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Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses

Lately, we have been having some hot temperatures that can make working conditions a little dangerous.  Jobs involving high temperatures, such as our concrete company, have a high potential of causing a heat-related illness and our industry has to worry about this more than others.

NCC avoids heat-related illnesses.

Why is heat a hazard to workers?

When a person is working in hot temperatures, their body needs to find a way to get rid of the excess heat to maintain a stable internal heat.  The main way our body does this is through sweating.  While pouring concrete can be long and physical workday, if one doesn’t take care of themselves in the heat.  An individual may become light headed and lose focus on the job, which isn’t only dangerous to you but also to the others on the site.  If your body cannot get rid of the excess heat, it stores it up, which causes the core temperature to rise.  When this happens one may become irritable or sick, and often loose the desire to drink.  Often, this can result in one to faint or possibly even die due to over exhaustion and dehydration.

Excessive exposure to high temperatures can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from  heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and stroke.  Heat stroke can result in death and one should seek immediate medical attention.

How do I know if it’s too hot?

If the temperatures start to rise and the humidity increases, one should start preparing for the heat and watch your intake of water to re-hydrate.  During the middle of the day the sun gets stronger and it can cause your body temperature to rise due to direct sunlight and the sun being hotter.  When you start to feel exhausted and light headed due to the heat, start taking more breaks and make sure you keep on drinking water.

The heat index, which takes both temperature and humidity into consideration, is a useful tool for outdoor workers and employers to help plan for the extreme heat temperatures.

Can heat-related illnesses be prevented?

Yes, they all can be prevented.   Some important ways are to reduce exposure to the sun, but sometimes going to sit in the shade or air conditioning for a while isn’t an option, especially while pouring concrete on a construction site.   While on the job make sure water is available and drink it often.  Staying hydrated is a major way to prevent heat-related illnesses.  Also, have a work/rest cycle where you have rest time to drink water and try to cool down.  Having fans around a job could also be a good idea, it provides cooling for the workers as well as good air circulation.

NCC avoids heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses can be a scary thing when not treated properly.  Make sure you are taking care of yourself in hot temperatures.   Drinking water and taking breaks are a necessity during hot temperatures and its needed to stay healthy to have the best work possible.

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Connecting Three Generations in your Workplace

Many different generations collaborating in the workplace.

Leading employees in the construction industry is a challenging job.  For example, we are a concrete sub-contractor.  It is not uncommon for a “monkey wrench” to get thrown into our day.  The third concrete truck is 30 minutes behind, the last truck is emptied and we are a yard short, it’s windier than expected, an employee twisted an ankle, and the list goes on and on.  Leaders need to be able to deal with curve balls and lead the people on the crew as well.  That’s the easy part right?  I had a general manager in the past that would say” if it was easy anyone could do it”.  It sounded good but didn’t make my job any easier.  It did put things into perspective though.  How do you create a team that works together and creates synergy?  The workplace is populated with mostly three different generations of workers, specifically Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials, which can make it difficult to close the time gap between workers.  The question is, “How do you relate to the multiple different age groups?” and “What can you do to encourage or motivate someone older or younger than you?

With different age groups, there are many different skills to make mesh together.  But dwelling on the differences won’t get you very far on you path to success.  We all hear the stereotypes about each different generation but they are made to be worse than what they really are.  Why do we do this?  We are humans who are not good with conflict.  There are different values between generations which tend to clash in the way we work with result in getting angry and blaming others rather than figuring it out.

The Baby Boomers are getting close to retirement but are still very hard working and great mentors towards the generations below them.  They value the work between a group and a team, which has become a conflict within the workplace.  Baby Boomers have claimed that the Generation X aren’t being “team players” and are very independent.  Now that the Generation Xer’s are becoming managers to the Millennials, new conflicts have emerged.  It has been found that Millennials are more tech-savvy and the “internet generation.”  They seem to crave leadership and more interaction with higher levels of the hierarchy.

How do we mesh all these skill sets and characteristics to work in the same atmosphere?

Dale Carnegie has 9 principles from How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Here are a few:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Smile.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
  • Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves

 

Learn about each generation.  Increasing your curiosity about the different generations can help you connect with one another.  It can help close the gap of each difference.   Showing and telling your perspective on things can create more communication between generations and solve the conflicts that have been made by the different age groups.

