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Safety Best Practice Safety News

Harness Launches Free COVID-19 App

Harness Software announces the availability of a FREE Safety Meeting/Toolbox Talk App that will enable construction companies to disseminate COVID-19 virus-related information to their remote workforces and help them document employee meetings. This app is immediately available to all construction companies in North America

  • The app includes access to the latest content from reputable sources such as the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • All information within the app will be organized into short talks with emphasis on points relevant to construction workers.
  • The app will be updated automatically as more information becomes available
  • All material will be available in English & Spanish
  • Foremen or Supervisors will be able to quickly capture names and signatures from the attendees of each safety meeting/toolbox talk
  • PDF records of each meeting can be automatically emailed back to the office
  • THE APP WORKS ON ALL MOBILE DEVICES

“Construction workers don’t have the option to work from home. Companies need easy access to the information necessary to protect their employees and keep them as productive as possible during this crisis. We are all in this together. That’s why we’re launching this free resource.”, said Tom Whitaker, CEO of Harness Software. Existing Harness Software customers will also receive enhanced resources as part of this program to battle fear & the spread of the disease.

Download the app by clicking the button below.

Categories
Leadership & Culture Safety Best Practice

4 Reasons You Should Invest in Construction Safety Technology

 

Making the case for software or other technology investments can be a tough subject – especially if your work can continue without spending that money. It’s one of the big reasons why the construction industry lags behind others in adopting new technologies.

Some who have sought to improve efficiency through technology have faced an uphill battle with upper management & ownership. This helpful guide will provide you with advice to make those conversations go more smoothly and ultimately in the company’s favor.

To land the technology you know your company will benefit from, you’ll need a solid case that outlines why the investment is necessary. If the goal is solely to create safer jobsites, that may not be enough to convince the C-suite to move forward.

4 Ways an Investment in Safety Technology Benefits your Business:

Good news: Investments in technology to improve safety can actually impact departments that span far beyond safety itself. Pointing out potential company-wide improvements can help justify the cost of technology for safety to leadership.

1. Increased Sales

The negative publicity alone from a workplace injury can be enough to negatively impact work.

Certain general contractors, industrial sites, healthcare organizations, and educational institutions simply won’t work with companies that have poor safety numbers – such as your total recordable incident rate, your experience modification rate, OSHA citations, or lost-time incidents – due to the inherent risks involved. They want to hire and work with safe contractors so they don’t have to worry about delays, downtime, injuries, or potential lawsuits.

If you can demonstrate how your technology investment will make it easier for employees to get on board with safety culture, policies, and procedures, then you can also explain that the investment may also pay off in more work due to better safety numbers. Safety is a sales differentiator!

2. Streamlined Finance and Accounting

There are many ways that an investment in technology for safety can make life easier for your accounting team.

To demonstrate the impact your investment may have for this group, provide a few real-world examples of common jobsite injuries and their associated costs. There are plenty of illustrations to choose from (we can provide data that may help, too).

Don’t forget to quantify all related expenses, from production losses and wages for work not performed to damaged equipment and increased insurance costs. Then compare those numbers to the cost of your technology investment. Everyone will quickly be able to see that the cost of technology to improve safety is much lower than the cost of an injury – which is often the result of an unsafe work environment.

Be sure to share information with the accounting team about other potential financial savings that can result from a technology investment as well, including the avoidance of OSHA penalties and a reduction in general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and medical costs.

The right technology can also eliminate the paperwork shuffle for the accounting department, allowing employees in the field to send things like timesheets, packing slips, receipts, and status reports electronically so no one has to track and file hard copies or make sure they get back to the office.

3. Smooth Operations

Being safe on the job site isn’t a productivity bottleneck. In fact, it can have quite the opposite effect. Investing in technology that helps your organization take a holistic approach to safety actually leads to higher worker productivity. Why? Because time and money aren’t lost due to injury or work restrictions.

Workers who are afraid of getting hurt may produce less as they attempt to avoid potential hazards. Employees are more productive when they work on jobsites they trust to be safe – they don’t have to worry about avoiding certain tasks or areas.

An investment in technology for safety can help field staff be more confident about installation practices and the tools and equipment they use. Technology that puts this information in the palms of their hands means they don’t have to waste time searching for answers to questions, discussing with others, or waiting for callbacks from a safety director. This keeps projects moving forward as planned.

