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A Deeper Dive on Winning Construction Tenders

A Deeper Dive on Winning Construction Tenders

Most people approach construction tenders with dread, doubt and fury: dread because the process can be unpleasant, doubt because sometimes what is needed is less than obvious, and fury because customers seem to ask for so, so much. When the process is over, it can feel like six dwarves have mugged you. Not Happy! (Think about it). Today, we’d like to change that.

In this article we hope to give you some fresh and helpful perspectives, reduce the dread, negate the fear and dilute the fury. We want to help you think and act more effectively when completing construction tenders and complying with contractor management platforms (who ask similar questions to determine your safety compliance). We want to help you win!

This is article two in a three-part series about construction tenders. In our first article, called 'Construction Tendering and 26 Winning Answers', we focused on providing resources that give credibility to your answers. We went through 26 separate questions, and for ease of reference, we grouped these into four categories: 

  • Systems, Planning and Documentation,
  • Training, Standards and Worker Support,
  • Hazard and Risk Management, and
  • Continuous Improvement.

In this article, we will consider additional strategies and address some of the questions. We'll look at the first two sets in this article and the remaining two sets in the next. 

Specifically, we'll consider:

  • The role of specific questions for specific purposes.
  • Construction tenders are designed for success.
  • Questions about your systems, planning and documentation.
  • Questions about training, standards and worker support.

Construction Tenders Are Designed for Success

Both construction tenders and Contractor Management Platforms (CMPs) - like Cm3, Pegasus and Rapid Global - can feel like they're designed to obstruct you. That is rarely the case. They may seem generic or lack relevance to your business in places, but at their core, they are designed to help you succeed. They want you to provide the required information and present yourself as accurately as possible. They also need to manage their own liability of engaging contractors, or representing them.

This is why construction tenders and CMPs ask questions. They present you with an opportunity to put your best self on show. 

Remember your high school exams? What about your (probably awkward) first date? Did the way you approached them influence how they went? 

Of course it did!

Students do better in exams when they view them as an opportunity rather than a threat. Likewise, if you start an outing believing your date already likes you, you're more likely to relax and be at your best. You're also less likely to make a goose of yourself. 

You'll tender better if you complete construction tenders and CMPs believing:

  1. They are an opportunity to shine,
  2. They are designed by someone who wants you to succeed, and
  3. That same person believes you can do it. 

Construction tenders and CMPs Use Specific Questions for Specific Purposes

It pays to remember that questions are written with a purpose. If we understand the purpose, we can usually answer them more effectively. 

Tenders and CMPs usually include questions that:

  • Clarify the customer's areas of priority,
  • Describe how you should demonstrate your ability (or inability),
  • Enable you to show off (or screw up), and
  • Stretch you - to see if you will, because that's the contractor they're looking for.

Said slightly differently, tender questions typically clarify what is important, make demands, enable your brilliance or foolishness to be put on show, and stretch you. If you misunderstand the question or miss its purpose, your tender submission is over. This reminds me of the guy who rang the animal shelter and said, "I've found six kittens in a suitcase in the woods." The shelter asked, "Are they moving?" The guy thought for a moment and answered, "I dunno, but I guess that would explain the suitcase."

He wasn't wrong - but he certainly missed the point. We'll help you hear what your customers are really asking. 

Let the questions guide your response. Let them tell you the customer's priorities, show you how to demonstrate your ability, help you show off, and stretch you. 

Let the questions be your guide.  

Construction Tenders Ask About Your Systems, Planning and Documentation

Construction tenders and CMPs want to know that your systems, planning and documentation are thorough, integrated, organised, effective and practical. In real terms, the tender application is designed so you can demonstrate competencies, practices and resourcing. 

When it comes to your WHS/OH&S, you will typically be asked about your company's: 

  • Safety management system,
  • Policies and procedures,
  • Roles and responsibilities,
  • Objectives and targets, and 
  • Risk management processes.

