Digital Builder Ep 4: Why Construction Teams Should Prioritize Trust

Autodesk Digital Builder Podcast Episode 4 trust in construction

Across many construction sites, the presence of trust is often assumed. Many professionals don’t think about going the extra mile to prioritize it or may not consider how trust could improve performance. Despite its importance, there’s often not a lot of strategy behind achieving and optimizing a culture of trust out in the field.

What if we approached safety the same way as many approach trust on a jobsite? We’d be in rough shape as an industry if we did not take proactive steps to ensure and reinforce safety. At the same time, we’ve seen that greater trust leads to improved safety on a project.

On each episode of the Digital Builder podcast, we explore important themes from leading experts in the construction field. In our fourth episode, Jay Bowman, Managing Director of Research & Analytics at FMI, and Nathan Wood, Founder & Chief Enabling Officer at SpectrumAEC, join me, host Eric Thomas of Autodesk, to discuss the topic of trust in construction, including:

  • Steps you can take to elevate trust in your company
  • Incentives for prioritizing trust across the jobsite
  • Ways the pandemic has affected trust in construction

"Where breakdowns in communication happen is really where breakdowns in trust happen." — Nathan Wood

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Key Takeaways from Episode 4 

On identifying root causes of breakdowns in trust:

5:15 Nathan Wood: 

Really, at the end of the day, what we're talking about is reliability, and construction is historically an unreliable industry to work in. There are going to be situations where you have supply chain mishaps. I mean, especially in this time of COVID, we're seeing so many of these supply chain mishaps at grocery stores and things that we always typically would look at as being extremely reliable, extremely trusted. I think the more this kind of exposes where those breakdowns in communication are happening is really where breakdowns in trust happen. So then it becomes less about blaming, whose fault it is, and more [about] uncovering the root causes.

On how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected trust in the industry:

27:00 Jay Bowman:

Because of whether it's remote working or other things, we were basically trusted to a crash course in trusting that others are doing what they're supposed to when they're not in the office, on the jobsite, whatever it may be. It has put us on this accelerated path to really trying to reevaluate what we mean when we trust people in our organizations.

On how to build trust within construction teams: 

20:20 Jay Bowman: 

I think of trust as the connective tissue between all of the different aspects or visible outcomes of what a trusting organization or situation looks like. We use terms like collaboration, we talk about IPD, we talk about transparency. All of those things are just different, I would say, outcomes of a high-trust environment. I do believe that leaders in our industry are more attuned to the importance of that. They may not necessarily be using the words, "Hey, we've got to be more trustful,” but they're talking about all those things that are part of that connective tissue of trust.

On why bold ideas need bold conversations: 

23:23 Nathan Wood:

No matter where you go, if you have bold and different and innovative ideas, you're going to face roadblocks. You're going to face barriers. Be prepared to have those conversations. Be prepared to sell the business model, whether it's the business model behind trust and culture, or the business model behind buying tech. It's the same approach of appealing to what that person cares about. What's in it for them? And if it's executives, it's usually financial. If you can figure out how this talks to the bottom line, [that’s] great, because what this provides us is more of this data that we can use to have those conversations and talk up to our executives so that, hopefully, they do a lot of this work and actually solve these problems. It's going to take a lot of work from a lot of these executives to really buy in.

On eliminating fear to build trust:

24:30 Jay Bowman

When I think about, what are the things that erode trust, more than anything, it's fear. It's fear and a sense of the unknown or uncertainty. We may think, “Well, I understand that what's important to me is the bottom line.” To someone who's just starting their career, it may be something else. Having those open conversations, really hearing and listening to what the other person is thinking and being able to translate that to eliminate some of that uncertainty over that fear. That's such a critical element of building that trust between different people involved in these situations.

Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.