shortages of materials often result in the substitution of lesser-quality materials or even counterfeit items that do not meet specifications.
Demographics and the Construction Workforce
The nature of the construction workforce is changing dramatically. Generational changes that affect all of society, also affect construction workers. What motivates people, attitudes toward work and employers, perceptions of time, and standards of quality are examples of areas where worker perceptions differ, depending upon various generational categories.
Cultural diversity is also changing throughout the industry. In addition to differences noted above, this brings diversity in language, religion, and social customs.
The construction worker has traditionally been personified as white, Anglo, and male, although minority groups have always been represented. As minority groups increase and the proportion of white, Anglo, males decreases, the workforce can no longer be thought of as monolithic. It is very diverse in many ways, including gender, race, and language.
The supervisor must become proficient in leadership skills in the context of a diverse environment. Directing labor with a heavy hand is neither acceptable within the current culture nor is it effective. Although the supervisor takes ultimate responsibility for the efficiency of field operations, the effective supervisor will engage workers in planning and designing the construction processes, taking advantage of diversity in the workforce to develop more effective solutions.
Understanding of Construction Processes
Construction processes continue to evolve. Traditional “stick building” is giving way to prefabrication of assemblies, and installation of these assemblies. Prefabrication has many advantages, including improvements in productivity, safety and quality. Installation of assemblies tends to be less technically challenging than more traditional construction methods, allowing successful incorporation of a larger proportion of lower skilled workers on the site. The supervisor must learn how to effectively employ lower skilled workers in mixed crews consisting of a few traditionally skilled craft workers and various degrees of lesser skilled workers.
Recent developments in the application of lean production methods to construction, as described in Chapter 15 are providing a much better understanding of the complex processes involved in construction. As supervisors understand the processes better, they can manage them more effectively. They can also find ways to improve the processes leading to opportunities to execute projects at lower cost, more quickly, with higher quality and fewer accidents.
The project delivery system, or the way construction projects are packaged has a profound impact on the supervisor’s role. In the traditional design-bid-build approach, the supervisor has a completed design prior to starting the project. Few questions arise during the project, except those resulting from errors and omissions in the construction documents. However, at the same time, there is little latitude for