12 Essential Tailboard Meeting Management Tips

Posted 25.06.24 by:

A construction team concludes a morning pre-work tailboard meeting. Learn how 1st Reporting assists project management events like tailboard meeting management at 1stReporting.com.

Pre-work tailboard meeting management is an essential process that requires great communication and advanced knowledge of the job site and the day’s work requirements. Efficiently managing your daily work goals with your team is essential for stakeholders’ objective buy-in and for safety and work goals alike.

Managing a smooth and effective tailboard meeting needs a leader who knows the job, the work, the equipment, and the team. You have to communicate clearly and decisively with your squad, commanding their respect while providing a supportive and safe environment. A tailboard meeting may seem a trivial task. Still, it can be the difference between aligning your team with the day’s objectives in a safe and supportive manner or rubbing your team the wrong way, causing a stressful and mediocre result.

In the years that I ran pre-work tailboard meetings with the service teams I managed, I found that there are a number of things you can do to achieve success with your team’s tailboard meetings. In this article, I’m going to share my top 12 tips for effective and efficacious tailboard meeting management. Let’s start by setting goals.

What is a Tailboard Meeting?

A construction crew holds a morning tailboard meeting. Learn how you can enhance tailboard meeting management with digital tools like 1st Reporting at 1stReporting.com.

Why define a tailboard meeting? We need to envision the resulting ‘successful’ tailboard meeting. Only then will we have a starting point from which to build a plan for effective pre-work meetings?

In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a tailboard meeting is a pre-work meeting, typically held on a job site, where team members discuss daily goals, tasks, hazards, and safety. These meetings are also known as:

  • Toolbox talks
  • Tailgate meetings
  • Jobsite briefing
  • Safety briefing

Generally, these meetings are brief and to the point and convey a chain of command for questions pertaining to the day’s work. Industries where these meetings are common include construction, utilities, and field services. 

Why Effective Tailboard Meeting Management Matters

There are four reasons why you should make the most of your tailboard meetings:

  • Enhancing team communication and coordination.
  • Improving safety and compliance.
  • Boosting operational efficiency.
  • Collaborating on site-specific or job-specific objectives and goals. This benefit of effective tailboard meetings also falls into communication. However, due to how powerful collaboration is, I felt that from my decades of experience, it needed further recognition.

12 Effective Tailboard Meeting Management Tips

A construction management team discuss their daily tailboard meeting topics. Learn how 1st Reporting enhances field team management at 1stReporting.com.

Tip 1: Prepare a Clear Agenda

As James E. Faust once said, “Meetings don’t have to be endless to be eternal.” (1) This quotation perfectly sums up the concept of the tailboard meeting: a brief but memorable meeting is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

When preparing an effective tailboard meeting, setting an agenda is pivotal to your success. Remember the inclusions I mentioned above:

  • Daily goals and objectives.
  • Daily tasks and requirements (and who will be responsible for each).
  • Site hazards management related to the day’s work and job site.
  • Safety concerns.
  • Safety summary.

Make a template for yourself to use with the above as headings. This format will help guide you through the meeting format and help to define an expected agenda for stakeholders.

Tip 2: Involve All Team Members

The best strategy for ensuring team members actively participate is to ensure everyone is involved. I used to do this with my team by asking team members to confirm at any given time throughout the talk by adding ‘… isn’t that right? (Name of team member goes here)’. By actively including team members and also encouraging feedback, you help to involve everyone in a fun and inclusive way that, if done correctly, will keep your team members engaged and paying attention.

Tip 3: Use Visual Aids and Documentation

A screenshot of the 1st Reporting app's handbook feature.

I read an interesting paper regarding the study of visual and non-visual learners. While the study’s primary focus was on differentiating visual learners from non-visual learners using brain wave analysis, the findings do indirectly support the thesis that people who learn visually may have better learning and retention capabilities compared to those who rely solely on auditory learning. (2)

The evidence from higher accuracy, significant brain wave differences, and robust performance metrics for visual learners suggests that visual learning could be more effective in specific contexts.

From my many years of experience, I found that service personnel are typically visual learners. So, always try to provide visuals to aid in memory retention of the critical safety information imparted in a tailboard meeting. Add a bit of humor, and you’ll get the best response.

Use a robust digital solution for your team signatures, like a tailboard attendance form in the 1st Reporting mobile application. You can even add those training visuals and documents to the app’s Handbook feature (screenshot shown above).

Tip 4: Focus on Safety Protocols

Industries like construction are notorious for being dangerous for workers. However, services where team members have to enter unfamiliar environments are also dangerous. No matter the situation, focusing on safety should always be at the top of your priorities for your tailboard meeting.

