If you and your crew are happy, your business and its environment will improve.

As you walk through your jobsites, observe what task each of your crew is performing and compare what you’ve seen to what you’ve estimated:

1. Do you have the right foreman as a leader. Does he or she know the trade, the plans and specs, and scope of work included in your contract? Were they properly trained to supervise?

2. Do they all start on time, control breaks and work until actual quitting time?

3. Do they have the right tools and equipment? Are they properly mantained?

4. Are the materials distributed to save walking time?

5. Is the jobsite clean and safe?

6. Are they performing your standard of quality?

7. Are they having fun?

As you answer these questions, think about dollars. How much is that special item costing your company vs. how much to do it right?

How To Motivate: Most contractors desperately try to motivate their workers to give a full eight hours work, wear hardhats and goggles, clean up their jobsite, take care of company tools, etc. But you have to realize that no contractor can motivate a jobsite crew unless he is their foreman and personally working with his crew eight hours a day. If he can’t be there, here are some solutions that aren’t easy, but possible to do:

  • Find and promote your best craftsmen to become your crew leaders.
  • Make sure they know the plans, specs, scope of work, codes and work rules.
  • Provide human relations and leadership training.
  • Provide written guidelines of your expectations or job descriptions.
  • Motivate, monitor, measure and document their performances.
  • Reward that performance to en-sure continuity.
  • Eliminate all of those unecessary demotivators.

Realizing that only a foreman who has “walked a mile in their moccasins” could judge jobsite productivity fairly, you should always require your foreman to control wages. Naturally this requires keeping a scorecard to record daily performance just as your teachers did in school. Your best employee should make the most money. I have always recommended paying high wages to employees willing to earn them. Keep in mind your government apprenticeship wage scale is only the minimum you can pay. You can help each one to make the maximum as quickly as possible. Most contractors feel money is the best motivator. If that were true, the highest paid employees in America would also be the hardest working. Ha!

Money is called a satisfier and it must be satisfactory before you can motivate. Proper human relations will entice employees to give that extra inch, but only if they have a reason as to why they will want to do that.

Let’s begin with the two biggest words in human relations: recognition and appreciation.

Why would I give extra effort if no one noticed?

Why would I give something extra if it were not appreciated? (Keep in mind, if you don’t say it aloud, you did not appreciate it.)

We could not even think about teaching good human relations without covering communication. We certainly cannot cover all of that in this short article, but I do want to highlight the tip of the iceberg. Since your craft foreman was formally one of their peers, he or she needs positive training to overcome that ever-present peer pressure. Their toughest obstacle is discipline, which we will cover later. You also need to squash those old wives tales about being friends or socializing with your employees. That is very good, not bad. You need to explain that what happens after work hours can in no way affect how they treat an employee on the job.

Considering Their Needs: I recommend every supervisor take a sincere interest in their employees’ four F’s — family, friends, fun and frustrations. They should never interfere but always be ready to help with any of those personal matters. Possibly the cheapest (actually makes money) and most effective motivator here would be to offer that employee flex-time work hours, which would satisfy his individual time-off situations.

The most conducive time to talk with jobsite employees about those four F’s is during coffee breaks, lunch time and travel time if he travels with his foreman. Your best tool for opening up communication is to offer options. That means giving employees a choice. Everyone loves to be asked and no one likes to be told.

Next on this list of motivators is allowing each employee to do the kind of work they enjoy. If you have any doubt about that, try doing something you don’t enjoy. Depending on the size of your company and whatever types of construction you do, it is not always possible to have each employee doing only what they like. You simply need to capitalize on each and every available opportunity. You can provide after-hour task training on your jobsites, at your shop or at a vendor’s facility to help those who want to but don’t know how.

Also very high on my list of motivators is selective overtime. You can use four employees to get a job finished that really needs five. Your employees will be very busy all day, the day goes faster, they are very proud of what they’ve accomplished and you can afford to pay them higher wages. Of course this will require some sporadic overtime to catch up. Reverse all of that with having five employees who have only enough work for four, and you can easily see the negative results.

Keep your employees informed about your backlog of work. They need a steady income and no one is in a hurry to get laid off. When you do have an impending lay off, always tell them when it will happen as far in advance as possible. That gives them time to seek another job and a desire to work for you again.

Above all else, your foremen must maintain high morale. We require all of our supervisors to wear a smile and cautiously watch for any bitching or gripes. When they suspect a problem, they immediately confront that employee. If they can’t solve the problem, they bring it into our office.

We have covered some of the basic motivators, but common sense tells you you must eliminate any demotivators before you can get that extra inch. Since your foreman is the only one who can motivate your crews, we need to start there:

1. Do not expect them to do things you did not train them to do or have written in their scope of work.

2. Motivate, monitor, measure, document and reward their performance. Anyone good wants to be measured.

3. Never break the foreman’s chain of command. Those employees now work for your foreman rather than you.

4. Maintain a proud company image so they are proud to be working for you.

5. Never disagree or criticize your foreman in public.

6. Honor your word and keep every promise. Without trust, there cannot be respect.

7. Offer every promotion to all of your foremen. They may not want it or may not be able to do it, but they certainly deserve a fair chance to compete for it.

8. Train every foreman why, when and how to respectfully discipline their subordinates.

All of these recommendations can be very expensive, but only for any contractor who is not doing them. If you can maintain a smile on your face, you will be pleasantly rewarded with something to smile about. That is called motivation.