Leading into 2019, experienced Construction Foremen (aka Baby Boomers) are retiring at an accelerated rate and leaving a critical void in experience and leadership for millennials to fill. All the while, the foreman is becoming more important than ever on the commercial construction jobsite because of ever-increasing skills needed – many skills garnered through experience.
The role of a construction foreman garners heavy stress, criticism and demands yet require a host of skills including leadership, decision maker, coach, a player (doer) and often babysitter. The foreman is often caught between workers (doers) and upper management (dreamers/planners) assigning work, so foreman are often pulled in several directions. Consider the image of a Casino “Pit Boss,” providing quick decisions for dealers and players and stamping out chaos to ensure work continues…except, this is on the jobsite.
In this article, I highlight the right stuff for becoming a successful Construction Foreman.
What does a Construction Foreman do?
A foreman or foreperson supervises and coordinates the work of a crew of workers in a specific craft or trade. Foremen are primarily concerned with seeing that the workers under them do their job skillfully and efficiently, and that assigned work progresses on schedule. A foreman is usually the top supervisory position in environments such as construction work sites. The individual typically has formal training paired with experience in the industry and can direct, supervise and troubleshoot common issues that arise on the job.
Construction foremen are facing a very challenging future. As more and more of them retire, tomorrow’s foremen will need to be more hands-on with new hires, invest more time to make sure field employees understand their evolving positions and how to coach their people using construction technology to build tomorrow’s landmarks.
Operational bedrock & critical leadership
To meet the expectations of senior leaders while at the same time demanding the respect and results from workers, Construction Foreman needs to be hyper-focused on three areas: Advancing Work, State of the Crew, and maximizing the capabilities (tools and equipment) of the workers.
I. Advanced Planning
Aside three, four or five-week planning periods, great foreman are always looking and preparing for what’s happening a week or two out. Some call it advanced planning, but thinking ahead in shorter sprints helps prepare and position the team for any contingencies needed. Thinking forward in short sprints enable construction foremen to make better decisions and secure necessary resources or support to meet the goals of the project. The foreman who sees short-term a day or two will end up with a ton a rework, callbacks and lost profits.
II. State of the Crew
Have you heard the saying, you’re only as good as the team around you. This is never evident in construction and the workers that are doing the work. The foreman is responsible for the mindset of THE TEAM as well as the clarity of their performance objectives. The foreman must be able to assess and insert the right staff with the best abilities for completing the job on time and with high quality. Crew readiness and maximum production are vital elements that the Foreman juggles on a daily basis and makes adjustments based on environmental and jobsite conditions.
III. Maximizing Capabilities (tools and equipment)
The third focus area a great foreman operates from is ensuring his or her team has the best tools and equipment available to do their jobs successfully. The tools and equipment need to be correctly maintained, and working conditions for laborers are SAFE. Foremen rely on senior leaders to purchase and provide the best tools for their trade. The foreman needs to ensure the equipment is regularly inspected, maintained and stored adequately with supervision and communication to senior management.
Also, the team’s mental state and confidence can be at risk if they view the tools and equipment provided by the construction company are inadequate. The foreman is the champion, and operating on a strong foundation of increased focus on Advanced Planning, the State of Crew and Maximizing Capabilities for the team.
The Big 5 – Key skills every Construction Foreman needs
1. Daily Stand-Ups (morning and end of day)
Communication is a crucial component of every successful project. Most failures in life are due to miscommunication, and it’s no different managing a team effectively. Conduct daily kick-off meetings to address critical issues affecting the work efforts, safety reminders and goals and objectives for the day. If workers understand the big picture and how all their efforts play in the overall success, they became more attached and committed to the success of the project.
End of the day stand-up meetings are less frequent, especially, after laboring through the heat and troubles on a jobsite. However, the Foreman needs to reinforce the team concept and allow individuals to share grievances, challenges, and successes – all of this is constructive feedback for improving daily performance and mitigating deeper issues that can delay projects.
2. A Master Communicator (group and individual)
As important are regular team meetings, individuals need to nurtured as well. The foreman needs to be approachable and communicate effectively with individual staffers. On a personal level (this means meeting with them individually), make sure employees are focused on their tasks, work within processes, and held accountable for performance.