When I used to manage service teams, I found that effectively focusing on safety while engaging team members was the most effective way to prevent incidents. This finding occurred to me after a few years of adjusting my tailboard meeting presentation strategy that when my team members were actively engaged in safety discussions, I often got more stories about how they almost got hurt but remembered the training and did not (another near miss report for each time) get injured. I’d much rather complete a near-miss report than an accident report. Near miss reports help you to prevent further hazards; accidents just hurt (no pun intended).

Tip 5: Encourage Open Communication

I mentioned one of my techniques for including team members in the discussion. Still, it’s also important to ensure that team members have a chance to talk, share experiences, and provide feedback. The most effective way to improve your operations and your tailboard meetings is by providing your team with a means to communicate their feedback without fear of reprisal, but instead with the knowledge that their feedback is appreciated. There is no better way to keep your team a team (as opposed to a group of individuals) than by keeping the work environment comfortable regarding feedback and methods to improve.

Tip 6: Review and Update Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs)

The job hazard analysis must occur before work commences at a job site and also in cases where job site conditions have changed.

Job hazard analyses should be reviewed daily to ensure that hazards and risks are appropriately managed and to prevent incidents.

A great way to keep up with job site JHAs is to use a robust mobile reporting system, like the 1st Reporting app. Completing and managing JHAs with the app enables you to collaborate with team members, disseminate hazard information instantly to your team’s mobile devices, and ensure that you can customize your report to suit the site and job conditions, environment, and site specifics.

Tip 7: Monitor Attendance and Participation

A construction worker removes tools from his pickup truck. Learn about managing tailboard meetings with tips from 1st Reporting at 1stReporting.com.

I briefly mentioned having team members sign off on their tailboard meeting attendance. I believe that this is crucial for team accountability as well as topic retention. People always listen more when they know they will have to sign off that they are paying attention.

Suppose you don’t have the ability or opportunity to go to a site to host the tailboard meetings yourself by using the 1st Reporting app. In that case, you can easily track attendance from a remote location by using the app for the attendance sign-off. Similarly, you can also share any documents pertaining to the meeting or safety within the app’s online secure cloud storage feature known as the ‘Handbook’ within the app (see screenshot in tip three above). As the app incorporates GPS time and location data in the reports, you’ll know when and where the tailboard meeting took place and who was on site to sign off on their attendance.

Tip 8: Set Clear Action Items and Follow-ups

As mentioned earlier regarding using an agenda, similarly, you can use an item or agenda list to define action items and tasks and assign specific responsibilities. By delegating tasks and follow-ups with team members while all team members are present, team members involved will have accountability, having agreed to the day’s tasks in a meeting with their peers.

Here’s the tailboard formula I used for years:

Conducting a Tailboard Meeting

  1. Preparation:
  • The supervisor or team leader should prepare for the meeting by identifying the key topics to be covered.
  • Any necessary documents, checklists, or visual aids should be ready.
  1. Execution:
  • The meeting typically occurs at the job site where the work will take place.
  • It should be brief, typically lasting between 10 to 20 minutes, to ensure it does not delay the start of work.
  1. Engagement:
  • The leader should encourage active participation from all team members.
  • Team members should feel invited to contribute, and it would be best if you address any concerns promptly and objectively, encouraging future engagement.
  1. Follow-Up:
  • Document any action items or decisions made during the meeting.
  • Conduct follow-up on these items to ensure that implementation occurs.

Tip 9: Use Technology to Enhance Efficiency

Technology should be your friend when managing effective tailboard meetings. Paper is going the way of the dinosaur. With technology, you can include rich media into your toolbox talks to really help those visual learners.

Tools and equipment like projectors or even sharing a YouTube video showing safety best practices for a particular safety-related scenario can help drive home the points during your meeting.

Tip 10: Conduct Regular Training and Refreshers

Depending on where you operate, there may be (and likely are) multiple safety training topics that your team will need to have completed successfully. In particular, working at elevation is one of the most critical training topics required due to the sheer volume of work-related accidents.

According to the NSC, after highway crashes and intentional injuries by people, falls to a lower level are the third leading fatal workplace event. Similarly, falling is also the fifth most common accident resulting in Days away from work (DAFW) and days away from work, restricted duties, or transfers (DART). (3)

Tip 11: Evaluate Meeting Effectiveness

Another great way to continuously improve your tailboard meetings is to evaluate your meeting effectiveness. I used to do this in one of two ways: 1) An anonymous form was provided to my team to rate the meeting experience and provide feedback, and 2) I Randomly asked attendees at the end of the day what they recalled from the morning meeting. This second procedure helps to determine what team members retain and what means of communication is most effective.

Tip 12: Keep Meetings Concise and Focused

The key to successful tailboard meetings is to keep them short and to the point. Maintain order, follow your notes, and maintain a standardized format. These methods will help you streamline your delivery of information to maximize retention, engagement, and effectiveness.

