6 Hidden Risks in Your Subcontractor Onboarding

23 July 2021

The subcontractor onboarding process in construction is often done every day on a worksite, and for that reason, it’s easy for many construction companies to overlook. 

But onboarding isn’t just a box to check off the to-do list before work starts on a project– it’s a time for your HSE teams to communicate your companies safety plans, document all workers, and more. 

When companies mismanage their subcontract worker onboarding and orientation process, they open themselves up to risk. Poorly managed onboarding processes can lead to project delays, inefficiency, and even dangerous and deadly scenarios. 

In this article, we uncover the top six hidden risks found in most onboarding processes. 

Risk #1: The Problem with Collecting Subcontractor Paperwork in Onboarding

What percentage of your worker documentation are hard copies of essential documents and certifications? Are you scanning IDs when workers arrive on-site? 

If you’re still doing manual or even semi-manual onboarding, you likely have boxes and boxes of worker information sitting somewhere in, around, or near your worksite. Physical paperwork is a hassle, and it puts you at risk for more than just paper-cuts! 

This creates risk because paperwork is vulnerable to:

  • Accidental destruction
  • Unauthorized accessing of personal information
  • Poor organization and filing practices

Paperwork also has a significant impact on how quickly you can access information. 

There’s nothing quite like hearing stories from the field about worksites that get a stop-work order because of an incident, only for that work stoppage to continue longer than needed because someone can’t quickly find a worker’s records for the accident investigation.

By moving your records into a digital format, you can reduce these issues and add a layer of tracking, transparency, and accountability that can only really exist with digitized information.

Hidden Risk #2: Lack of Standardization in Subcontractor Onboarding

Standardization in onboarding is the process of making sure that every worker is delivered the same base level training regardless of the date they come on-site, who is doing the training, their primary language, or their aptitude for information retention. 

Standardization is a hidden risk if you rely on individuals for the daily delivery of your worker onboarding. 

Every day, in-person training brings different challenges—workers with varying language barriers, different learning speeds, and different specialties and trades. 

Trainers have to deal with all of these individual differences between workers while coping with their own sets of stressors. Workers arriving late or in the middle of training, not being multilingual when their workforce is, or the general stress from spending time doing the training while the worksite is in total production all add up.

When onboarding isn’t standardized, workers are less safe on-site – if a worker doesn’t fully understand a training, if it went too fast for them, or if the trainer forgot to present a section of information, that worker is inherently less safe on your worksite. 

Hidden Risk #3: Data Security

Any company, construction or not, knows that having their data secured is critical to protecting their business from significant risk. 

We’ve seen a trend with hackers taking over entire cities’ databases and holding that data for ransom. We also know that hackers are looking for vulnerabilities in corporate systems as well. When it comes to the onboarding of subcontract workers, it’s critical to recognize that you are collecting personal information from your workers and subcontractors that must be kept confidential and secure. 

If you are using an internal operation for onboarding subcontract workers, how do you know your data is secure? Is your internal solution trained in, or does it have the bandwidth to keep up on data security regulations and new or ongoing threats? Is it able to run penetration testing on their system to find and patch holes? 

Suppose your business uses third-party systems that were not built specifically for your use case or the construction business. In that case, you have to make sure you have someone on your team who is dedicated and trained to keep your solution secure, operational, and protected. 

Hidden Risk #4: The Timing of Onboarding

When new workers show up to start projects, it means vital safety personnel are conducting safety training, collecting documents, and filing paperwork for the first couple of hours of their workday. 

When a site’s foreperson or superintendent is in charge of conducting worker onboarding, you create additional risk for rework because they miss the critical first hour or two of the day when they need to observe and correct workers.

When your safety teams are stuck spending their time in a trailer or classroom, they can’t be looking for hazards and potential safety issues. 

Digital onboarding, whether it’s homegrown or through a platform purpose-built like GoContactor, can cut down the amount of administrative time your safety team has to spend away from the active job site, a massive win for safety. 

Hidden Risk #5: Scaling and Supporting Your Onboarding Process

Manual onboarding does not scale. Meaning, you will have to keep adding people to the problem as you bring on new projects. Your safety personnel can’t be in two places at once, so you’re going to need to hire as your project count grows. People who understand this are often the ones that end up using a professionally created technology platform, mainly because they know that by paying for someone else to build, maintain and support a needed technology, they are also freeing themselves up to focus on what they and their business do best. 

At GoContractor, we have an easy to reach, readily available support team to help answer basic questions that workers, subcontractors, and general contractors have. These can be anything from logging in to the platform, access certain training materials, or setting up onboarding for a new project. 

Hidden Risk #6: Your Industry Reputation with Workers and Subcontractors 

Finally, our last hidden risk is an interesting one – your reputation and brand within your industry with workers and subcontractors. 

As a general contractor, you are affected by the shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry. In the US alone, we’re looking to be between 400,000 to 1,000,000 workers short of what construction companies need to complete their projects on time and without rework. 

Construction workers today own smartphones and use the internet to make certain aspects of their lives more manageable than without technology. A majority of the workforce that companies are trying to attract into the construction world are “digital natives,” meaning they have no experience living in a world without the internet and have an innate reliance on computers and technology. 

This coveted group of desperately needed recruits for the construction industry will be looking to their employer to provide digital tools to complete their work wherever possible. Onboarding should be one of the first impressions you have on any worker, and in turn, will be the first step in a worker or even manager deciding if they want to work on future projects with your organization.

We’d argue that a digital onboarding that allows these workers to complete their onboarding and training at their own pace, in their language, and at a time and a place they choose will leave a better impression on those workers. 

Taking your onboarding online is a solid step in that direction and will help you build a stronger employer brand over the long term. 

Sonya Sikra

Sonya is the Brand Strategy Manager at GoContractor. She specializes in communicating how implementing tech in construction can drive productivity and profit.

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