The right technology can also speed up the approval process for things like energized work reports or change orders. When an employee in the field can complete forms electronically, document their plan, and submit everything electronically for authorization, work continues without delays or holdups on the approval process.

4. Reduced Employee Turnover

Recruiting and retaining top talent are easier for organizations that care for employee well-being and provide safe workplaces. A strong focus on and investment in safety demonstrates to employees their importance and value, which can reduce employee turnover and absenteeism.

When employees know that their own protection comes first, they’ll feel more loyal and be less likely to look elsewhere for work. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for a company that makes investments to improve safety and protect employees?

The Return on Investment

We’ve mentioned now a few times that safety management systems like Harness lower incident rates, and lower incident rates lead to reductions of your workers compensation and insurance premiums. If you are going to use this as part of your pitch to implement technology with your management team, you’d better be prepared to explain how.

Luckily, we wrote an entire article on understanding how this works through your company’s Experience Modification Rating. Click the button below to gain a better understanding of EMR.

Categories
News Reaction Safety News

OSHA Inspections Increase 3X in 2019

If you’ve never been subject to an OSHA inspection, your time may soon come. In a recent release of fiscal year 2019 activities, OSHA revealed that they conducted 33,401 inspections. This number represents more inspections than in the previous three years combined. The inspections focused on addressing violations related to trenching, falls, chemical exposure, silica, and other hazards.

Are you ready for OSHA?

Here are a few quick tips that you can follow to make sure your workers are ready when OSHA arrives on your site:

1. Have Your Crew Stop Working

There’s no point in continuing to work while the inspector is there. Instruct your guys to take a break or move them to a different part of the site for the duration of the visit.

2. Get The Right Person Onsite Before Allowing The Inspection To Proceed

Establish in advance who at your company is going to work with OSHA. Instruct your onsite leadership to contact them immediately when OSHA arrives and have them inform the OSHA compliance officer that he/she may not access the site until the company representative arrives onsite.

3. Find Out Why OSHA Is There?

Is this a complaint-based inspection, in response to a death or injury, a targeted inspection (government focus on specific industries), or just a random drive-by inspection? Have your company representative ascertain the reason so that you can take further steps to limit the scope of the visit.

4. Keep Good Notes. Share Only Strong Safety Records If Requested.

Have your company rep keep notes of the walkthrough and take their own photos of the items the compliance officer documents. Inspectors will likely want to review the current and prior 3 years’ illness logs and annual summaries of injuries. They may ask for training records such as toolbox talks, as well as for evidence of programs such as: hazard communication, lockout/tagout, emergency evacuation, silica, and bloodborne pathogens.

The speed with which your company is able to respond to these requests will tell OSHA a lot about you. As will the quality (or lack thereof) of the records you produce. If it takes you a long time to send them your stuff, that’s an indicator that you’re not running a tight ship when it comes to safety. They’ll likely want to look deeper.

Likewise, if you’re sending them crumpled pieces of paper with missing information or illegible handwriting, it will raise red flags and could lead to more citations.

Of course, you can make this kind of stuff easy if you’re using a safety management app like Harness!

One thing is for sure, now that OSHA is stepping up their enforcement activities, you can’t afford to be unprepared.

See How Harness Can Better Prepare Your Company For an OSHA Inspection

Book A Demo

Categories
Leadership & Culture Most Popular Safety Best Practice

How KPost Solved Its Labor Problem With Technology

 

KPOST Roofing & Waterproofing is one of the most successful roofing contractors in the U.S.   They’re also one of the most forward-looking.  They were an early adopter of Harness because they wanted to better manage their safety program so they could improve the lives of their workers while also saving time & money.  They’ve continued to search for tech-based solutions to other urgent business problems.

The Labor Issue.

Even KPOST isn’t immune to the problem of finding enough skilled workers. So, when they were awarded the contract to build the 8000 square-foot roof for Facebook’s new data center in Fort Worth, Texas they were excited and concerned at the same time. If the project didn’t keep to the bid schedule, how would they allocate the workers the job required without a negative effect on their other projects?

Technology to the rescue.

Steve Little, a KPOST founder who calls himself “Head Coach” and his staff began discussions with manufacturers of modified bitumen for tools that could reduce the labor required on the rooftop. They found a tool that was primarily being used in Europe and Canada that can apply roofing membrane in a way similar to how a paver applies asphalt to a road. The machine is called a Mini-Macaden® and it’s manufactured by SOPREMA®.