The specific wording may vary from one tender application to another, but the substance of what is being asked, and what is expected, remains relatively consistent. You will typically see these areas of inquiry worded like this: 

  • Does your company have a documented Safety Management System that conforms to a recognised standard (AS/NZS ISO 45001 or AS/NZS 4801)?  
  • Does the company have documented WHS/OH&S management policies and procedures? 
  • Has the company assigned clear roles and responsibilities for WHS/OH&S matters? 
  • Does the company have documented WHS/OH&S objectives and targets? 
  • Does the company have a process for identifying, assessing, managing, and controlling WHS/OH&S hazards and risks? 

What that Construction Tender is Really Asking

We introduced and resourced each of these questions in the last article. Now, we want to swim a little deeper into the substance of your answers. 

Firstly, your safety management system lies at the core of everything you do. You'll need to show that you use it AND that it aligns with relevant standards (OH&S AS/NZS ISO 45001 or WHS AS/NZS 4801). Having a system you don't use, or having a non-compliant system, is like using odourless deodorant; it makes no scents at all (aargh, yes, I'm throwing dad-jokes in today). Your (potential) customer wants to know you have a system, that you maintain it, and that you use it - so tell them. 

Second, well-documented policies and procedures also matter. This is how safety guidelines and protocols are established, articulated, implemented and enforced. Incident avoidance, incident response and injured worker reintegration all rely on policies and procedures that are documented and known. If you have previously used these policies and procedures in an effective way, let them know - as long as you're able and willing to provide back-up evidence if they ask.

Third, since policies and procedures are implemented by people, the way you assign roles and responsibilities also matters. Do you have accountability across all levels of your business? Is it clear who is accountable for specific tasks? Your potential customer wants to see you have a culture of shared responsibility and a proactive approach to workplace safety. If you do, communicate this and back your claim with resources and samples where appropriate. 

Fourth, your WHS/OH&S objectives and targets provide a roadmap for your decisions. They help you decide what safety initiatives should receive focus and enable you to measure your progress. If you share your OH&S objectives and targets, you can also demonstrate how you track key performance indicators, monitor safety outcomes, and continuously improve safety practices. This is the sort of thing your customer wants to see.

Fifth and final in this series of questions, CMPs and construction tenders will ask about your hazard reporting and risk management processes. You want to demonstrate that you have a systematic process for identifying, assessing, managing, and controlling hazards and risks. You also want to provide evidence that you proactively pursue your goals. 

How can you communicate this? Try leveraging your hazard and risk identification documents and checklists, and if the tender tool gives you space and you've got a success story to tell, share it. 

Resources for This Question Set

These will prove helpful when resourcing yourself for these questions (as explained more specifically in the previous article).

If you are not sure which is best for you or required by you, give us a call at 1800 304 336.

Construction tenders and CMPs Ask About Your Training, Standards and Worker Support

Construction tenders will also ask about your training systems, established standards, and worker support systems. They want to know if you:

  • Embed comprehensive training into your workplace,
  • Establish and maintain clear standards, and
  • Support worker safety in professional and practical ways. 

Once again, the wording will vary, but these are reasonably consistent questions. We've resourced your responses in the first article, and will do so here also. Here are the questions listed for you once again, and then we'll look at how to answer them in a more meaningful way:

(Tip: You may want to skip ahead if this feels repetitive. I'm just being deliberate and thorough for those who haven't read the first article - as is my way.) 

  • Does the company provide WHS/OH&S training to management and workers, and is the training planned for and documented? 
  • Does the company use an induction process for new workers and inductions to a new work site?
  • Has the company implemented a policy and procedure for incident and injury management, including a return to work plan? 
  • Does the company provide appropriate first aid resources and facilities, as well as first aid training to workers?
  • Does the company have a worker consultation or participation policy that encourages input by all workers on WHS/OH&S matters?
  • How does the company communicate WHS/OH&S issues to workers? Toolbox talks, meetings?
  • Does the company have a subcontractor management policy and assess subcontractors' WHS/OH&S compliance? 
  • Does the company train workers for emergency responses and practice drill scenarios? 
  • Does the company have a policy and procedure for drugs and alcohol, including testing? 

