What Construction Project Managers Seek in Beginners

Project management is a handful by itself, what’s construction project management, you ask?

The rise of the construction project manager was long heralded by distressed project managers, who field a barrage of questions from clients and senior management when things go wrong.

A very overwhelming position to be in—you can probably tell—that rightly yearns a partner who would stand through thick and thin—the construction project manager.

So what exactly does a construction project manager do? The shortest answer: what the project manager doesn’t. Now, for the part most easily misrepresented and dizzyingly specific but once you know it, you would certainly be hit with that epiphany whether you should—or maybe not—consider a career in it.

First, let’s walk through some facts bearing influence on the profession.

Deep-Dive into Construction Employment Statistics

With the sectoral growth projected at 4.5 percent, employment demand for construction staff will outpace other industries. By 2028, managerial staff demand is expected to grow 10 percent with construction managers occupying top slot.

A bachelor’s degree in construction management, or civil engineering, or construction science is widely regarded as an essential first step—however, candidates with hands-on site experience have bagged managerial positions without facing reservations. It really depends on personal circumstances whether you’re able to afford tuition or happen to connect with a construction professional willing to offer you an apprenticeship.

Multi-disciplinary construction firms prominently look for candidates possessing both—a good academic standing and a reasonable level of site management experience.

As with comparable designations, the median salary for a construction project manager goes up to $93,370, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Entry-level applicants—forming the lowest 10 percent—made less than $55,240 while those with multiple years of experience earned over$161,510.

Median averages differ by sub-sector whereby CMs in the heavy and civil engineering construction niche earned $97,180; those in the non-residential building construction made $95,150; specialty trade contractors grossed $90,170, and CMs of residential building construction projects earned $83,640. Earnings vary widely based on the CMs ability to generate fresh business that usually helps them make multiple thousands in bonuses.

With the increased competitiveness sparked by applicant fervour for this role, the way they’re hired has changed to even them out.

More construction companies in America are hiring by specialization, nearly 75 percent of construction managers bringing unique work experience were independent contractors on projects with specific needs. Several project managers desire that construction managers have experience handling commercial, home remodelling, and civil projects, which typically calls for a background in a related field.

Armed with this statistical brief, how can you make a strong case for getting hired as a CM? Zoom in to know-how.

Being an Effective Construction Project Manager

There are one too many self-help books claiming to encapsulate what’s sought after in a project manager. From having clear communication to a collaborative leadership style—they all aim to point you to directions you’ve seen far too many times but lesser explained in concrete profession-specific terms. And it isn’t hard to sway beginners with larger-than-life concepts with little to no resemblance to what they may actually end up doing on a construction job site.

While a construction project manager’s role will differ from project to project, most of us can agree on a standard set of responsibilities trickling down to everyday tasks.

Among the wide range of skills and individual characteristics of a CM, here are some that stand out, perhaps, more noticeably than others.

Managing diverse projects, teams, expectations

Construction managers work a variety of projects, from small-scale renovations to mega civil projects wherein variables of success differ tremendously.

In every project, they must make the budget co-operate with timelines, hence, requiring that project staff be on target. Often projects involve workers of distinct backgrounds and professional standings, which can potentially cause disagreements to stretch beyond professional bounds.

Volatility in construction projects spurred by market changes and weather can lead to friction among project teams. Project managers moreover field change orders for work deemed defective as a result of team conflicts, further increasing cost baselines and delaying project completion.

A CM handles on-site issues as they emerge, disarming premature tensions before they snowball into uncontainable risks. Construction managers need entry-level talent to have a foresight into such project challenges and demonstrate that through past work experience.

Making teams work like a well-oiled machine starts with deconstructing client expectations that evolve over the project lifecycle. Cooperating external with internal dynamics will enable CMs to better control project outcomes.

Knowing what every team member brings to the table and capitalizing on their strengths not only will earn you their respect but improve your client’s bottom lines multifold.

Managing avoidable and unexpected risks

Planning for a project starts weeks before the first layer of dirt is turned. At the same time, the extent and type of risks you may face partially hinges upon the strength of the construction project plan.

Frequently dealt with project risks can be ascribed to inaccurate budget and resource allocation that reflects what wasn’t accounted for and what it would cost to amend discrepancies, depending on which phase the project is in.