The type of system being applied at Facebook’s data center would ordinarily take a crew of ten people. The Mini-Macaden that KPOST would employ reduced that number to six people. That’s a 40% labor savings!!!

Additionally, this new technology reduced the amount of material waste, propane used and increased safety on the site because there were fewer open flames.

With fewer workers on the job, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume that the job might take longer. But that’s not the case. The Mini-Macaden used by KPOST was actually able to apply the roof system faster so the job is currently ahead of the roofing production schedule.

Doing more with less.

According to SOPREMA’s website, with traditional welding techniques, a crew can average between 5 to 9 rolls per hour. SOPREMA predicted that a four-member team using the Mini Macaden could be expected to install over 20 rolls per hour. KPost is getting more like 16-17 on this Facebook project in the side open areas. Still an amazing improvement.

“Completing our projects much faster allows KPOST to move our crews to the next job quicker, maximizing our revenue potential during the construction season,” says Little.

With a huge segment of the workforce nearing retirement and fewer younger workers entering the construction trades, technology can be the silver bullet. Companies like KPOST have realized this and it’s given them an advantage.

Will your company follow their lead or will you fall behind?

Categories
Construction Technology

Being Smart About Smartphones (How to Select Devices for Your Construction Company)

Software companies like Harness can provide contractors with incredible value but there’s one important element that is often overlooked that can derail any software implementation…

Field personnel not using adequate or properly managed mobile devices.

After all, if the device that they carry is not up to the task if it gets lost or damaged, it’s going to be pretty hard for the foreman to submit that safety report.

In this article, we’re going to identify some of the common problems when it comes to mobile devices and point out some best practices to solve them.

Should You Provide Devices or Let Employees Use Their Own?

Employee Owned Devices

Since most workers these days are already carrying a smartphone it may appear easier to let them use their own devices to access company applications. It’s what’s known as Bring Your Device or BYOD. Some companies have gone this route and provided a small reimbursement to employees to cover data usage costs. While this could be a very cost-effective approach, be aware that there are numerous complications that may befall companies choosing this strategy. Those would include:

  • Lack of adequate device capabilities.

Is the employee cheapest smartphone available or top of the line iPhone? Does it have a 3 inch screen that makes it hard to see the application you want them to use? Since you have no control over what the employee purchases, you need to be prepared for all possibilities.

  • Lack of device protection and/or replacement options

The mobile device is going to be used on or near the job site. What is it’s dropped off the roof, damaged, and the employee doesn’t have the ability to replace it right away. Will they still be able to perform their work? Likely not.

  • Lack of data security

We often entrust our workers with sensitive information such as job lists, estimates, customer contact information, and more. If their personal device is used to access this information, how will we ensure that it’s kept secure? Will we have the ability to remotely wipe lost or stolen devices?

If you’re going the BYOD route here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Create a Mobile Device Policy For Employees that they must sign off on. It should cover:
    • Minimum device standards (screen size, memory, Operating systems, etc..)
    • Required accessories. For example, a protective case
    • Guidelines for handling sensitive company information
  • Invest in Mobile Device Management Software and require it be installed on employee-owned devices. We’ll talk more about that below.

Deploying Company-Owned Devices

While admittedly a larger expense than BYOD, especially at the outset, the level of control that deploying your own fleet of mobile devices cannot be understated. You may well find the benefits far outweigh the costs. With your own fleet of devices you’ll be able to:

  • Ensure a consistent and likely improved experience for everyone in your organization
  • Keep tighter controls on sensitive company information
  • Better protect the physical devices themselves and replace them easier when needed
  • Prevent employee misuse. For example, viewing/downloading porn

Best practices for companies that deploy their own fleet of mobile devices

  • Everyone should use the same type of device.

Keeping things consistent makes managing the fleet smoother. Applications will function the same on every device and you won’t need multiple sets of instructions for end users.

  • iOS vs. Android

I could write another entire article on the differences between these two operating systems. Your choice should depend on a mixture of compatibility and price. For example, if the apps that your team are going to be using function better on iOS, then you’ll likely want to go that way. I will say since Android is open source, it can be found on a far greater range of devices with various price points. If you’re particularly budget conscience, you should strongly consider Android rather then iOS.

  • Tablet or Phone?

