Document Detail

Title: RR215-11 - Work Force View of Construction Labor Productivity
Publication Date: 12/1/2006
Product Type: Research Report
Status: Reference
Pages: 270
Goodrum, Dai, Maloney, Univ. of Kentucky
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Stagnant productivity and the shortage of craft workers are the two major challenges facing the construction industry. As the major player executing construction processes and activities, craft workers have an important impact on construction productivity. Craft workers are certainly in the ideal position to know where and how much of a site’s productivity is lost or gained at the work face. However, craft workers’ input and their perception of the factors that influence their ability to be productive has rarely been sought by either practitioners or researchers in the construction industry. Worker participation has been proven to be one of the most successful approaches to boost productivity. Therefore, it is important to engage craft workers in construction productivity improvement.

In 2004, CII commissioned RT 215, Work Force View of Construction Productivity, to study construction productivity from the craft workers’ perspective. Specifically, this research identified the factors affecting craft workers’ ability to be productive, examined the factors’ relative magnitude of impact on construction productivity and solicited solutions from craft workers. Based upon the extensive information collected through focus groups and survey efforts, the research team reached the following conclusions:

  • Craft workers have a good understanding of construction productivity. Craft workers not only confirmed the factors that have an impact on construction labor productivity but were also able to provide more information and greater insight to their root causes;
  • The major factors affecting construction productivity are associated with construction equipment, engineering drawings, tools and consumables, and materials, which can be alleviated through efforts on the jobsite;
  • Even though there is consistency throughout the work force about the major factors affecting construction productivity, the impact of individual factors varies by trade and project characteristics;
  • Productivity needs to be examined from a behavioral aspect. There are many intangible productivity factors pertaining to communication, labor, supervision, and project management, although they are generally less severe in comparison to more tangible factors, such as construction equipment.


RT 215 developed a tool, the Voice of the Craft Workers (VOW), which presents the research findings and assists jobsite management teams in managing the factors affecting construction productivity. The VOW tool can be used to identify the factors with potential to affect certain projects and to identify solutions as well. However, it was found that the factors’ impact on construction productivity did change from project to project. As a result, contractors need to identify the specific factors affecting their projects by engaging their craft work force. The VOW tool was pilot tested on two jobsites. The pilot test results indicated that successful application of the VOW tool allowed jobsite management to identify the factors affecting craft workers’ ability to be productive and improved crafts’ motivation.

This research is one of the few efforts to exploit how to better utilize craft workers’ knowledge and experience. The extensive amount of craft workers participating in this research not only proved that craft workers can contribute more, but they are also willing to be more involved in the construction process.

This research also helps direct industry and academia to better understand the major factors affecting construction productivity. In particular, more efforts are needed to improve the onsite management of construction equipment, engineering drawing management, the availability of tools and consumables, and materials in order to improve construction productivity efficiently.