“Attitudes have changed a lot.”
Timo Pinomäki, Risk Management Director of the Construction Group, quickly discovers whether or not there is a culture of free discussion in a work community.
“When I visit the construction sites, I notice that some people talk a lot, and some listen more.
The management has a lot of influence on how freely things can be discussed at site meetings and at the site in general. Some supervisors still have somewhat old-fashioned ways of communicating unilaterally about the site operations and progress, while others involve workers and talk to them.
The geographical location of the site also affects the discussions.
The geographical location of the site also affects the discussions. The people in meetings in the Savo region are quite talkative and relaxed, as well as in Lapland, but in some other parts of the country the meeting discussions can be quieter. However, that does not necessarily indicate how freely employees feel they can express their own thoughts, but it does say something.
Our group’s supervisor and management trainings encourage the creation of an open discussion culture. Attitudes have changed a lot in a couple of decades, as in the past, the management said what the workers should do, and the workers did what they were told.
After the early 2000s, construction companies began to bring workers into the discussions, especially when planning difficult and dangerous phases of work. Nowadays, it would seem weird not to listen to the workers as listening to everyone’s experiences produces a high-quality and safe outcome.
Guilt leads nowhere.
Mistakes and mishaps are also part of the work and they are discussed in joint meetings. Guilt leads nowhere, but we should be able to learn a lesson and address the underlying causes. It should be possible to report mistakes in an open and safe environment to be able to address them as early as possible. An open discussion will help to eradicate mistakes. We all make mistakes, but we should not repeat them.
The construction sector is one of the most strictly regulated industries, as everything is based on contracts and precise plans. Legislation and customers’ instructions also have a lot of impact on the way things are done. It is the main contractor’s responsibility to induct each employee, and work guidance still needs to be taken care of at different stages of the project. Safety regulations are absolute on construction sites, and there is not much room for discussion.
Tight schedules in Finland do not help to improve the culture of discussion. However, we need to find that time as mistakes and poor quality might potentially be made without communication, which, in turn, causes unnecessary haste and hurry.
The absence of a common language increases the possibility of problems.
The construction sector is very international, especially on the construction sites, but also in the infrastructure sector we have people from countries such as the Baltic countries, Poland and Ukraine. The absence of a common language increases the possibility of problems. Even if everyone could work together, open communication suffers because of the language barrier.
Usually there is someone at the site who knows a common language, but the Chinese whispers effect, i.e. inaccurately transmitted information, is still possible. Long subcontracting chains can also complicate communication. In the infrastructure sector, however, we do not accept long subcontracting chains, as they obscure responsibilities and complicate interaction.”