Once again this decision should factor in the application(s) that will be used. Some types of apps work better on larger screen devices like tablets. Others can be used with simple smartphones. Engage your app provider to seek advice on what devices types would be best. The unique needs of your users shouldn’t be overlooked either. Is your team made up of extremely large fingered lads that wouldn’t appreciate a dainty device? Get them a tablet. Or perhaps you have a lot of older, farsighted foreman. Get input from your group before making a decision.

  • Accessories

Every device should be given to its user in a ruggedized case of some type. Otterbox makes them for most models. Screen protectors are also good idea considering these devices are going to be used on construction sites and the likelihood of them being dropped or damaged is very real.

  • Keep A Few Extras
  • Having 1-2 extra devices laying around for when someone new is hired or a device is lost is a lot easier than waiting for an ordered replacement and the extra cost should be negligible.

    • Invest In Mobile Device Management (MDM)

    Mobile device management software allows company administrators to enforce security measures on all devices such as passwords, encryption, etc…They can also restrict which types of apps can be installed and web pages that can be visited, thus preventing employee misuse. Devices that are lost or stolen can be remotely wiped of all data at the push of a button. There are MDM options to fit a range of budgets. Some options include Airwatch, Meraki, and Google Apps For Work. More on that last one in a future article.

    What About Connectivity?

    Once you’ve decided on which device is best for your company, you’ll need to determine the best options for data plans and calling from carriers in your area. This process deserves its own article and we’ll be publishing one in the near future as part of our “Ultimate Guide” series.

    Conclusion

    Making smart decisions about the mobile devices your company is using is a good idea. They are going to become more and more important as you seek to solve urgent business problems that require data capture from your field staff. Hopefully, now you understand how to best manage your mobile device fleet.

    Categories
    Cost & Pricing Definitions Leadership & Culture Most Popular Safety Best Practice

    Your Ultimate Guide To Experience Modification Ratings (EMR)

    After labor and materials, insurance is the third highest cost for a construction company.  That’s why it’s important to understand — and monitor — your experience modification rating (EMR).   EMR has a direct correlation to how much you pay in Workers’ Compensation Premiums. The lower your EMR, the less you pay in premiums.

    But to be able to use your EMR to effectively control costs, you must first understand how it works.

    What is an EMR?

    In a nutshell, your EMR compares your workers’ compensation claims experience to other employers of similar size operating in the same type of business.

    It’s the method for tailoring the cost of insurance to the characteristics of a specific business, but it also gives that business the opportunity to manage its own costs through measurable cost-saving programs.

    How is EMR Calculated?

    The actual process of calculating the EMR is sometimes complex, but the purpose of the formula is pretty straightforward. Here’s how it works: your company’s actual losses are compared to its expected losses by industry type. Factors taken into consideration are company size, unexpected large losses and the difference between loss frequency and loss severity.

    EMR usually takes into account three years of claims history, excluding the most recent policy year. For example, the EMR for a policy period beginning January 1, 2018, includes claim costs for the policy periods beginning:

    • January 1, 2014
    • January 1, 2015
    • January 1, 2016

    Who Gets Assigned an EMR?

    Not every business is large enough to have an EMR.  Your workers’ compensation premium has to be above a certain dollar threshold specified by your state before your organization will be assigned an EMR. This minimum premium amount is usually around $3,000-$7,000.

    What are EMR Classifications?

    A workers compensation classification represents a group of employers that conduct similar types of businesses.  Classifications are usually represented by four-digit codes.   Examples of classifications are Roofing (5150) and Plumbing (5183).  All employers assigned to the same classification pay an identical rate (if they are located in the same state).

    Classification systems are based on the idea that workers employed by similar businesses are prone to similar types of injuries. For example, employees who install roofs are subject to injuries caused by falls, burns, sun exposure, and lifting heavy objects. The types of injuries these workers sustain are relatively consistent from one roofer to another. Thus, all employers whose business consists of roofing installation are assigned to the same workers compensation classification.

    Who Calculates Your EMR?

    Your EMR is calculated by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) or in some states, by an independent agency.

    When the NCCI or a state bureau issues an experience modifier, the agency provides an experience rating worksheet. The worksheet shows how your modifier was calculated. It lists the relevant class codes and applicable payrolls, claim numbers and losses used in the calculations. Note that if you have incurred a large loss, only a portion of that loss is typically included in the calculation of your modifier. If you have incurred several small losses, all of those losses might be included in the calculation.

    Pro Tip: Your modifier is generally more adversely affected if you have incurred numerous small losses rather than one large one.

