Everyone wants—and needs—to feel valued. This is especially important for employees in today’s challenging times, whether they’re newly navigating “office” work from remote locations or they are busier than ever as essential workers, like those on the construction site. Recent research reveals that 69% of employees say they’d work harder if they were better appreciated.1

General contractors and construction company leaders may need to think outside the box when it comes to helping job-site workers feel valued. But taking simple actions can make a world of difference. Here, experts from Builders Mutual—Michele Hemric, assistant vice president of human resources and organizational effectiveness, and Ryan Hill, human resources manager—share key aspects to successfully improve employee engagement on the job-site.

Most organizations are founded on the basis of certain values or ideals. Whether they remain the unspoken compass of the owner or are displayed all over the company website and employee handbook, these values should guide the actions of everyone working on that team. From safety and teamwork to quality and integrity, the standards set by your company are a great place to start in the pursuit of your employee appreciation efforts.

Appreciating principles

As a company, you can either plan for employee appreciation activities and events or take a more spontaneous approach. The best approach, however, is the one that works for you. No matter your what , when , and even where, the how and why should ideally adhere to these five principles:

1. Align recognition with company and team values.

Employee appreciation actions need to purposefully align with your values because, in the acknowledgment, those values are reinforced. If, for example, safety is a company value, recognize workers when they catch a defect or see a red flag on the job-site. Not only did their action potentially save an injury (or life), but the effort they made to speak out most likely saved the company significant time and money.

2. Reinforce the right behavior.

Just like with Parenting 101, effective employee management begins with determining which behavior you want to have repeated. Instead of constantly focusing on what is being done wrong or what could be done better, be on the lookout for specific correct behaviors you want to be the norm. Once you identify a set of these behaviors, figure out what you can do to reward them.

3. Recognition tactics need to be authentic to the individual team members.

The most straightforward way to determine “what works” for your employees is simply to ask. Perhaps during onboarding, you inquire, “When you do something well, how would you like to be recognized?” Even better, know your employees and what they like. Observe their habits.

Maybe they get lunch at the same restaurant several times a week. There’s your relevant cue! It’s a huge lift in “appreciation level” when you show value in a way that is meaningful. Actually, if it’s not meaningful and seems like an afterthought, your attempts at employee recognition may become a joke. Think about bringing donuts to a gluten-free person or giving a Starbucks gift card to someone who hates coffee. It falls flat—and it tells a person loud and clear that you don’t know them at all.

4. Employee recognition and appreciation must be authentic to you, too.

Even if you’re not touchy-feely, it’s vital to recognize that what’s good for your people is good for your company. So, take your motivation from good business practices and boosted revenue, or embrace individual encouragement and inspiration. Either way, if your recognition activity comes from a place of authenticity, people will know it. The fact is, valuing your team members benefits them personally and reinforces company values. It’s a positive cycle that strengthens your team, company, and bottom line.

5. Be consistent.

Employee appreciation efforts must have a consistent cadence. Nothing’s worse than having an “employee of the month” recognition in February and March, and then no one hears anything again until June. Meaning quickly erodes. Consider using your regularly scheduled activities and events—weekly safety talk, monthly team meeting, or quarterly one-on-one check-ins. Maybe you can tie acknowledgment with the creation of a final project invoice in which you can identify a “star player” on the team. It can be formal or informal, but you want to establish a process to keep it on your radar. At the same time, keep things fresh and be careful not to create a “rut.” (If it’s something you determine to do “every Friday,” for instance, you don’t want to find yourself pulling some random item off the shelf when you’re checking out of Walmart and suddenly remembering it’s Friday!)

Keep it simple.

Helping your team members feel valued doesn’t have to be a complex endeavor. Find the small wins along the project process. There are plenty of actions and opportunities to show appreciation that are free or inexpensive. For example, deliver a handwritten note that shows how you appreciate each person on your team. And while you’re encouraging others, you’ll also be encouraged.

Finally, remember that monetary rewards, although beneficial, have been shown to provide only temporary value in terms of employee engagement and recognition. Tangibles are good. But the intangibles described here go a long way toward maintaining satisfied employees who will, ultimately, want to work harder because they know you appreciate them.

1 https://blog.smarp.com/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know