Since beginning the process of developing an iPhone application for documenting construction field time sheets, I began regularly discussing, with fellow contractors, how they record time on the jobsite. I get varied responses ranging from scattered notes in legal pads to sophisticated ID and Chip swiping systems. Some have actually told me that they do not keep or record time at all. Most recently another erector told me that he uses one of the key systems whereby the employees scan their key into a reader at the jobsite and all their payroll hours are remotely collected with time and location data.
It is a tempting proposition. Assemble an army of drones, slap a GPS chip on them, send them out daily and start billing your customers for their time. Every business minded tradesman’s dream.
This erector was obviously happy with the system and it was hard to argue why I wouldn’t do the same. This led me to reflect on why I’d always resisted such methods in the past and why I quickly dismissed the idea of incorporating such a thing in CrewKeeper. The short answer is that I find value in the daily log and timekeeping responsibilities. It is a tool to increase the professionalism and effectiveness of my supervisors and team leaders.
There was a time when I’d first ramped up to over 100 employees out in the field. I was still a long way from having a proper organized process for documentation and data collection. We’d grown from a one man band to an unmanageable colossus. There was a great deal of time spent driving about retrieving and distributing the same paper forms we’d used all along. As the liabilities grew, so did the number of forms needed. It being my nature, I was always looking for a high tech solution. I was aware of some large roofing contractors that used swipe cards and I was looking into a new, at the time, keyed system with mobile readers that could be located on jobsites.
One specific conversation at that time gave me extreme pause with regard to this option. I had a pair of brothers working for me on a crew. One of them had left to go to work with a local roofing contractor. The brother that remained mentioned to me that his sibling was, in actuality, being dropped off daily to watch the foreman’s kids. The foreman would use the crewman’s ID card to swipe his personal babysitter in and out of work. That company had no idea it was paying a roofer to care for another employee’s children all day.
My employee was just commenting about what a sweet gig his brother had. Myself, I was instantly evaluating my own systems and thinking where this could be happening in my operation. Alarm bells rang in my head. Was I paying phantom employees? How would I know? What could I do to prevent it? Very quickly we instituted additional controls and prioritized various checks and redundancies. Ultimately, however, I surmised that if I cannot trust my supervisors and team leaders then time keeping is just one of many serious issues that need to be addressed in my operation.
I would guess that, much like myself, many contractors start out with a pickup truck, a toolbox full of tools and clipboard in hand. With such close proximity to the work, it’s possible to feel the pulse of every facet of your fledgling operation. As a construction outfit grows, the boss’s attention must move more towards administration, controls, financials and sales. Invariably, it becomes necessary to delegate more and more field responsibilities.
Those that you delegate to, the “boots on the ground”, will make or break your success in the construction business. Ask yourself who is running your crews on a day to day basis? If the answer is yourself, and yours is an operation of any appreciable size, then the real likelihood is that no one is in charge.
For me, a daily report from the jobsite supervisor is a minimum requirement for competency as a leader. It is a daily test, a demonstration that the supervisor is focused and in charge of the project. For this reason, I have always insisted that my crew leaders take ownership of their worksite and be responsible for keeping the time for their crew. A daily log of what they accomplished, notes as to current and potential issues further serves to focus their efforts and demonstrate productive, proactive management practices.