    How Does My EMR Affect my Premiums?

    Your EMR represents either a credit or debit that’s applied to your workers’ compensation premium. An EMR of 1.0 is considered to be the industry average. While an EMR of more than 1.0 is a Debit Mod, which means your losses are worse than expected and a surcharge will be added to your premium. An EMR under 1.0 is a Credit Mod, which means losses are better than expected, resulting in a premium discount.

    Here’s an example of how this works:

    Premium

    EMR

    Modified Premium

    $100,000

    .75

    $75,000

    $100,000

    1.00

    $100,000

    $100,000

    1.25

    $125,000

    As you can see, an EMR of 1.25 would mean that insurance premiums could be as high as 25% more than a company with an EMR of 1.0.

    How Can You Achieve & Maintain a Low EMR?

    Of course, this is the question every business owner wants to know the answer to. So here is a list of things you can do to be more proactive when it comes to lowering your EMR:

    • Contact your insurance agent or review your policy documents to verify your current EMR is accurate. You might be paying more (or less) than you should due to incorrect or incomplete data.
    • Remember that EMR is influenced more by small, frequent losses than by large, infrequent ones. So the fewer losses you have, the better.
    • Create a strong, well-documented safety program that incorporates best practices such as toolbox talks, daily safety analysis, frequent site inspections, and safety training.
    • Use analytics to determine ways you can be proactive about injury prevention.
    • Also create or improve an effective return to work program to help lower your EMR.
    • Make sure that all injuries are reported promptly. Studies reveal that prompt injury reporting reduces the cost of claims.
    • Implement an active claims management program to manage outstanding reserves and focus on efficiently resolving open claims.
    • Train front-line supervisors and managers how to manage injured employees. Supervisors play a key role in managing the injury and recovery process. When there’s a good relationship between the injured employee and the supervisor, chances are you’ll get better results.
    • Practice due diligence during the hiring process. Hiring an employee who is not fit for the essential functions of the job will increase the risk of an injury. Of course, you’ll want to take the appropriate, and legal, steps in your “screening” process.

    Harness Can Help Your Company Lower Your EMR & Save Money

    If you want a stronger health and safety program with better documentation and more efficient workflows, Harness is your answer.

    Categories
    Safety Best Practice

    Your Ultimate Guide To Toolbox Talks

    Toolbox talks are short, informal meetings for field personnel to discuss hazards and safe work practices.  They are commonplace in the construction industry. Most often held weekly, they allow foremen and supervisors to keep safety top of mind amongst their workers.

    Toolbox talks are also a key piece of safety due diligence and they are often provided as evidence when a company is defending themselves from OSHA. General Contractors often request subs submit these records to them as well.

    If you’re like most companies doing toolbox talks, you’re probably doing them on paper. This can bring a number of issues into play such as;

    • Difficulty finding good meeting topics
    • Difficulty distributing content to remote workers
    • Lack of timeliness in workers returning completed talks
    • Poor quality of the records produced. Missing info, signatures, etc…
    • Harder to locate historical records when you need them most

    And let’s not forget how much construction workers hate to do paperwork. This can lead to a lack of participation in your safety process and ultimately to more risk.

    Harness makes conducting & documenting toolbox talks fun and easy:

    • Hundreds of topics in both English & Spanish that can be sent directly to your team each week
    • Capture all the important information about attendees including signatures right from a smartphone.
    • Instant visibility of safety program participation via our customized dashboards.
    • Easily access historical records by project, crew, topic, or person.
    • Share professional looking PDF copies with your GC or customers with a few clicks.

    Harness developed our toolbox talk feature in collaboration with contractors. We’ve found a way of mimicking what was typically done on paper while removing the inefficiencies and strengthening the records produced. With Harness, your team will be completing their toolbox talks quickly and easily. You’ll know that this essential piece of safety due diligence is getting done and getting right.

    To find out more about how Harness makes toolbox talks better, book a demo today.

    Categories
    Best In Class Safety News

    Diamond Roofing Goes Platinum With Harness

     

    Diamond Roofing has two locations in Kansas and provides traditional commercial & residential roofing systems, green roofs, and metal.  Currently operated by the Gwaltney family along with a dedicated team of roofing professionals,  Diamond offers a comprehensive range of roofing services to suit any needs or budget.

