YIT's construction sites have remained open and work has continued throughout the pandemic, and new sites have also started. What has it taken from the management at the group and site level to survive the pandemic?
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020, the entire construction industry feared the worst. However, these fears were not realised. Instead of construction stopping because of the pandemic, it challenged the construction industry to develop.
The pandemic is not over yet. Although vaccine protection is at good level in Finland there are still people in our diverse construction sites who lack protection. Therefore, the Covid-19 work will continue even if I give our company an excellent mark for the corona control, we´ve done so far. We are a large company that has had and still has infections, but we have been able to stay on top of it, react and act quickly, which has saved us from major disasters," says Salla Hälikkä, Occupational Well-Being Manager at YIT. She has been part of YIT's coronavirus preparedness team from the beginning to create situational awareness and guidelines from the perspective of health safety.
According to Hälikkä, YIT's success is explained by the fact that the coronavirus preparedness team started preparing, building networks and forming a common tracking model for large construction companies in time.
"There have not been many situations in which we would not have had an operating model to go by. The management and employees at both the group and site level are committed to comply with them, so we have succeeded well so far," Hälikkä says.
From policies to operating models with agile management
The pandemic has been a critical test for the management culture in many companies. According to Research Professor Jari Hakanen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the way in which a company is managed through uncertain times and changes impacts employees' trust in management. The leader's role is important in a time of crisis.
"Even if a manager or supervisor does not know the answer to every question, they can dispel uncertainties by creating openness, shared experiences and trust in the future," Hakanen says.
At YIT, the pandemic has meant close monitoring of the continuously changing official recommendations as well as systematic and agile management at both the group and site level.
"Our management has quickly set policies and made decisions on the basis of the preparedness team's drafts. The pandemic has required construction sites and production management to react quickly and introduce new operating models. They have been very successful with this," Hälikkä says.
Good hand hygiene, avoiding contacts, recommending remote work and the obligatory use of masks. YIT's most visible policies have been very similar to other companies' COVID 19 guidelines. In addition, YIT has made smaller decisions almost daily. According to Hälikkä, the clear line management in and the process-like nature of the construction industry have been useful in pandemic communications.
"The organisational model has a clear framework in which information is distributed. The process-like nature has required the preparedness team to draw up clear and precise guidelines."
Faster responses and a more creative approach to management
COVID 19 has not stopped the daily work at construction sites, but it has changed the usual job descriptions and brought with it some additional duties.
"The increased workload and renewed working environment require supervisors to be even more accessible and have a more flexible and creative approach to management, whether it happens remotely or on-site," says Construction Manager Juuso Rapeli from YIT, who leads construction projects and acts as a supervisor for project teams, that is, on-site personnel.
Particularly in projects that started before the pandemic, the special measures required to prevent the virus from spreading could not be taken into account in the original site and project plans.
"Above all, this has required quick responses and creativity from the project team as well as a certain amount of discipline and firmness to ensure the safety of everyone working on the project," Rapeli says.
A good example of rapid responses and creativity is the quick mobile testing to trace COVID 19 infection chains at the Helsinki Koskela residential construction site, which is managed by Rapeli. The detected infection cases meant that project management had to make the quick decision to close the site in order to minimise potential exposures and infection chains.
"We are grateful to the project staff, who, under the direction of the site manager, were immediately on board with the plan," Rapeli says.
Construction is a team sport
The pandemic has also required individual employees to learn new ways of working and adapt to the continuously changing guidelines. According to Rapeli, good project teams and their team spirit have been the foundation for the success of major construction projects, both before and during the pandemic.
"Construction is a team sport, so it's important to find the right people for the right roles. That means work can then be carried out in a motivated way as teamwork, by encouraging each other," Rapeli says.
Hakanen says that COVID 19 has led many companies to better understand the significance of the working community. Its importance was also mentioned in YIT's Year Zero survey, in which Hakanen was involved as a specialist.
"The traditional sense of community has been challenged in many jobs. Due to the numerous safety rules, it has not been possible to interact as much as before. The sense of being part of a team and relating to your working community are very strong factors that foreshadow the meaningfulness of work, loyalty to the employer and good performance," Hakanen says.
Rapeli considers a good working environment and community to be an essential part of job satisfaction. Even the best memories of projects are often about people.
"I want my leadership to enable a good and comfortable working environment for everyone, both current and future YIT employees," Rapeli says.
For further information, please contact
Salla Hälikkä, Occupational Well-Being Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)50 599 4574, firstname.lastname@example.org
Johanna Savolainen, Communications Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 (0)44 305 4594, email@example.com
YIT is the largest Finnish and a significant North European urban developer and construction company. We create more sustainable, functional and attractive cities and living environments. We develop and build apartments, business premises and entire areas. We also specialise in demanding infrastructure construction. We own properties together with our partners, which supports the implementation of our significant development projects. We also provide our customers with services that increase the value of properties. We employ approximately 7,400 professionals in ten countries: Finland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. In 2020, our revenue amounted to approximately EUR 3.1 billion. YIT Corporation's share is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy. www.yitgroup.com