On February 9th, 2023, Rutkoski Fencing, Inc. (RFI) held a full day of Construction Foreman Training for our project foreman and management team. Our company recognizes that one of our greatest strengths is our staff—the humans we trust to get the job done day in and day out.
Investing in our employees is essential to our company culture and overall success. So to set the day’s tone, our president, Timothy Rutkoski, reminded those in attendance that RFI’s goal is to “not just offer our employees a job, but a career.” And that the role of a construction foreman is “one of the most important jobs in the company.” He continued by reviewing the often time-consuming and behind the scene tasks of managing company structure, accountability, and operations and then took a deep dive into the intricacies of estimating construction projects.
After these opening comments and discussion points from the president, the team participated in a training video, which covered many pertinent topics about the role of a foreman, what it is, and how to balance the complexities of this demanding position.
Defining the Role
The training began with asking, “What position does a foreman play?” making an analogy with a sports team. The answer is more complicated than you think because, more often than not, the foreman is both the coach and an active player on the team.
The role of the foreman includes:
- Acting as a leader and manager on complex projects
- Being the communicative link between the field and the office
- Providing front-line communication with the customers
- Coming in under budget and ahead of schedule
- Maintaining a high level of quality and running a safe work site
- Exceeding the customer’s expectations
So, a foreman is responsible for daily oversight, leadership, organization, communication, safety, equipment, and daily reporting. The module trainer stressed, “it will challenge you mentally and physically.”
Know the Difference Between Managing and Leading
A recurring theme of this training portion was that “you MANAGE systems and processes, but you LEAD people.” Capitalizing on successes means that you try to repeat the systems and processes that lead to that success. The foreman must balance the role of being a manager and a leader. So going back to the sports team analogy – the foreman has to play the positions of a coach and a trainer.
After the module, we began an open discussion, and some of our managers shared advice. Here is what they had to say:
“It is important to stick to work plans. There will be daily setbacks and changes, but as a leader, you have to be able to adapt and adjust.” – Construction and QA/QC Manager
“Daily work needs to be communicated with all crew members, especially if there is a change in the scope of work. Foreman needs to be open to any suggestions made by their crew.” – Construction Manager
“Ask the crew if maybe they have a different point of view or a different way of doing things. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and brings varying knowledge to the table.” – Operations Director
Being the Chief Communicator
The ability to connect the crew to the company was a main takeaway. The module shared that communication is a combination of speaking and listening. Pointing out that if you are always talking, you are never listening. Listening to feedback and leaning towards overcommunicating will be crucial to foreman success.
It is essential to understand that no one knows everything; it takes a team, and asking for help when needed is acceptable. Recognize when there are problems and be able to deliver bad news, but ALWAYS bring solutions. Foreman is responsible for knowing all aspects of their project, including their budget/estimate, job specs/plans, permits/inspections, project schedules, change order processes, and job costing reports.
Own Your Day, Own Your Project
One of the discussion points was for a foreman to learn to recognize the source of stress and actively manage it. Construction foreman must know their work, crew, inventory, and equipment to understand the project’s demands. Projecting your daily and weekly schedule will help reduce the level of stress. Due to the physical and mental constraints of the project, it is critical that a foreman get plenty of rest, eat properly, and constantly prepare for the next day.
The module discussed “7 Tips for Being a Successful Construction Foreman”. They were as follows:
- Continue to learn and grow
- Know your trade
- Develop good math skills
- Build time management skills
- Build your safety knowledge
- Learn how your company makes money
- Maintain yourself in good condition
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Ben Franklin
The introduction to “The Management Wheel” was an important aspect. There were four consistent steps for a foreman to implement and repeat:
- Determine the scope of work/tasks – pre-planning is critical.
- Gather resources – equipment, tools, materials, manpower, capital, time, etc.
- Implement the plan – start what you intend to finish and finish everything you start, do not leave loose ends, and use SMART goals.
- Check the results – check them often!
Leaders need to be able to cast a vision for others and know where they are going before they can lead someone there. That makes planning and communicating crucial.
The Safety of the Crew
Completing and updating a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is also a foreman’s responsibility. They must be able to communicate the job tasks, potential hazards, and mitigation techniques to their crew daily. The trainer in the module reminds us not to “fill it and forget it” – there must be a crew discussion every morning before work begins. Communication is vital – talking AND listening.
The foreman training day ended with an open forum where all attendees shared their thoughts, advice from years of experience, process improvements, suggestions, and reminders.
One of our Construction Managers specified that “Everyone is different. We come from different areas and backgrounds, but everyone’s opinion is valuable. We spend a lot of time together, and it’s important to understand that we must work as a team towards the same goal”.
At the day’s commencement, President Timothy Rutkoski talked about the foreman’s role as their crew leader. And ensuring that our leaders are adequately trained and competent within their job duties is paramount to individual, project, and company success and satisfaction.
RFI has invested generously in the training and competencies of our management and leadership team. In addition to the OSHA standards and requirements, We go above and beyond to provide all employees with company-specific and position-specific training. Our company firmly believes that if we expect the best from our employees, we must provide the best tools and resources.
RFI’s 2023 training itinerary includes conducting more in-house training, especially highlighting advanced equipment training and OSHA topics. Educating our employees is one of the most important ways we can continue to be leaders in our industry. We are our people, and our people never stop improving.
Are you interested in partnering with a contractor who invests in safety? See the benefits by downloading our whitepaper here.