    At the recent MRCA Conference & Expo in Omaha, Nebraska Diamond Roofing was awarded by the association safety committee with Platinum status as part of their SHARP safety initiative.  This is given to only those firms within the MRCA that demonstrate the highest commitment to safety.  Each award winner must make a submission of safety program information to the MRCA to be considered.   Their safety program is then reviewed & critiqued by MRCA in-house counsel, Gary Auman.

    Diamond Roofing uses Harness to manage all of their safety recordkeeping.

    Their foreman use Harness daily to conduct pre-trip & post-trip vehicle inspections, toolbox talks, and jobsite hazard analysis.  Diamond employs a full-time safety & quality control manager, Dean Gemaehlich to oversee the activities in the field and he uses Harness to conduct & document safety inspections.  The results are presented in a useful format so that Dean can focus his time and attention where it matters the most.  Best of all, Kevin Gwaltney, his sister Monica Cameron, and the rest of their management team can review real-time dashboards so they know how things are going.

    Diamond Roofing, along with another client of Harness, KPost Roofing & Waterproofing were two of only a handful of companies that achieved Platinum status this year.  Congrats to both firms!

    If you’d like to see how Harness can help you elevate your safety program, book a demo with us today! 

    Categories
    Leadership & Culture Safety Best Practice

    How KPost Roofing Uses Harness

    KPost Roofing & Waterproofing was recently named 20th overall on the Top 100 Roofing Contractors list. The Dallas company also has the enviable title of “Official Roofer Of The Dallas Cowboys” and 2017 Contractor Of The Year. Founded in 2003, the company has grown to over 400 employees and a whopping $65M in annual revenue.

    KPost founders Keith Post, Steve Little, and Jayne Williams worked for another local roofer and struck out on their own with a philosophy of creating exceptional customer experiences and a company culture based on respect & support. That philosophy continues to this day and the results speak for themselves.

    The Problem

    KPost has dedicated health & safety staff that provide training & coaching but they were struggling to get participation from field staff, manage paperwork, and know where they should be focusing their time & attention. This led to a higher risk of incidents.

    The Harness Solution

    Harness worked with KPost to create customized electronic forms for job site hazard analysis, safety inspections, incident reports, and more. Coupled with our toolbox talks, training records management, and document storage features, KPost now has a single place to house all of its safety program information. All their safety stuff can be accessed anytime, anywhere from any device.

    Field staff complete a weekly toolbox talk based on a topic sent out by the safety staff via Harness. They also complete a daily job site hazard analysis that covers how to avoid the risks that they might experience that day. Safety staff follow up with safety inspections to verify that safe work practices are being used.

    All information submitted into Harness is fed into custom dashboards that show KPost management insights such as;

    • Who is & isn’t participating in the program
    • At what the rate are safety deficiencies occurring on their job sites
    • What types of deficiencies are occurring along with their severities

    The Results

    KPost had a few objectives when they chose to use Harness to better manage their safety program.

    • Reduce time spent on administration
    • Increase safety program participating & compliance with policies
    • Lower risk & workers compensation premiums

    One year into their Harness deployment, KPost has achieved the first two objectives. They expect to achieve the third in the next two years as Harness provides the intelligence they need to further strengthen their culture of safety. For KPost, even a small reduction in their EMR will provide them with hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings each year.

    “Harness helps our team complete their safety tasks easier and provides me as an owner real-time views of what’s going on. Harness is also helping us fulfill our goal of keeping our workers returning safe to their families each night.” – Steve Little, President of KPost

    Book A Demo

    Categories
    Leadership & Culture

    Why Your Construction Company Should Break Up With Email And Use Slack

    Why Are There So Many Darn Emails?

    Since it came of age in the mid-1990’s, email has been the most heavily used communications tool in business.  Over 269 BILLION emails are sent and received worldwide each day and the average office worker receives somewhere around 121 emails per day. 

    Emails were useful because they allow for (usually) short concise exchanges with co-workers, clients, and more.  But is email still the best method for all types of communication?  Might there be better tools out there?  Finally, what would be the advantages for construction companies in particular that choose those different tools?

    The average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business.

    Do a quick scan of your inbox.  How many of your email messages are conversations amongst your team?  How many of them are communications with outsiders like suppliers or clients? 

    Independent research by Atos Origin highlighted that the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business. In short, your employees might only start working on anything of value from Wednesday each week. 