Just ignore it.  Ignore the fact that there even is a generational gap.  It is totally different outlook on what I just stated above but it might work out better.  But each manager is just an individual with different outlooks just like every person is a different person.  Don’t look at the age difference or stereotype of the two.  The managers could be opposite from the stereotypes they were given.  Getting caught up in the conflict of generational differences might cause you to miss opportunities the actual conflict that is right in front of you.

Instead, focus on the work that needs to be done.  Give feedback to one another, on both their behavior and its impact.  Identify the underlying interests behind the conflicting workers and simply ask each other questions to get a better understanding of their perspective and ideas.

Understanding one another is a major thing to help resolve generation conflicts.  Listening to what the other has to say can help you make sense of the way they think and their values.  When a conflict comes up, think about the generational gaps but don’t get hung up on it.  It might help you resolve the conflict faster with multigenerational workers.

What are you doing to help bridge the generational gap?  We would love to hear from you.

Branding Yourself is a Key to Success

Whether you’re a large company or a small company, branding yourself is very important.  It’s not just the company that needs it; you need to be branding yourself as well.  Personal branding is just as important as a corporate brand when developing your business strategy no matter what the size of your company is.

There are many benefits of personal branding which helps business growth.  Here are a few cases may help your brand grow.

Case #1 – Personalities Show Through in Marketing

We all are overwhelmed with the amount internet ads, commercials, and other promotions we see on a daily basis, but how many of them are actually remembered?

Creative thinking and personality are needed when forming your personal brand. Proving that you are different than others who create similar products or services will help with your success.  Showing that you capture interest in what you are doing, shows through your work.

Personalities tell so much about the company and who works there.  Association with people, communities, and your workers is a great way to show your personality for your brand.

Case #2 – People Want to Deal with a Human, Not a Faceless Company

When people deal with companies, it is always nice to talk to or see a real person.  For example, on our Northern Concrete website, we use our workers and our projects on every portion of the website.  We create an atmosphere of a real job and not something that looks staged or acted.

Another way we do this is by updating our current job photos in the galleries.  Seeing our current projects and employees doing what they do best helps us brand the way we work.

Also, we have recently switched to direct lines with our telephones.  It doesn’t seem like much but now clients don’t have to go through multiple people to get to where they need to be.  This provides a connection between companies and workers.  Sometimes this only works for smaller companies but bigger companies have their own way for communicating with real people and not a faceless company.

Case #3 – LinkedIn and Social Media

LinkedIn is a great way to create a brand for yourself and the company.   LinkedIn is a great way to make connections between people and companies.  As a student in college, I have learned the importance of LinkedIn and creating connections with people. Following up with your connections can be very beneficial and could be a very prominent connection somewhere down the road. Providing SOLID information on there can help contacts scout out prospects for their company.

As for the concrete industry, many just apply on our Northern Concrete website but what better way to spread the word than through social media and the internet.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blogging are all great ways to spread your brand.  It is also a quicker way to get the word out than by what I call “snail mail”.  Plus in our industry, targeting those that go on these social media sites are the audiences we strive to reach.

Having both a personal profile and a company profile is also beneficial.  Retweeting or reposting something also reaches out to your professional and personal connections.  This allows your brand to spread further by the amount of different audiences reached.

Branding Yourself is a Key to Success

These are only three cases that branding yourself is beneficial.  Show your personality and who you are when your branding, it shows that you are human just like everyone else.

Social media is trending a lot right now and a great way to spread your brand.  Especially, if you are reaching out to the professional world but it is also great to use other sites to reach other audiences.  Don’t hide behind the company logo, branch out and inspire.  Create customer loyalty and show your passion for what you do.  It’s the people, not the brand.

Soft skills needed for Concrete Construction

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Soft skills are important asset to have in any career, from graphic design to construction. Many think that the soft skills are just basic skills and they often are over looked, but they are some of the most important skills. Employers are on the look-out for employees that will bring these skills to the work place.

