in a room with re-circulated air that transfers all the virus bugs from other workers to you!

#8 – Construction is full of the most diverse group of people in skills, smarts, personalities, ethnic background, and…well…just about any sort of tastes for adult beverages.

#7 – Construction workers actually learn how to work! In many other industries, a worker doesn’t really know what is going on all the time, much less what the day’s goals are. Contractors actually teach their workers how to perform work that the worker may have never dreamed that they could do!

#6 – Construction…pays really well! Most construction workers begin to make some serious money after they’ve served a brief training and “apprentice-like” time learning their trade. In today’s market, it’s not uncommon to find entry-level laborers making $12-$15, even $16-$18 an hour just to start. Heck, college graduates can start at $40,000 – $60,000.

#5 – Construction success is based on the “team.” Contractors really do practice the axiom, “Together Everyone Accomplishes More.” Construction companies, projects, and crews are perfect for the individual who likes to share the pressure, sweat, excitement, and diligence with others.

#4 – Construction practices an equal employment opportunity AND an equal PROMOTION opportunity. New workers are taken seriously by their owners, and leaders, and you can bet that if leading a department, a crew, a project team, a division, heck, even a company is in your wildest dreams…those dreams might not be so wild!

#3 – Construction companies build and remodel some of the most iconic, beautiful, and most meaningful buildings, parks, bridges, hotels, yadda yadda yadda. Think about, the house or apartment you live in was built by a construction company. All of the trees, plants, flowers, grass, and lights were put in by a construction company. That hospital that took great care of your friend, or that church you go to, or that school you went to, all of these were built by construction companies…and the people who worked as construction workers.

#2 – Construction workers love construction because there are never two days in a row…exactly the same. Didn’t like Monday? Don’t hold your breath…Tuesday is guaranteed to be different. That’s what almost 100% of construction workers like about construction…it is never boring!

#1 – Perhaps the biggest reason that construction is your best job choice…because it’s flat out fun! The construction industry is full of some of the smartest, most energetic, funniest, and talented people in the world. When construction workers are “rockin & rollin” they can’t wait to get to work every day…offer their best ideas…and share the hard work and celebration with others…who are just as excited to working as they are.

Look, is construction really your best job choice? Well, if you like boredom, if you like working where it might take you 10-20 years to really “gain anything,” and if you like to work where you’re not expected to think for yourself…you may not be made of the stuff needed for construction.

I’ve seen college majors in English, Political Science, Psychology, Music, Math, Biology, Education, and a host of other specialty majors all in the construction industry…and loving it! I’ve also seen individuals who received more than a college education by going right into the construction field and…loving it as well!

Hey, think about it! You don’t see yourself working in a fast food restaurant, or as a manager of a retail store, or maybe selling smart phones for a national cell phone company, then take a good long look at construction! We’re looking for you!!