Onboarding Construction Workers: Setting the Stage for Success

February 17, 2023
Fabrication & Construction
Safety & Quality

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Training, safety, communication, and inclusion are essential foundations when onboarding construction workers to the team. Each one helps ensure smooth project execution for contractors and all stakeholders. Below, we assess the steps and best practices of the onboarding process and identify the importance each has throughout the execution of engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) projects.

These steps include: 

Identifying The Steps of Onboarding Construction Workers

The process of onboarding construction workers determines the success of an employee’s productivity in their new role. The success of a new employee can then affect an organization’s reputation as an employer and a contractor. If new employees have a strong start, this will be present in their work. On the flip side, if onboarding is thoughtless and shaky on fundamentals, it sets the new employee up for failure, as they will not have the knowledge and resources necessary to do their best work. 

Let’s take a look at the first few steps of onboarding construction workers. They are as follows:

  1. Verification: The process of onboarding construction workers starts with verifying documentation. It’s necessary to verify the new employee's I-9 documentation and required certifications. This step is essential in keeping good records and verifying employees' qualifications.
  2. Pre-Screening: The next step is the new hire paperwork. This includes acknowledgment forms for background checks and drug screening. Once the paperwork is complete, the background check begins, and the candidate goes through the drug screening process.
  3. Safety Training: After the new employee passes the necessary drug screening and background check, they will attend all of their safety council classes. The HR representative performing the onboarding process will monitor when they have completed everything.
  4. Job-Specific Training: Once cleared to start, they will notify the employee of their start day, instructions, and contact information for their supervisor at the site. Their onsite supervisor will then provide additional first-day instructions.  
  5. Ongoing Training:  Regular training and retraining should be provided to all workers to ensure they stay current with new methods, procedures, and safety regulations.
  6. Communication: It is important to have an open communication channel for the new workers to raise their concerns, ask questions, and provide feedback.
  7. Performance Evaluation: Regular evaluations of new workers' performance should be conducted to ensure they are meeting the company's expectations and to identify any areas where they may need additional training or support.

With the goal of a seamless onboarding process, once all the new items are completed and verified by HR, the new construction team member will then be able to start, but it is crucial that the construction work has the best first day possible.

The Best First Day: A Scenario

This scenario runs through the optimal first-day experience for new employees. At H+M Industrial EPC, every worker’s first day is used to optimize their strengths, provide all necessary resources to set them up for success, and set high standards for the rest of their H+M career.  

The most successful first day and onboarding process begins with the HR Administrator and HR Coordinator. These are the main people who will oversee the onboarding process and provide answers to all questions. The new employee will have an introductory orientation meeting with the HR Administrator and HR Coordinator to ask all their questions and get set up. After HR, the new employee will have contact with the payroll department. Construction supervision follows a similar process but includes additional onboarding meetings with the HSE department to ensure they are well-versed in additional concepts needed for their role. 

To have the best first day, construction workers must stay organized. The organization must ensure that all areas of the onboarding process are covered, and nothing falls through the cracks. While the HR Coordinator and HR Administrator handle a lot of the first-day oversight, each employee is responsible for much of their own organization. Therefore, paying attention to details is also of crucial importance. 

The Importance of Quick Staffing With Reliability

Newly employed construction worker shaking hands with the on-site manager for the first time.

Onboarding construction workers is essential to the execution of most capital projects. The work we do in the EPC industry can not be completed without their various crafts and expertise. That being said, one of the biggest challenges to building construction teams is balancing the onboarding process with the schedule for upcoming projects. The turnaround time needs to be quick but also thorough. Training, safety, communication, and inclusivity are the key pillars for onboarding construction workers. With these in focus, it helps keep everything well-balanced between quickness and reliability.  

Training

While all aspects of training are important, having workers fully understand the project that we assign to them is key to success. 

Employees should get to know:

New craft workers oftentimes participate in shadowing depending on their level of experience and area of expertise. For short-service employees (employees with less than one year of experience), it is ideal for them to have a senior worker assigned to them to oversee and make sure they understand all the aspects of fieldwork. With more experienced workers, they are ready to start their work.

For training classes, it’s important, as a contractor, to have the flexibility to provide online classes for specific cases, but we must emphasize that taking classes in person is the ideal way to learn. Taking classes in person ensures employees get the opportunity to ask questions and engage in collaborative learning. No matter if the training is external or internal, an in-person structure helps the trainers know where employees are struggling the most and where their strong suits are. 

Safety

All workers need to be briefed on utilizing proper safety techniques at all times. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Utilizing proper tools at all times
  • Utilizing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times
  • Being constantly aware of everything going on around them
  • Having safety awareness for themselves and others

Safety is the top priority and should be shown throughout the onboarding process. As an example, H+M Industrial EPC has a matrix of safety classes that our HSE department manages. Typically, that means that our skilled craftsmen who will be going out into the field take about 7-8 safety courses before they are even eligible for fieldwork, above most industry standards. We feel it’s extremely important to ensure that our workers are as best prepared as they can be for anything they may come across while in the field. 

Communication

It’s important to be flexible and communicate at a high level when working in the EPC industry. Multiple teams and disciplines are working together to complete deliverables. There will often be a lot of communication between disciplines, so while onboarding construction workers, it’s necessary to emphasize the importance of communication. Informing new team members of these expectations is critical. If miscommunications are not resolved promptly, it could mess up schedules and the workflow, possibly resulting in rework.

Inclusion

When onboarding construction workers, fostering a welcoming attitude and environment from the beginning is vital. Construction workers who perform their craft out in the field tend to interact with the home office far less than other employees, which can lead to a disconnect. Leadership must try to shorten this distance and provide ways to connect all employees using their cultural components. To encourage inclusion in the workplace and onboarding process, it’s important to have teamwork and collaboration. Having a team player environment will encourage employees' productivity and will allow new employees to fit in easier.

While training, safety, communication, and inclusion are all essential on their own, it’s more important to utilize these key pillars as a unit. The best process for onboarding construction workers encourages all of these while also adding more to provide exceptional work.

About the Author

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H+M Industrial EPC: The Contractor Fit For Confidence

To set up each new employee for success, the onboarding process must be handled with proper care. Each employee at H+M Industrial EPC has the potential for excellence. The onboarding process must value this potential and provide a process for onboarding construction workers that encourages a community of reliability and trust between everyone. With over 30 years of experience in the energy, terminal and logistics, and chemical industries, H+M Industrial EPC can help every aspect of your capital project with our high-quality services to help benefit a successful project execution. If you are ready to start your project, contact us today!

To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of turnkey projects and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

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For over three decades, we have provided best-in-class capital project management services to Energy and Chemical industries through our proven EPC approach. We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction--on budget and on time.

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