What you definitely don’t want happening is your project getting tanked because of unmanaged avoidable risks. To mitigate risks, a CM has to think through them right from the beginning—the initiation phase. Dubbed to be the most crucial stage in construction project management, feasibility tests conducted to review the constructability of planned design specifications help predict where risks might occur, and plausible corrective action.

Vital to a construction manager’s skill set, risk assessment, and handling keeps a project on track regardless of changes or contingencies striking its regular course. Imbibing a risk-aware culture takes a conscious effort to groom field workers in reading scope documents, engaging them in risk planning, and noting their concerns for constant quality improvement.

Understanding 3-D build process

You’ll notice that a construction manager’s job description will list “must have experience using relevant technology” as one of the top selection criteria.

New trends in construction technology are radically changing how things are done—but with that, it is also invariably shifting the CM’s role. The pre-BIM era had CMs record project data in bulky and clunky folders that by the time got into someone’s hands could easily have been re-arranged a few times. This made the project data assimilation unimaginably hard for decision-makers struggling to maximize efficiencies.

With the introduction of BIM, CMs are able to integrate past project data with the ongoing while encouraging contractor and subcontractor teams to exchange files and mark them up with comments to sustain a healthy chain of communication without information getting lost in the process.

Designing and building through 3D models are almost indispensable today, and coming prepared to work projects using this technology can push candidates to the front of the slush pile.

Managing project communication workflow

Inefficiencies ripple through the entire project—from suppliers delaying material delivery to contractors leaving project reporting for the eleventh hour. Discover the harsh realities of being a construction project manager.

Open and transparent communication lines help everyone raise and get resolved issues that otherwise get suppressed by the red tape.

Creating a centralized communication platform—typically through construction project management software—synchronizes ground staff with the office team which prevents progress updates from blipping off the project radar. A construction PM co-ordinates with a variety of skilled workers from construction foremen to architects. They need to have a malleable communication approach to meet end goals with different groups.

Through a robust project management software, a CM is able to make a bigger room in their schedule to attend to real-time construction site issues. Errors, if any, are visibly manageable since stakeholders record their notes and inputs on it, making it hassle free for CMs to firefight and keep projects under budget and on schedule.

Managing finances from initiation through completion

A hot ground for risks to the surface, project finances are prepared much before bidding takes off.

A project’s budget is the second-most critical document created after the construction project plan, as it answers what’s financially doable and what would prove to be a drain.

Not only should a CM account for die-hard project components, but they’re also required to budget for contingencies directly affecting project baselines.

From bidding to invoicing, CMs are responsible for tracking and overseeing costs since budgetary changes are inevitable yet shouldn’t derail estimates by a huge margin lest a project’s viability is endangered.

The acumen for budget management precedes the ability to meet project expectations. Overruns and financial risks can overwhelm project owners to a point where they may have to consider shutting down shop.

Hence, staying current with construction budgeting software and techniques will save you from inadvertent errors whether in the bidding phase or implementing lengthy change orders.

Managing project integrity

A core construction manager’s responsibility is to match quality with cost by fulfilling safety parameters and contractual obligations. A budget sets primary baselines for overall project expenses; however, it’s subject to changes based on developing project circumstances that need a CM to be on top of them. Unexpected costs will arise—no matter how meticulously you’ve planned, but the real key is to effectively damage control along the way without cutting corners on quality.

Situations where workers have sustained injuries on job sites either due to poor safety protocol or individual unprofessional conduct, they can quickly escalate project costs into several thousands, even millions, by resolving damage claims. Putting out fires while still meeting contractual terms is a challenge and why most companies desire skilled managers adept in all areas of project management.

Managing continuing self-education and expertise

Construction project management training includes multiple facets—from strategic planning training to on-field tradesman ship. Clients seek certified construction managers who bring hands-on experience with a solid theoretical grounding in high-level concepts.

CMs must consider pursuing industry certifications namely; “The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA)” and “American Institute of Constructors (AIC).” These in-demand certifications strengthen a person’s related academic and professional training. Some states and provinces need licensure for construction managers—attempt to have these met before applying to positions.

Construction project management is rife with opportunity and perils. But with the right mindset, training, and approach, you can incrementally turn the odds in your favor.

Gagandeep Bimbh

Gagandeep Bimbh

Gagandeep Bimbh is a digital content strategist invested in weaving context-rich stories intuited on the changing needs of diverse audiences. His words are guided by strategic writing principles acquired over the last four years working with communications firms and digital marketing agencies. This article was written on behalf of Procore, a world leading construction management solution.

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