Unlike job-specific skills, soft skills are hard-to-teach traits, for example, adaptability and strong communication but they can be worked on through experience. If you have these skills, highlighting them in your resume might give you a little boost for hiring. There are three major soft skills that I believe are some of the most important skills to have in the workplace. Communication, problem-solving, and dependability are important in any line of work and it could make or break your employment.

Communication skills are used every single day, whether it is communicating with a co-worker or collaborating ideas for a new project you are starting. Both verbal communication skills and nonverbal communication skills are needed to create a confident attitude towards your work.

These skills become more and more important when you have to start communicating with clients, whether you are pitching a new idea to them or maintaining a long-term relationship with them. Written communication is also very important from writing memos, reports, e-mail, social media posts, and advertisements help the communication to be strong throughout the company and keeps everyone in the loop. Having strong communication skills eliminates misunderstandings and confusion which boosts productivity.

Problem-solving skills are important when something doesn’t go exactly as planned. To problem solve, having a strategy and creative ideas will help to fix a problem. Within some job fields you will be expected to take more initiative to solve business and interpersonal problems. For example, managers will be expected to be quick with their problem solving skills especially in the field of concrete because mistakes and problems come up all the time.

When a problem comes up in the workplace, managers value when employees have solid problem solving skills. Employers don’t like to be left out when an important issue arises so filling in your boss when a problem comes up is always a good idea. Showcase your initiative and resourcefulness by first trying to settle every day interpersonal issues on your own but use your best judgement on when to involve your boss.

Lastly, dependability is a great soft skill to have within your career. An employer obviously wants to count on you to be there and do your job every day. No matter which field you are in you will more than likely have many different deadlines to meet. Employers need assurance that you will be meeting these deadlines and the work will be done with no delay.

Not only is meeting your deadlines important but you also need to have the best quality of work done at the deadline and final project. Meeting the company’s standards is important because it is what creates a brand for them and helps keep clients coming back to their company.

Check out this video that illustrates communication problems and have a laugh.

 

Mistakes in Concrete Construction will happen.

In my years at Northern Concrete Construction, I have been fortunate to have been a part of many aspects in the company. Estimating, sales, operations, and the list continues. At times I covered multiple roles at the same time. One thing that I have learned from the various roles is that mistakes will happen. It can happen in estimating – rebar spacing is 1’ vs. 3’; it can happen in the field – ordering concrete too early causing chaos on the jobsite and something is overlooked. Whatever the case, there will be times when something doesn’t go right. Last week, we had a situation where we had some retaining walls that weren’t up to par. It was clear that they didn’t meet our customer’s standards much less our standards. We dealt with it quickly and resolved the issue. Here is an e-mail that I received from the customer:

Good afternoon Mike,
Just got back from the site and had an opportunity to talk with Zac. The re-poured retaining walls look great……we appreciate your diligence removing the round one walls and re-pouring the retaining walls as quickly as you did.
No, it does not affect our confidence in you…….we know Northern does high quality work. We all make mistakes on projects…..it’s how these issues are addressed and corrected that make a difference.

What have I learned about mistakes?

  • Some mistakes are very minor; have material on the job site in case it requires a little patching or grinding of a foundation. Get to it fast and many times it goes unnoticed.
  • Let the customer know before they find out from someone else. A phone call right away can make a huge difference.

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  • Remember, a complaint is a gift. It’s an opportunity to let a customer vent and share concerns. I believe this is the most important part of the process. Become defensive and your chance of reaching a reasonable solution will decrease. Let the customer know that you understand their concern and would like to work to a solution.
  • Work out a solution quickly and be specific as to the remedy and time frame.
  • Get multiple perspectives from others in your company. Everyone sees through a different set of glasses and multiple opinions will serve you well.

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  • There are times when you have to stand your ground. In situations like this, have all of your facts available and make your position known. I like to do a heart check before making this decision. Really look at the entire situation and ask yourself is this the right thing to do? Your heart rarely steers you wrong.

Here are a couple of things that can help prevent mistakes:

  • Create processes for every position.
  • Create processes for every type of work i.e. commercial slabs, basement slabs, etc…
  • Have after action reviews after every project to go over the project highs and lows.
  • Communication, communication, and more communication.

See more about The Northern Concrete Process at http://northernconcreteinc.com/solid-process/