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August 17, 2016
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Understanding Employee Motivation

construction crew employee motivation
Remember when just being the boss was enough to get employees to do what you wanted them to do? You know, work hard without an attitude. Yup, that was a long time ago.

Hey, Doug Phelps here. I am the founder of Management Consultants for Contractors. Thanks for viewing my video titled, “An Introduction to the Basics of Employee Motivation in a Construction Company Environment”. I have been involved in the construction industry since 1974…yup, that’s a long time…and I have been consulting to small and mid-sized contractors since 1995. I began my construction career as an ironworker. After all these years, I have never lost sight of the value of the any worker to the company’s overall success. As an ironworker, I personally experienced what could be accomplished by a motivated crew, and what was not accomplished by an unmotivated crew.

After reviewing many comments about various topics on LinkedIn, and combining that with my management consulting practice experience, I think I can safely say that there is a lot of frustration on how to change the attitude and motivate today’s worker. And in keeping with my philosophy… “Companies don’t make profits, people do!”…I believe that employee motivation is a worthy topic to explore.

I have read a lot about human motivators over the years, and I can assure you that I am no expert. There have been many scholars, such as Maslow, Herzberg, and Skinner who have devoted their careers to the study of this topic, and like most topics in academia or even in consulting, there is a wide variety of opinions. I once heard a prominent economist say, “The study of economics is just common sense made hard”. And I would venture that you can replace the word “economics” in that comment with a variety of other academia research projects, and it would ring true. Never lose sight of common sense.

Considering all these theories about human behavior, I am sure all would agree that motivated employees make your job as a manager/owner easier. And I am sure all would agree that motivated employees will help make more money for their employer than unmotivated employees. So how would you define motivation? What does a motivated employee act like? Here’s my definition. I say that a motivated employee does what you want them to do, or even more, because THEY want to.

Now here comes the difficult part. It can be quite puzzling because not everyone is motivated by the same circumstances, and each individual’s own motivation may differ from time to time depending on their personal circumstances at that time. For example, Joe Blow may be more motivated by money if he now has a lot of debt. At another point, Joe Blow may be more motivated by some recognition for doing a good job from his thankless and clueless boss. So what to do? Give up? Or just resort to what hasn’t worked in the past but makes you feel better at the time by yelling at them louder and louder to get them to do what you want? Neither. You cannot motivate an employee. Motivation comes from within. All you can do as an owner or manager is create a working environment…a company culture…that encourages employees to be motivated by meeting their needs. In order to create this environment, you need to understand what some motivators are. If you combine the list of human motivators by the various scholars, it would be a very long puzzling list.

Here’s where I am going to apply some common sense and choose those motivators which have a common thread and limit the list to 8 main employee motivators. These motivators are not listed in any particular order because again, each of us is motivated by different factors depending on what is going on with our lives at that time. Here are the 8 motivators…again in no particular order.


Now here’s the deal. Think about each of these motivators and how your company culture currently satisfies them or what changes you need to make in your company culture to better meet the needs of these human motivators. Over the next few months, I am going to make a short video about each motivator and specifically address what a construction company can do…what business practices, what management practices you can put in place to attempt to meet the needs of each human motivator. I expect discussion and debate. The first motivator I would like to personally address in a video will be about compensation…money. We need to get this one out of the way. You may be surprised by some of my comments.

By the end of these 8 videos and following discussion, we will probably see how these motivators are somewhat all interconnected. With debate and discussion, I hope you are able to recognize what you are doing right, and what changes you may need to make to provide a more motivating work environment in your company.

An announcement and link to each video will be on LinkedIn with a posting on the open group, Profit Builder. Profit Builder’s mission is “to learn from each other by sharing issues and utilizing our collective experience to offer sound business advice to provide solutions that will improve the bottom line”. And in keeping with my philosophy that “companies don’t make profits, people do”, I believe this topic about human motivation is right on for Profit Builder. All of us members of Profit Builder would like to hear from you. It’s an open group, feel free to join, contribute, and help us meet our group’s mission.