Patting The Back Of Those Who Matter... It's Not Yourself

Words: Corey Adams

Words: Corey Adams
Photo: seb_ra

Do you know the feeling you get when someone comments on one of your projects? When they give you positive feedback, the feeling is one of pride and accomplishment. When they cut it down, it feels degrading and almost like failure. 

It is that pride in our work that drives us. As owners we love to get the wow factor from people that see our work. Our pride in our quality is what motivated us to start our businesses, and what gets us up everyday to pursue our dreams. 

Our employees have the same feelings. 

Too often as owners we parade around taking credit for all the work our employees have done. We are quick to take the accolades of a successful project, and pat ourselves on the back. We relish in the dopamine hit our brains get when people congratulate us on our success, but too many owners leave it at that. They never recognize the employees that made it happen. 

We are only as good as the people around us. Business owners around the world know this, and swear that they subscribe to it, but when the rubber meets the road, often forget to give credit where credit is due. 

One of my favorite sayings is good employees want to work for good companies. The employee of today wants to work in a culture of collaboration, and one that has a culture of recognition. How we give recognition can take multiple forms. 

Giving employees recognition for the work they are doing is not hard. It can be as easy as saying good job when it is warranted. Just as you get that warm feeling when someone congratulates you, your employees will feel the same way when you recognize them. Often it is more about the owner being engaged with the employees. A simple good job from an owner to an employee is way more than just two words. It is conformation that you notice the employee, what they are contributing to your company, and respect them as an individual. 

There are more ways to recognize employees. Especially for those owners looking to not only recognize but motivate as well. Recognition is easy, motivation is what true leaders become masters of. Combining recognition with motivation is key. Great companies understand this and utilize it to motivate the entire staff to strive for more. 

Here are a few out of the box options for giving employees recognition. 

  • Work attire stipends: Give your guys a stipend to help cover work wear. I have seen these stipends range from $100 a year, up to $100 per month depending on the industry. They can get boots, coats, or whatever their heart desires. I suggest also tying this into a local work wear store as well. Having them spend it at a local store helps promote community engagement, goodwill, and recognizes the employee and their community for supporting you. These are often good to drop to an employee on their birthday as well. This spreads the cost out over the year and gives them a little recognition on their birthday.
  • Awards: What is wrong with having an employee of the month? Many industries do, but for some reason the construction industry does not. It does not have to be one employee either. One estimator, one foreman, one laborer, etc. You get the point. Have a little award ceremony, take their picture, spread it on the social media pages, and give them some face-to-face time with the owner. In this time, discuss what went right, and what can be done to improve. You might learn something. 
  • Listen: Should go without saying, but many owners feel they do not have time to listen. They want to hear what they want, but do they really listen? Have key player meetings weekly where everyone can speak freely. Collaboration is the ultimate recognition. 
  • Be Personable: Say hello and respond when employees try to engage you. A simple “how is your day going?” speaks volumes, especially when you call them by name. A blank hello is not nearly as effective as a personal name hello, “Hello Jim!”
  • Don’t act like you care, really care: I have met many business owners that ask a question, then appear to look right through you when you are answering. They don’t care what I have to say, the book they read on making friends told them to ask, it didn’t say they had to actually care what the answer was. I can spot owners that don’t actually care miles away. Their conversations typically have a lot of “that’s great,” “oh yeah,” and “you don’t say” in it. Regurgitated phrases to give the perception of listening, when in reality they are nothing more than conditioned responses to unwanted conversations. 

Now, I am not going to act like my head is in the sand. Most people are motivated by money. Honestly, it is what most owners think of when the idea of recognizing employees comes up. Pay them more. I get tired of hearing that statement. Every time one owner complains about finding and keeping good employees, you get another owner telling them to pay more and those problems disappear. The reality is that you can pay more than any other company in your market, but without recognition, collaboration, and a positive work environment, you will only get people to work who are motivated by the paycheck. They are not there to build something they are proud of, will not contribute to company improvement, and generally will be gone as soon as they can make an extra $0.50 per hour. 

Here are a couple monetary based recognition thoughts. 

  • Profit Sharing: The easiest way to recognize employees with monetary reward is profit sharing. It can be implemented quick, and can recognize, motivate, and incentivize employees at the same time. Profit sharing is used to motivate all team members to raise the net profit percentage on a specific project. 
  • Safety Bonuses: These are great for promoting a safe work environment. I like to do it yearly. Budget $1.00 per man hour into a pool. If they meet certain safety metrics, they get the pool. 

One monetary system that is used quite frequently, yet so far from being correct is Christmas bonuses. I absolutely despise a Christmas bonus program. It isn’t tied to anything, everyone gets one, and it feels impersonal. By nature, a Christmas bonus is the opposite of recognition, and does nothing to promote more production, profit, or safety. 

Recognition can take many forms, use multitudes of systems, and get as elaborate as you want. It doesn’t have to be though. Starting with some simple communication, collaboration, and appreciation for what your employees are doing, saying, and thinking is the place to start.  

We all like to get the proverbial pat on the back. Our employees are no different. 

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