    US-based studies by Siemens Group point to the value of this “lost” time.  They estimated that a company with 100 employees loses the equivalent of $528,443 each year.

    Organizations with effective communication are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.

    Since email is the primary communications tool for most companies, if a company has a problem keeping workers engaged, they MUST consider that the method of their communications could be a contributing factor.   A lack of engagement certainly seems to be a factor.  According to a 2015 Gallup study, only 32% of US employees feel engaged with their companies.  This disengagement leads to poor productivity, high turnover, and what could be aptly described as a negative company culture. 

    A separate study found that moving a “disengaged” employee over to “engaged” could add over $13,000 in value to your company.  In the construction sector, where labor shortages are rampant, the need to keep workers engaged is even more important.  Companies must strive to improve communication if they want to attract & retain engaged workers.  And it’s not even just about engagement.  Organizations with effective communication are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.

    Introducing Slack

    In 2013, a small Vancouver, Canada based company called Tiny Speck decided to stop development on a failed online video game and instead launch an innovative chat-based communications tool they had built to facilitate communications between their Canadian & US teams. 

    Called, “Slack” as an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation & Knowledge”, the service grew to become one of the fastest growing products in the history of software.  Slack is now in use by over 8 million people every day.

    “The world is in the very early stages of a 100-year shift in how people communicate, and we’re determined to push the boundaries,” said their founder & CEO, Steward Butterfield.

    Slack is a cloud-based communication tool so it works on all types of devices and allows teams to communicate with each other by sending short messages to the whole team, subsets of the team, or individuals.  Over the past few years, messages have become much richer than just text and Slack is now used to exchange documents, images, and other information seamlessly.

    Teams across the world have found that Slack helps them:

    1. Collaborate online just like they would in person.
    2. Bring the right people and information together in one place.
    3. Communicate efficiently, stay connected, and get things done faster.

    At Harness, we use Slack to focus our internal communications around “channels”, a core feature of Slack.  For instance, we have a channel for discussions between our development team, a channel for marketing, and a channel to collaborate on customer issues.  We even have a channel where we post our latest sales wins. 

    Channels can be either public, meaning they’re available to anyone in your organization or they can be private.  Generally though, Slack works best when the majority of communication happens in public.  Channels all have one thing in common; they contain the entire message history of the group in a searchable archive.  This means, for example, that any new member of our “development” channel could get insights from past discussions or search to find a specific topic of discussion without having to ask a colleague.  When a more specific conversation is needed, team members can direct message each other, start a video chat, or connect via phone right from within the app.

    Slack integrates with nearly everything which makes it even more valuable.  For example, our “new-deals” channel at Harness is populated with messages automatically whenever our CRM system records a won opportunity.  Sharing good news has never been easier.

    Slack In A Construction Context

    Slack’s early adopters included digital agencies, software companies, and other “high-tech” industries but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a great tool for construction companies.  How many of your company’s internal discussions revolve around individual projects?  If you use Slack, each project could have its own “channel”.  All discussions for that project now have a central location accessible to anyone on your team.  Things you might put into Slack could include:

    1. Change order details & approvals
    2. Daily progress photos
    3. Copies of submittals, plans, or other documents
    4. Production issues that need resolving with input from others

    Slack makes sure these conversations are easy to have and that each team member is aware of the outcome.  No need to worry about not including someone on an email chain.  The fact that some of your team will be in the field and some others in the office doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of communication.

    Let’s say that there needs to be a heavy discussion surrounding an issue that could cause significant delays or cost increases on a project.  The foreman on site could initiate a video chat that could include the project manager, superintendent, or even the owner.  Each of those team members could be in a different location.  The details of the discussion could be recorded and posted in that projects Slack channel so that it could be referred back to later by anyone who wasn’t on the initial call.

    Oh Yeah…It’s FREE!!

    Probably the greatest thing about Slack is that you can start using it for free. Unlike some “free” products, you’ll get all the features that you need to experience the power of Slack. When you’re ready the paid plans start at $6.67 per user per month. With those plans, you get a longer searchable history and some more integration options, along with the group calling & screen sharing. Slack is definitely worth it in my opinion. But I’m not the only one that feels that way…

    Construction companies are made up of teams in the same way as tech companies like Harness. So why can’t we use the same tools for internal communications? Better employee engagement, more complete communications, better productivity. These are some of the many reasons why you should break up with email and try Slack.

    Next, click the button below to you read our article on how to select and implement technology at construction companies.