Use the format I shared earlier to help streamline a template for your organization’s tailboard meetings. Similarly, you can use the 1st Reporting app’s public reporting features to create an anonymous custom tailboard meeting feedback form. Your team could use the form to help you improve tailboard meetings. At the same time, anonymity means that they are more likely to provide genuine, honest feedback without fear of reprisals. Remember, you are only as strong as the weakest link in your team, so ensuring that everyone participates and works together to improve safety, the better off everyone will be.

The best way to encourage your team to retain your meeting’s most critical points is to use my tips above and keep the meeting succinct and focused on its objectives.

Leveraging 1st Reporting for Optimal Tailboard Meeting Management

Tailboard meetings generally require a signature from attendees confirming they have listened, participated, and understood what was communicated. Having your teams sign off on their participation is crucial for two reasons: 1) It shows that you are acting as a responsible manager by doing your due diligence to train further and instruct your team members, and 2) It shows workers that you and the company are serious about safety and about communication. Team members always pay more attention when they have to sign off that they attended and understood the meeting’s content.

Why do I bring up the signature? You will need a way of collecting those signatures. Similarly, you’ll need to (ideally) provide team members with a handout flyer or printout that further communicates the day’s central safety considerations.

Tracking a bunch of daily tailboard meeting notes, signatures, and topics can be a bit overwhelming, so it’s good to have a tool—a digital tool—to help you manage the process more easily. Well, let me introduce you to the 1st Reporting app—an innovative new app with so many applications you’ll wonder why you haven’t used it yet.

What is the 1st Reporting app?

The 1st Reporting app is a cutting-edge solution designed to streamline field operations and enhance safety management. As a manager overseeing safety tailboard meetings, you’ll find this app indispensable for ensuring your team operates efficiently and safely.

Critical Features for Tailboard Meetings:

  1. Real-Time Documentation:

With 1st Reporting, you can document incidents, inspections, and safety protocols directly from your mobile device. This real-time capability ensures that all information is current and easily accessible.

  1. Secure Cloud Storage:

All reports are stored securely in the cloud, allowing you to access and review them from any location. This feature guarantees that critical safety data is never lost and is always at your fingertips.

  1. Customizable Forms:

Tailor the app’s forms to meet the specific needs of your tailboard meetings. Whether you’re conducting a job hazard analysis or reviewing safety protocols, you can customize forms to capture all necessary details.

  1. GPS Tracking:

The app’s built-in GPS feature allows you to track the precise locations where reports are submitted. This function is invaluable for verifying the presence and participation of your team members during tailboard meetings.

  1. Dynamic Linking:

With the dynamic linking feature, you can easily link incidents to follow-up reports. This capability ensures that all related documentation is connected, enhancing accountability and providing a comprehensive view of each safety issue.

  1. Customizable Notifications:

Set up notifications to alert relevant personnel immediately upon report submission. This feature helps you respond quickly to any incidents or safety concerns, reducing response times and improving overall safety management.

1st Reporting not only simplifies the documentation process but also provides the tools you need to manage safety tailboard meetings effectively. By leveraging these features, you can ensure your team is well-informed, compliant, and continuously operating safely.

Wrapping Up Your Tailboard Success

Implementing these 12 essential tips for tailboard meeting management can dramatically improve your team’s communication, safety, and efficiency. 

As a manager, your ability to lead effective pre-work meetings not only boosts morale but also ensures that every team member is on the same page and ready to tackle the day’s challenges. By integrating technology like the 1st Reporting app, you streamline documentation, enhance accountability, and maintain a high standard of safety across all operations. 

Start today by incorporating these tips and best practices, and watch as your tailboard meetings transform into powerful tools for success and safety. Explore the 1st Reporting app to take your field operations to the next level and make managing events like tailboard meetings that much easier.

Article Sources

  1. Rakesh Mahto. 2020. “10 Business Meeting Quotes to Get the Agenda Straight.” Medium. Medium. February 7, 2020. https://medium.com/@learn.mirrorreview/10-business-meeting-quotes-to-get-the-agenda-straight-b9a3f79cdcc6.
  2. Jawed, Soyiba, Hafeez Ullah Amin, Aamir Saeed Malik, and Ibrahima Faye. 2019. “Classification of Visual and Non-Visual Learners Using Electroencephalographic Alpha and Gamma Activities.” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 13 (May). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00086.
  3. “Work Safety: Falls to a Lower Level- Injury Facts.” 2024. Injury Facts. February 8, 2024. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/safety-topics/falls-lower-level/#:~:text=Following%20highway%20crashes%20and%20intentional,92%2C010%20DAFW%20cases%20were%20reported..

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