November 15, 2022 at 6:00 a.m.
By John Kenney, Cotney Consulting Group.
Here’s how your company can focus on empowering crew leaders to improve the overall performance of your business.
Roofing companies vary in size, as do the size and complexity of their projects. These projects may be under a hundred thousand dollars or multi-million dollars in size. Some organizations are structured to empower the project superintendent as the decision making person in the field. In these various organizations, the question is who the frontline supervisor is.
In this article, we are going to focus on the empowerment of the crew leader and their role’s impact on performance, crew management, work execution and generating your organization’s revenue and profit.
The crew leader manages the crew, and it is at the crew level where the rubber meets the road; profits are made or lost. Leading your field teams dictates how your work is put in place, affecting the outcomes of safety, quality, production and project obligations. The crew leader is such a key player in the degree of success of the project; we need to teach them the skills to be fully empowered and successful.
In most companies, the crew leader oversees a limited number of direct reports (the crew). The crew leader is often required to do production work as a working crew leader and may be expected to manage a large workforce, which may affect the capacity of the crew leader’s management capabilities. We also expect them to get the crew to meet the production goals for that day and ensure that company policies and procedures are followed. They may only have limited authority or leeway to deviate from planned goals and objectives.
These limiting factors placed on our crew leader are an outcome of the organization’s structure and culture on how the crew leader is chosen and trained. They are often selected from among the crews and are promoted to crew leader positions solely based on their effectiveness and productivity of work.
Unfortunately, most organizations do not have a formal system or process for preparing people for the crew leader role. You have picked these craftspersons based on their technical skills. Still, for them to succeed, they need people, administrative, organizational, planning and communication skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to deal with conflicts. Most will struggle if they are not provided education and training in these areas. If your crew leader struggles, they are going to impact the crew’s productivity adversely and, ultimately, the organization’s profitability.
Every organization must create a standard operating procedure (SOP’s), including capabilities for each position along with the chain of command; once you have identified your people with the potential for promotion, you need to analyze and identify their strengths and weaknesses. The next step is to assign them tasks that will provide them exposure to these areas and formulate an educational plan that will build up and strengthen their weak areas. This process not only benefits the individuals to ensure their success but more importantly, it will improve productivity, efficiency, morale and the bottom line of your organization.
Studies show that hundreds of organizations in various construction industries have not worked any additional hours but increased the hours of productivity versus the total hours worked in daily shifts through efficiency. The results are a 10 to 20 percent increase in productive output that was accomplished through frontline supervisory level training. The first step is selecting the right person for the supervisory role. To achieve this, your organization must set down the selection criteria for their supervisors going forward. Next, you must assess the strengths and weaknesses of your selected candidate and design a process where they receive the necessary education/training as well as coaching, counseling or mentoring as applicable. Additional organizational support will be required to ensure success with the empowerment process.
The money is made at the crew level, and the crew leader plays a crucial role in getting the most out of your crew’s performance. Field leaders manage hundreds of thousands of your companies dollars, which can make or break a construction firm. For this reason, you should pay greater attention to who is promoted to the crew leader level to ensure that they are the very best candidates under consideration.
Roofing contractors who want to survive and thrive in the future have no choice but to invest heavily in their field leaders today. Training and development should not ever be about checking a box. It should be about actually doing, measuring and improving the knowledge and leadership skills required for this position. Do not look at frontline field leader development as a must-do task, but as a continuous journey of success.
About John Kenney
John Kenney is the Chief Executive Officer at Cotney Consulting Group. Prior to starting Cotney, John had 45 years of experience in the construction industry. John began his career by working as a roofing apprentice at a family business in the Northeast. Because of his skill and hard work, he progressed from roofing laborer to foreman, estimator, chief estimator, Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer with his various companies. John has worked for multiple Top 100 Roofing Contractors and is intimately familiar with all aspects of roofing production, estimating, and operations. In his last role, John was responsible for the daily operations and performance of a large commercial roofing contractor. During his tenure, John ran business units associated with delivering excellent workmanship and unparalleled customer service while ensuring healthy net profits for his company.