High performing construction foremen know their crew members. As a manager, it’s essential to recognize employee strengths and weaknesses, learn processes and personality temperament. With millennials entering the workforce, they expect frequent feedback. Other generations not so much. The critical point is the foreman needs to be cognizant of his or her approach to getting the employee to perform at a high-level.
Foremen who develop deeper relationships with workers and learn to understand their personalities will be able to adjust management styles to get the most out of the team. Using personal communication to motivate staff.
3. Anticipate, Plan and Act – Abilities
The foreman needs to know what is coming over the next couple of weeks, so scope out the work to be completed – people, timelines, resources, risks, and contingencies. Your role as a leader and manager is to minimize obstacles to keep the team performing at the highest level under the safest conditions. Therefore, you need to visualize tomorrow, today. Also, anticipate decisions for the week and clear any real or potential obstacles. Clear the path to success!
4. Construction Mathematician (for your specialty)
Construction foremen need to accurately and effectively calculate units of production – square feet, cubic yards, and linear feet. On the labor side, a foreman needs to calculate crew productivity rate or risk being shorthanded. With construction management software designed for subcontractors, this job becomes incredibly easier to manage during the project lifecycle.
Construction foreman are the experts in “what is” and “what is not” constructible from the labor standpoint. The foreman needs to be confident and capable about calculating productivity rates and continually improve on how to increase productivity which impacts the entire project schedule. And, it costs.
While construction estimators develop and win bids using industry standards, the foreman plays a crucial role in providing more accurate crew labor rates. The experienced foreman applies real numbers with higher accuracy to schedule work, strategically place their crews, and challenge senior leaders to make better decisions to improve the quality of bids to win more jobs.
5. Proactive Decision Making
Construction Foremen with the Right Stuff are calculating, yet, able to make quick decisions because they are advanced planners, understand the state of their crew and clearly understand how to maximize the team’s capabilities to get the job completed effectively. Effective decision makers utilize ground rules for making decisions – call it a philosophical approach to problem-solving. The logic helps these foremen succeed where others fail when faced with situations. The path can appear somewhat like this approach: (1) identify the situation and assess the needs, (2) consider past circumstances and unique differences, and (4) evaluate costs, risks, procedure, and impact, safety, and customer satisfaction. The result is the foreman doing what his or her company expects. Make decisions on the jobsite.
Job Brief: Construction Foreman
A construction foreman has hands-on job expertise in the field. You wouldn’t have a drywall expert managing electrical workers. Leadership skills and extensive experience have earned the foreman the ability to direct the work of others and make quick decisions. You must be well-organized and favor safety above everything else.
Construction Foreman coordinate operations and oversee workers at the construction jobsite. As the primary point of contact of both workers and supervisors, the foreman is a central leader for completing the project on time and budget.
High-level responsibilities may include coordinating construction work priorities and plans; creating schedules and monitoring jobsite crew performance. The foreman will also supervise and train workers; Ensure adequate workforce and resources needed; guarantee all safety precautions and quality standards are met; Supervise the use of machinery and equipment; Monitor expenditures and ensure it remains within budget; Resolve problems when they arise, and provide progress reports to project stakeholders.
Several construction companies with job descriptions state the following requirements for foreman which include proven trade experience in the specialized fields (e.g., electrical, mechanical, drywall, concrete, etc.) before being elevated to manage field workers. Foremen have in-depth knowledge of construction procedures, equipment, and OSHA guidelines; understanding critical systems for the construction project; Ability to read plans, drawings and blueprints; excellent leadership and organizational skills; superior communication and reporting skills, and aptitude for math. Problem-solving abilities; good physical condition and stamina; High school diploma or diploma in a specific skilled trade.
Construction Foreman salaries across different trades
Indeed reports that the average salary for a Construction Foreman is $20.64 per hour in the United States. Their salary estimates are based on 5,980 salaries submitted anonymously by Construction Foreman employees, users, and collected from past and present job advertisements in the past 36 months. The typical tenure for a Construction Foreman is currently 2-4 years.