Employee Effectiveness (Archived)

RT-011b Topic Summary
RT 011b


Chartered by CII during 1987-1991, RT-11 “Employee Effectiveness Task Force” studied the following three independent topics under the theme of construction employee effectiveness:

  • Open Shop Construction Workers and Their Work Environment
  • Substance Abuse: The Problem and its Solution
  • Employee Involvement in Construction

Open Shop Construction Workers and Their Work Environment (SD-21) – Applying a theoretical framework developed in a non-CII study, SD-21 presents findings related to open shop (non-unionized) workers and their perception of their work environment based on surveys from 404 non-unionized craft workers in the Western Michigan area. The study examined the overall motivational climate for the workers, the influence the work itself had on worker motivation and satisfaction, how foremen and contractors impact the work environment, and the impact of work crews and safety programs on the craft workforce.

Substance Abuse: The Problem and its Solution (SD-32) – The objective of this study was to determine the extent of substance abuse in the construction industry and what it being done to address it. Surveys of contractors, owners, designers (engineers, architects) and labor organizations were used to obtain most data. Case studies of companies who had established substance abuse programs were conducted to understand how those programs were organized and how well they were working.

The study found that approximately 10-15% of people in the construction side of the industry are perceived by owners, contractors, and labor officials as having a substance abuse problem. Designers believe the percentage is much lower for design personnel. Substance abuse has a significant influence on increasing dysfunctional behaviors and, consequently, on costs. The construction cost impact of substance abuse alone was estimated at $8-11 billion. Absenteeism, safety incidents, turnover, and productivity were also all adversely impacted due to substance abuse.

Employee Involvement in Construction (SD-63) – This study examined the topic of employee involvement and its potential applications in the US construction industry. They key objectives of the study were to identify and describe paradigms of employee involvement, organize them into a continuum (from no involvement to total involvement), and identify construction applications of them.

Nine paradigms of employee involvement were identified and arranged into a continuum. Each was analyzed using the following framework:

  • Description of the paradigm
  • Assumptions underpinning the paradigm
  • Nature of employee involvement
  • Conditions necessary for success
  • Costs and benefits of utilization
  • Potential application in construction

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Motivation

Motivation is a factor of both expectancy and incentive. Expectancy, or belief that the tasks at hand would be successfully accomplished if one exerted the effort, was high at 77%. Incentive – the expectation to be rewarded for a job well done – scored much lower at 52% and drove an overall low motivation score of 40%. Respondents rated their effort and performance very positively, and their overall job satisfaction as only moderate.

Applying the foregoing, more strongly linking rewards and outcomes most valued by workers to job performance would increase incentive and hence job satisfaction. Extrinsic rewards (pay, benefits, promotions) were most valued by the sample population in this study. (SD-21, p. 103)

Reference: (SD-21)

2 : Work Environment

Worker motivation is also a function of the work itself. The study identified five basic dimensions of work that influence its intrinsic motivational value: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. The expectation that open-shop construction work would yield a relatively positive motivational environment was NOT realized – workers in this study described their work as fractionalized and “assembly line”, much like a manufacturing industry, with little autonomy or identity. Recreating “pride in craftsmanship” in construction through better task design could substantially contribute to worker motivation, productivity, and satisfaction. (SD-21, p. 58)
Reference: (SD-21)

3 : Foremen

Foremen, not surprisingly, are a significant influence on workers. Foremen who support their workers, involve them in decisions, and emphasize performance create a more motivational workplace. Also not surprisingly, bias and punishment negatively impact worker motivation and satisfaction. (SD-21, p. 105)
Reference: (SD-21)

4 : Contractors

Contractors motivate workers through the four factors of consideration, reward behavior, work facilitation, and performance orientation. Consideration and work facilitation also improve worker performance, and all four impact worker satisfaction. (SD-21, p. 106)
Reference: (SD-21)

5 : Work Crews

The more workers participate together as part of a crew, and the more difficult and clear the crew’s goals were, the greater the motivation of each individual worker. Work crew dimensions also influence work quantity, work quality, and general job satisfaction. (SD-21, p. 106)
Reference: (SD-21)

6 : Safety

Workers did not strongly view OSHA safety regulations as being necessary or influential on their productivity.  Workers did indicate that their employers emphasized safety and that well-written and consistently enforced safety policies, periodic safety meetings, and managerial emphasis on safety all increased the priority that workers placed on doing their jobs safely. (SD-21, p. 101)
Reference: (SD-21)

7 : Seriousness and Extent of Substance Abuse

Owners, contractors, and labor officials all viewed substance abuse in their part of the industry as a serious problem, with design firms viewing it as much less serious for them. When asked to rate substance abuse within their own companies, each stakeholder except labor officials viewed it as less of a problem. The data are unclear whether this difference is an accurate perception or analogous to an addict’s denial of a problem. The percentage of each stakeholder’s firm thought to be substance abusers was also assessed. (SD-32, p. 10)
Reference: (SD-32)

8 : Cost Impacts

Overall design and construction costs were thought to be 6.5-8.5% higher as a result of substance abuse. Part of the increased costs result from higher insurance costs (both health care and worker’s comp). Designers assessed lower impacts in their segment of the construction industry, consistent with their view that the problem is less prevalent for them. (SD-32, p. 14)
Reference: (SD-32)

9 : Other Impacts

Survey respondents all perceived absenteeism, late starts, early quits, safety incidents, productivity, and turnover as being significantly and adversely impacted by substance abuse, on average between 13.6-18.8%. Interestingly, designers report similar percentage increases. (SD-32, p. 15)
Reference: (SD-32)

10 : Responses

A variety of approaches are being used to address the substance abuse problem with establishment of clear company policy being the most widely used, and search/seizure (in liaison with local law enforcement) being least frequently used. (SD-32, p. 19)
Reference: (SD-32)

11 : Drug Testing

Owners are more likely to employ drug testing, with pre-employment testing most commonly used. For-cause testing, including after accidents, is the next most frequently used. All stakeholders overwhelmingly expressed they would NOT hire a known drug/alcohol abuser. A significant majority would, however, hire a recovering alcohol or drug addict. (SD-32, p. 22)
Reference: (SD-32)

12 : Paradigm Shift

The construction industry needs to begin to use a different paradigm from the quasi-scientific management one currently in use. A new paradigm featuring greater worker involvement, responsibility, and accountability akin to the “craft” paradigm is recommended. (SD-63, p. 2)
Reference: (SD-63)

13 : Paradigm Continuum

Nine paradigms of employee involvement were identified and placed onto a continuum, as shown below. Detailed analysis of each, including costs and benefits of using each paradigm, is presented in SD-63 Appendix I. (SD-63, p. 10)
Reference: (SD-63)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved staff turnover, Improved absenteeism, Improved craft productivity, Improved safety

Research Publications

Open Shop Construction Workers and Their Work Environment - SD-21

Publication Date: Type: Research Report Pages: Status:

Substance Abuse: The Problem and Its Solution - SD-32

Publication Date: Type: Research Report Pages: Status:

Employee Involvement in Construction - SD-63

Publication Date: Type: Research Report Pages: Status: