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October 15, 2019
Lean Construction, About Pepper

The sun was shining down as I watched our tradespeople high fiving, cracking jokes, getting caught up with former coworkers and meeting new ones. There was a feeling of togetherness, the feeling I hoped we would have as everyone gathered for Pepper Indiana's Trade Appreciation event. 

Personally, there was also a feeling of satisfaction knowing that we were making progress and following through on a commitment – a commitment to make sure our trades understood how much they are valued. 

Showing respect to our tradespeopleLaborers and carpenters enjoyed the Pepper Trade Appreciation event

While we try to show our gratitude for tradespeople every day, sometimes that appreciation can get lost in the daily grind and stress of completing a project. To clearly show that we recognize the hard work our trades put in day after day, we recently hosted this Trade Appreciation event to give our people a break from the job with food, fun and raffles. 

To us, our tradespeople aren't just people out in the field swinging hammers. They're a vital part of our team. We frankly couldn't do the work we do without them, and it's important to recognize them. 

It's also no secret that the industry is facing a labor shortage. We're not immune to that reality, and it affects our people on the job.  But our appreciation event wasn't a knee-jerk reaction to the labor shortage - nor was it a ploy to keep our people here. It was an opportunity to improve relationships and to show them we are listening. 

Empowering our trades

In addition to saying thank you, this was an opportunity to open communication, empower project teams and strengthen our overall organization. 

Pepper Indiana  Trade Appreciation EventI've found that people often only speak up if they feel comfortable doing so. Building connections empowers tradespeople to be involved and approach leadership more freely, whether it's to ask a question, provide constructive feedback, raise concerns or address anything else that affects them and the job.

To maintain a close pulse on what is happening across our jobsites, we recently sat down with focus groups for face-to-face conversations with our tradespeople. We wanted to have an open discussion about what Pepper does well and where we need to improve. 

The Indiana office recently sent a voluntary survey to our tradespeople asking if there were other people who should be recognized for their commitment to safety. The expectation? A handful of responses. The result? More than 50 people giving shout-outs to their colleagues.

So we sat down. We asked questions. We listened. What did we learn?

Although we stress the importance of see something, say something, we learned we weren't as good at listening as we previously thought. 

The trade appreciation event was a direct result of those conversations. And I hope this is just the beginning, because everyone on a Pepper project adds value to our work. 

Our teams are stronger when we work together. We've seen how safety lunches, jobsite activities and simply bringing food or drinks to the jobsite can build camaraderie and openness between individuals. The appreciation event is just one more way to build on that momentum.

Now they know we're listening, and we hope they speak up!

About the Author

Heather Siemers

Heather Siemers, CQMOperations Improvement Leader, Indiana

Heather Siemers began her career in project management and quality management, before being promoted to the position of operations improvement leader, where she oversees Pepper Indiana’s lean program. While serving as director of quality management, she became an advocate for lean construction, integrating the lean principals into the quality program and championing team education and training. Heather is Army Corps of Engineers Construction Quality Management (CQM) certified. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Building Construction Management from Purdue University, and she holds an ASHE Healthcare Construction certificate.

Heather's industry involvement includes serving as Vice Chair for the Core Group of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI) Central Indiana Communities of Practice group, where she has spoken about Lean Thinking & Technology. She serves on the steering committee for the Wabash Valley Lean Network, is a council member of the Top Notch Lafayette advisory board and serves on the board of Rebuilding Together Indianapolis. Heather is involved with the ACIG peer groups for lean and quality and with the Associated General Contractors (AGC). She is also involved with Purdue's Building Construction Management (CM) program, where she has served as a guest lecturer and advisor.