What are Those Questions Really Seeking?

Construction tenders and CMPs ALWAYS ask about WHS/OH&S training. That's because competency-driven training, for both management and workers, is essential to a safe construction-related work environment. Note the emphasis in competencies; in other words, the emphasis is on training that produces worthwhile outcomes. Your policies, plans and registers must maintain this focus rather than training just for training sake. 

As a quick aside, you may remember the Training Guarantee scheme that ran from 1990 to 1994. I certainly do. It forced businesses to invest a percentage of turnover into training, and though it was likely well intended, it didn't work. It quickly became laughable as dodgy training companies cashed in on the money that had to be spent. Some were good, but many simply offered quick and expensive ways for employers to 'train' their staff, meet their obligations, and then get their people working again. The focus was on training, not outcomes. When you share about your training, make sure you go beyond the surface issue of time or money being spent.

Questions around new worker induction and site induction processes usually require deliberate processes. Site-specific hazards, safety protocols, and emergency procedures all need to be evident, as does the appropriate use of briefings, checklists, and registers.

Since incidents and injuries happen, you will also be expected to have a robust policy and procedure for incident and injury management. This should include a return-to-work plan. Your policy, plan, procedures and programs must be practical, realistic and legally compliant. Our resources (below) will help you ensure this.

Questions are also likely about first aid resources and training. You will want to show that your workers can access essential first-aid resources and respond promptly and effectively to injuries or illnesses.

Potential customers also want to see you encourage and enable worker consultation and participation. Buzzwords like 'collaboration', 'transparency', and 'shared responsibility' may help construction tenders move forward in the selection process, but what truly impresses are your policies and practices around worker consultation, leadership and participation. Your potential customers understand that workers often know best when it comes to safety, and they want to see that you're listening. Let them know. 

This leads naturally into the area of Toolbox Talks and meetings. These are (arguably) the centrepiece of WHS/OH&S awareness, culture and continuous improvement. This is also an area where, if you are on top of your documentation and records retention, you can sell your sincerity and proficiency. 

Closely connected to this communication issue is the management of subcontractors. Customers know that subbies are sometimes used to avoid complication, deflect responsibility and dodge liability. Technically speaking, that strategy doesn't work - but your customers want to know that you know it too. Demonstrate this through your policies, checklists, samples and explanatory statements. Demonstrate that your subcontractors have oversight, are required to comply with safety requirements, and will uphold safety standards throughout the entire project lifecycle.

You are also expected to train workers for emergency responses. Conducting practice drill scenarios is one way of doing this. Supplement this with your registers, planning documents and clearly stated explanations where the tender specifics make it appropriate. 

Finally, expect to be asked for drug and alcohol policies and procedures. A zero-tolerance approach will be expected, but you will need to state the obvious. If you can demonstrate its fulfilment, all the better for your tender process. 

Resources to Help You Put Your Best Self Forward 

Each of these questions has appropriate resources that are relevant to them. These include:

Call on 1800 304 336 to learn more about any of these resources, and to find clarity on anything you're not sure about.

Wrapping up Article Two

This was one of our longer articles; the next one will be lengthy too. There's a lot of content to cover - but we’ll do whatever is needed to serve you well. 

Hopefully, we've reduced some of the dread, doubt, and fury. We've looked at the role of specific questions for specific purposes, suggested adopting a less hostile approach to the construction tender process, and we examined the first two question categories in greater depth. Hopefully, we're also a step closer to you NOT feeling hammered by the dwarfs. 

I've quoted this one before, but it seems especially appropriate here: "Good fortune happens when opportunity meets with preparation." This nugget of wisdom was shared by the inventor Thomas Edison. We'd also like to share our expertise, help you prepare, and also help you win your construction tenders and CMPs. Call 1800 304 336. 

Next article Construction Tendering and 26 Winning Answers