Dealing with Subcontractor
Dealing with Subcontractor

9 Effective Ways to Deal with Underperforming Subcontractors


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When a subcontractor isn’t performing or working according to the terms of the contract, any construction projects might turn from a dream project to a nightmare. In other words, the entire experience can also be worst for both the contractors and owners. Underperforming subcontractors disrupts workflow as the whole project, creates unforeseen delays, and inflates labor costs. If this issue isn’t acknowledged and resolved right away, it can cause real havoc to the overall project and for project managers as well.

In the first place, project managers should not only focus on how they can solve this performance issue right away but also what tools they can use and implementations they can execute to help them achieve effective resolutions. Among the advanced tools featured in the construction industry, construction project management software stood out from the rest. This offers many project management features that help contractors and project leaders in managing projects.

Let’s go now to the ten effective ways that help PMs in dealing with underperforming subs. 

1. Create a Collaborative Community 

Project leaders shouldn’t let a poor underperforming subcontractor catch them off guard. In many usual cases, you don’t have to assume that you don’t know something to see any issues that are coming. PMs have to nurture and create culture transparency and, most importantly, communication. By doing so, it will easier to spot a particular issue before it arises. Creating a collaborative and uniform community between all crew involved is much easier when a software tool is deployed. The best construction management software like Pro Crew Schedule is proven to be useful to the greatest extent when it comes to organizing crew members, resources and any construction projects.

2. Deal with the sub’s underperformance ASAP

Project managers or contractors have to deal with the attitude and behavior immediately a subcontractor has exposed during work. If they choose not to acknowledge it as soon as possible, it was instead like indirectly saying that the behavior itself is acceptable and tolerated. As a result, it sets a wicked precedent for both coworkers and the rest of the team. As a project manager, you have to confront the subcontractor directly and make sure that it will be in the most professional way.

PMs need to be observant of the ongoing performance showcased by the subs. One way to observe them in the most meticulous and effective ways is by using crew schedule software. Additionally, make sure that the sub can understand the situation, the behavior he has shown, and the effects of such action. Make sure also never to proceed until you and the sub are both transparent with each other.

3. External Factors Have to Be Understood First

Other than being a wise, logical, and strategical type of person, project leaders must empathize. Project management for construction projects is one of the many priorities, including crew management and many other more. However, having sympathy is another priority and a thing always to consider since it is another level of understanding to the crew.

To make it clearer, underperforming subs can do such inappropriate behavior again even after pointing it out and giving clarifications already. If the performance issues have started to reappear again, there might be a chance that the response is a significant result of external factors. The underperforming subcontractors are probably facing personal issues that affect their way of thinking, well-being and behavior.

Personal issues they are facing could be about relationship bumps, heath illness, financial, or perhaps it can be more than that. However, it doesn’t change the fact that these employees are going through something serious. Project managers have to be extra patient and understanding to anyone, particularly the crew members who have been emotionally and mentally distraught.

4. Know what motivates the subcontractors

It wasn’t easy to direct someone to do tasks without understanding what makes them genuinely motivated or inspired as an individual. Project Managers are given many options to get to know their team even more. Taking time on a regular basis to know further employees is one of many effective ways to gain information. A way of monitoring them closely as possible is through the use of builder trends software. The application is being used already by many project leaders in the industry.

Firstly, ask questions about them. Below are sample questions any project manager can ask to the subs.

· What are your aspirations in life or your long-term goals?

· What can you able to do to support other coworkers much better?

· Where would you like to see your career headed for the next five years?

Asking questions like this promotes open-communication and enlightens crew members. With the responses you have been directly getting from them, a project manager like you now has intimate and specialized knowledge of all employees’ aspirations and motivations. With all the gathered personal info, it will possibly be easier for you to assign the right roles for each employee. Assigning roles and tasks is easier now that a builder schedule software exists. Scheduling, monitoring and tracking crew is more efficient than ever.

5. Create performance goals together

When dealing with a particular sub who has performance issues, it is crucial that you exclusively include them in creating individual performance targets. The creation of this implementation is made easier using construction scheduling software. A software tool like this is designed to make the work easier for PMs. The next thing to do is ask the subs directly about how they would prefer to improve, the things they desire to achieve and the sets of skills they eagerly wanted to learn.

It is also the perfect time to implement construction crew management and to set SMART performance goals. SMART means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Framed). While performing this strategy, it is also equally important not to create specific criticism. On the contrary, it is much better to ask questions with one another rather than a project manager like you will only be allowed to ask and talk. Take a look at a few sample questions below.

· What can we do to ensure that our goals improve?

· What can we implement together to prevent these performance issues for the months and years to come?

· How the crew members contribute to the team?

With all the listed sample questions above, it will encourage a personal “buy in” for the crew in terms of their performance goals.

6. Reward Improvements

Project managers should ensure that they have to consistently point out essential matters and start to recognize further the progress every subcontractor has made. It is best to congratulate them personally and grant them a reward afterward. Never practice favoritism or alienation towards the team members. By consistently showing genuine appreciation, the crew members can be more motivated in doing work and away from any possibility of procrastination or underperformance issues.

In giving feedback, PMs should continue to do it and reward them with anything relevant to financial incentives. Additionally, a humbling appreciation like “well done”, ‘thanks to you and “you’re doing very great!“, could mean so much to the employees. 

7. Arrange a Follow-up Process

You are considered one great manager if you make sure to follow up with your employee right after discussing his performance. Once the SMART performance goals have been agreed with both parties involved, it is time to monitor the progress on a regular basis. If a particular sub has been assigned recently with specific tasks and is asked to complete it by a scheduled date, the project leader must ensure that they are going to finish it all.

The majority of the team will appreciate this setup or structure at work and respect your due diligence as their project leader. Showing genuine interest and support in the work of the employees and subcontractors can considerably boost the company’s morale and culture.

8. Execute Subcontractor Performance Assessments

One of many excellent ways, in order to keep the project moving forward, is to conduct subcontractor assessments specifically about performance. For PMs, having a standardized form to fill out from time to time (by every completion) can help determine all patterns of poor-quality production as easy as it can be. In addition, it creates uniform criteria that are used to compare the performance of every subcontractor involved.

Everyone works very harder when they are aware that they are evaluated and being watched by the superiors. On the other hand, project managers are asked to be more professional and shouldn’t let their superiority status get into their heads. They shouldn’t think of this as a micro-managing and authoritative procedure but a very crucial process for improving accountability and visibility on the job site.

9. Supplementing the Underperforming Subcontractor

If a subcontractor is currently dealing with relatively or temporary minor performance issues, a better option to take is to offer them a hand through supplementing their respective workforce. This, by all means, is to complete some add-on workers or perhaps to minimize the scope of their work. Probably the best bet for this will be limiting their respective contract only for labor. A project manager can handle the supplies for any additional materials, tools and equipment. Nevertheless, it could impact the subcontractor’s ego, yet it will only be an easy way to keep the work on track. To supplement a non-performing sub may be worth the chance.

Key Takeaways


If project managers tend to fail many times in managing the subcontractors – they have to know further the many consequences it gives and that it leads to project delays, inadequate work, disputes, etc. However, there are always resolutions to such issues, one of which is to work closely with subs on different levels. It is a much better approach compare to taking drastic measures.

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