Who is Responsible for Job Site Quality?

I recently came across a project where it did not appear the water-damaged drywall was removed with a high level of care. The customer did not seem to be bothered by the condition of the worksite or the chaotic nature of the demolition. Meanwhile, I was questioning all that I hold dear about the level of professionalism that we should be displaying as an industry. I took a photograph and decided to post a picture (see Exhibit A) in a contractor’s group to get peer feedback on who is responsible for job site quality.

Is job site quality the responsibility of the organization or the technician? 

The Role of Training in Job Site Quality  

An entry-level hire isn’t going to arrive at the contractor’s doorstep with the knowledge and skills to perform at a high level. New team members must be trained. As we have shared before, many employees who have prior experience need to be re-trained. It is the responsibility of the organization to properly onboard and develop their team members to perform the work to the quality standards of the company. While it should seem like common sense for someone to make straight cuts in drywall, pull the fasteners out of the framing, and sweep up after themselves, it cannot be assumed – it must be trained.

One contractor observed, “It’s usually training and not properly setting expectations with the technician doing the work. I have found that the fault usually lies with supervisors/management. Most technicians would be fine taking care of all that as long as it’s explained up-front.” 

The journey to competency must be developed through training, education, and experience, or as Bob Blochinger calls it, “The pyramid of expertise.”

Clear company standards should guide consistent company training.

Employee Responsibility for Job Site Quality

Having come up through the ranks of the property restoration industry, I am familiar with the ease with which managers will cast blame upon their field-level employees. Yet, it is difficult to look at this worksite a little closer (see Exhibit B) and not agree with what one restoration contractor stated, “Whether training was there or not, it doesn’t matter. Any employee with any amount of sense about them, who has a level of courtesy for the property owner, would make the demolition look at least somewhat presentable.” The respondents to our un-scientific survey resulted in the following opinions:

Who is responsible for job site quality?

A. Training – 66%

B. Technicians – 33%

A picture only gives us so much of the story at this job site. The cuts are fairly clean and even straight in a few areas, so we can assume the technicians used some sort of cutting tool with some level of understanding of how the work should be done. Several respondents noted that they thought it was the responsibility of both parties. The majority (66%) believed that the errors demonstrated in the photograph that I shared were the result of poor training.

The DYOJO way: Clarity + Consistency = Accountability

Elevating Job Site Quality

Obviously, job site quality is the responsibility of everyone in an organization. One contractor noted if the employee has been told before then they are responsible. This person remembers when they were getting their start in the industry, “I left a wall like this one time. I got corrected and now I know better. But I work with people who 100% know better and will still leave a job like this and say it’s done.” If a company wants to provide high-quality services, a job site left in the condition of the picture we shared would call upon everyone in the organization to ask:

  • Have we been clear in the communication of our vision and values?
  • Have we been consistent in our training and follow-through?
  • Have we created accountability that transcends direct supervision?

If company standards have not been clear and/or training has not been consistent, management needs to take accountability and get those areas up to par. An organization will not achieve accountability without first establishing clarity and consistency.

If company standards have been clear and training has been consistent, then we move into a performance improvement process.

  • A first offense would warrant documented coaching. The conversation might start with, “Do you see anything wrong with this picture?” People make mistakes, we want to know if they can identify what went wrong and how to avoid recurrence. “We want you here, but I need you to know this is well below our standards. I need you to lock that in, so this is going to be a documented coaching. What do you think should happen if we see a job site left like this again?”
  • After a second offense, for the same or similar issue, we would provide the employee with a write-up, noting the prior incident, retraining, and expectations. In “So, You Want To Be A Project Manager?” we distinguish between honest mistakes and blatant disregard.
  • After a third offense, we must determine whether an employee is unable or unwilling to see the issue and make corrective actions. If they are unwilling, they are not the right fit for the team. If they are unable, they are not the right fit for this role on the team.

Typically, discipline is best-handled one-on-one. Each of these incidents should also be utilized for team training as a means to remind everyone of the team standards. In these settings, we want to communicate a lack of quality by anyone is a reflection on everyone. A customer is not going to leave a review that says Company X was great except for the lack of care by Employee X. They will say Company X didn’t care about job site quality. So, an incident like this is also a good opportunity to ask everyone, “What is wrong with this picture?” In this group setting, we can discuss the shared values and the standards we want to uphold as a team (see Exhibit C).

Jon Isaacson

Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a general contractor based in Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of several moderately selling books and the host of the info-taining DYOJO Podcast. Content from The DYOJO aims to help contractors shorten their DANG learning curve.

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