Top Tips for Getting Subcontractor Performance on Track in 2023



How to Partner With Your Subcontractor

Having an underperforming subcontractor on the team can drag a project down, causing unnecessary delays, increasing costs, and affecting morale. It’s up to the super to recognize when a subcontractor is out of control and then to take steps to fix the problem.

What is Subcontractor Performance

A Subcontractor performance evaluation serves as the main source of review allowing the quality manager to see how subcontractors are performing for them and notice patterns of performance or red flags

Some of the signs of poor subcontractor performance include:

  • An unreasonable or increasing list of punch items
  • Failure to correct issues in a timely manner, or at all
  • Incomplete work  
  • Job-ready issues found by subsequent subcontractors on the job

When a subcontractor shows signs of underperformance, it's important to take action to maintain quality and timely reporting. This may involve changing the sub entirely or working with them to address the problem behaviours. Keep in mind past performance evaluation requirements when making these decisions to ensure successful past performance evaluation.

[FREE GUIDE] How to Quickly Improve Your Subcontractors Performance

Switching Subcontractors Stinks

While it’s sometimes necessary to fire a subcontractor, it’s not an ideal solution for a number of reasons. Labor shortages are a real issue these days, so you often don’t have a choice but to pick from a  limited pool of people.

You also don’t know if the new subcontractor you hire will be better or worse. At least the people you currently work with are known entities. And let’s face it, change is hard. Switching subs causes a lot of friction and could add costs to a project that might already be suffering. A better approach, and the one we recommend trying first, is to work together with your subcontractor to improve performance.

Be a Better Partner

It's essential to address a subcontractor's performance issues without driving them away. Doing so not only ensures timely completion of the project but also helps in successful past performance evaluations. When a crew has to return to fix issues, it cuts into the sub's profits, which may have already been affected by problem behaviours.

Your strategy is to return your subcontractor to profitability by helping to prevent these issues in the first place. If a subcontractor is willing to make the effort, everybody wins!

Check out FTQ360's 4 Ways to Improve Subcontractor Performance:



Re Calibrate Expectations

Identify the issues that come up most often and work with the subcontractor to figure out the best way to prevent them. Break the ice by asking about job-ready issues the subcontractor has experienced with other trades, then segue into job-ready issues that other trades have found with your sub’s work.

Finally, discuss any issues you have discovered yourself. It’s not fair to assume that subs and all their crews are always on the same page, so it’s the builder’s responsibility to communicate the specs and acceptance criteria for important details that are often missed.

Create a Corrective Action Plan

Now you are ready to help the subcontractor prepare a corrective action plan. Start by creating checklists to communicate quality expectations.

  • Create a checklist or checklists that include the main issues as checkpoints.
  • Provide the checklists to your subcontractor and review the items to make sure all items are understood.
  • Help the sub decide how to use on-site meetings and toolbox talks to train field personnel on important details that should never be missed.
  • Volunteer to be a guest presenter if you think it will help.
  • Require subcontractor self-inspections—give your sub the chance to correct its own mistakes or oversights first.
  • Include picture requirements when you need to call attention to hotspot details.

Subcontractor Self-inspections

To ensure first-time quality work, it is important to adopt a helping and teaching approach until the subcontractor's crew completes its work phase. During daily jobsite walks, you should also informally coach the crews on how to prevent potential problems and share observations about issues that need addressing. It is crucial to monitor previously awarded contracts and contractor performance, as this can inform your coaching and help identify potential areas for improvement in the construction contract. 

Once a subcontractor passes its own self-inspection, that sub is declaring that the work is complete and that often-missed details have been verified,

After you receive the subcontractor’s inspection report, your mode should change from coach to gatekeeper of quality. Use your version of the checklist to do your own inspection. If it is obvious that the subcontractor has not put a reasonable effort into inspecting its own work, fail the inspection immediately and ask the sub to try again later.

Read How to use QC to improve your Subcontractors Performance

Know When It’s Time To Let Go

Subcontractors that change for the better will see their profitability improve and be receptive to repeating the inspection process on a shrinking set of recurring issues. On the other hand, when subcontractors are unresponsive, it may be time for you to encourage them to seek work elsewhere.

Leverage Your Quality Management Software

Use the tools available to you to help create and implement your corrective action plan. Quality management software can help you identify the most frequently recurring issues so you can address the most important problems first. Metrics such as first-time quality, time to correct issues, and job-ready tracking can help you monitor progress and celebrate improvements to keep subs motivated.

You can also keep an eye on the performance of each crew to provide training support to those who need it most. Quality management software also provides a convenient platform for performing inspections and gathering photos and documents so subs can provide proof of completed work.

Of course, the ideal scenario is to never have to deal with an underperforming subcontractor. While this might not be realistic, you can avoid many problems in the first place by setting clear expectations about quality, defining the inspection process, identifying high-risk issues, and providing training when necessary.

It’s never too late to commit to first-time quality, and taking a partnering approach with subcontractors can help both of you be more successful. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch. We’re happy to help!

Subcontractor's Guide | FTQ360


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