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Get your site orientation right and have better projects


This article originally appeared in our weekly newsletter the Construction Labor Weekly. Join thousands of construction profressionals and subscribe for free with just an email address by clicking here

Only 12% of US employees say that their company does a good job of onboarding.

Doing a bad job with site orientation is a productivity killer.

Construction has among the highest turnover numbers of any industry.

That means construction companies can’t afford to get their orientation wrong.

Unfortunately, very few companies have a good site orientation process.

Getting this wrong is costing them way too much money.

The good news is that a few easy tweaks can have a major impact on your site orientation process.


The need for effective jobsite level training is at its highest today

The age of the construction workforce is plummeting. New people are everywhere.

We can’t assume that people are showing up on jobsites knowing what to do. The need for effective site training and orientation is at its all-time peak.

Compounding this issue is that site orientation isn’t immediately productive.  

It takes time. It takes planning. It takes attention from your management team.


The impact of an effective site orientation is exponential

Those first few days will have a disproportionately high impact on the productivity of those new employees.

So, ironically, in the pursuit of “looking productive” your site teams may not be spending enough time getting people up to speed.


What can you do to make effective site onboarding work?

From our research there are two primary drivers of site turnover: unsafe working conditions and bad management.

The time to start addressing both issues in during site orientation.

At a bare minimum, set up a time to review your site orientation materials.

Here are the key questions to get answered:

  1. Are your safety expectations clearly communicated? Make it clear what “working safe” means on your jobsite.
  2. Are senior level people from your site management team participating? Even a short welcome to the jobsite from the site leader can have a big impact. It’s important for new employees to see that they are important to the site management team.
  3. Do you talk about the project at hand? What’s the scope? Who is the customer / owner? What’s going well so far, what isn’t? Is there more work after this job wraps up? Giving information about the overall project can be very effective in helping people get up to speed.
  4. Do you discuss your goals for the project? What are the key metrics you want everybody to be aware of? Let everybody know! There are safety, productivity, attendance, and turnover metrics that everybody should be striving to accomplish.
  5. What unofficial message do employees take away from your site orientation? Is the message that they’re a key part of your project team? Or is the message that they’re just another cog in the machine? The more people believe they’re a key part of your company the better effort you’ll get from them.


Finally, look at how the orientation is delivered

Once you’re satisfied with the content, it’s time to look at how, where, and how long it takes.

As your site team to review the site orientation process with you.

  • Where, physically, is the content delivered? You want a place that has enough space, and that people can hear what’s being said. Too big or too small is a problem.
  • How long does the entire process take? Build in breaks. People remember the first thing and the least thing they hear in training. Break up the content, it’ll keep people fresh and they’ll retain more.
  • How engaging is the person delivering the orientation? Not everybody is an all-star presenter. That’s ok. Three ways to deal with this is making the orientation materials visually engaging, brining in site managers to do part of the orientation, and using pre-recorded videos.
  • Do your site supervisors make orientation a priority? Are your supervisors really attending? Are they participating? Are they setting the tone? Are they being leaders for your company? This is critical for a successful site orientation program.


Make site orientation a priority for you and your projects will do the same.