One of the most trying periods of my life as a contract engineer was when my company was temporarily insolvent during a very fresh project. Some stages of the project were being completed while we hoped for immediate mobilization for the next milestone. Unfortunately, that wasn’t forthcoming and workers were owed. Surprisingly work still continued despite that, as we had folks who were ready to push through some of the remaining work packages just to guarantee we follow through with our plan of work.

The truth remains that the construction industry is a major employer of labor drawn primarily from a vast majority of unskilled and semiskilled laborers and a supplement of highly skilled professionals. Therefore, a successful project manager must have been skilled in human resource management, adequately coordinating all these categories of employees who could inadvertently show different degrees of understanding consequent on their level of training and exposure.

Every business requires motivated workers to run effectively, especially the construction business, where the attitude of workers can have a direct and immediate effect on the productivity of your business. A well-motivated construction team gets great results for your firm by completing high-quality work within project timeline.

Today’s blog looks at my experience and some of the best practices you can employ when motivating workers whether in challenging times or ideal. All workers need motivation, and knowing how to effectively motivate your team can have a huge impact on the bottom line for your job. Here are some of the best practices employers apply when motivating workers. 

  1. Get actively involved

There is a kind of consolation workers derive seeing their employer work side by side with them even in trying times. Be involved in the work and show concern about the affairs of workers. It is customary that Employer-employees relationship especially in construction site is relatively strained during this period. However, giving the job your time and energy alleviates the entire situation. Know your workers by name. Ask about the job progress and require them to make suggestions.

In trying times, do not try to play smart by avoiding your responsibilities maybe by employing the technique of induced absence from site or avoiding direct contact with employees. Your absence may relieve you of immediate worries but puts the workers under fear of uncertainty, tension and consequent mental pressure which in turn finds its way back to you as the contract engineer. Pick up your calls, answer all questions from stakeholders including subordinates with the right choice of words. Great team leaders know that no one ever cries more than the bereaved as team mates perform their daily functions taking a cue from the leader.

Exams and Records, Citadel Project IMT,


Try saying “Hey Steve, I see you are busy with A. I need to go checkup B now, please keep me posted on your progress”

2. Find out workers’ motivation and reward all efforts with praise and recognition:

In one of the teachers’ training classes I attended some time ago, I learned to reward every little effort a kid makes at achieving a feat with recognition. Your subordinates are not necessarily different. Smart managers know that workers are far more readily motivated by the possibility of hearing praise for their efforts and engagement.

McClelland in his book “The Achieving Society” wrote about a Three Need Theory outlining that self-actualization is in itself a motivation for people regardless of our culture, gender and age. This is influenced by three factors; Achievement, Affiliation and power. For instance, people motivated by achievement need challenging tasks. They work effectively alone or with other high achievers. Those with affinity for power work best when in control. Because they enjoy competition, they do well with goal-oriented projects or tasks. People motivated by affiliation work best in a group environment, so try to integrate them with a team.

Generally in construction sites where adhoc labor is used, unskilled/semiskilled workers are usually influenced by the factor Achievement hence they are motivated by the level of turnover each individual worker has. This encourages competition which the supervisors must harness for firm’s advantage. Sometimes with the right words, such workers could still work with the hope of being paid in arrears. This is also a function of the company’s history as regards remunerations of workers.

A good manager uses this information to influence how he sets goals and provide feedback, and how he motivates and rewards team members. He can also use these motivators to craft, or design the job around his people, ensuring a better fit.

An 8 bedroom duplex designed by Voet Associates Ltd


Try saying “I was worried about our project timeline and our speed until you got into the team” (Affiliation and Achievement)

“I so trust your judgment Chris and I am going to stand aside and let you handle this” (power)

3. Make people responsible and define expectations:

It’s said that responsibilities make one responsible. Defining expectations means spelling out exactly what you want done, and the timeline required for it. Good managers know how to delegate clearly defined functions to subordinates while they stand aside to watch them push it through with minimal supervision. In fact it is a bad leadership style to lurk around your workers calling out instructions at each turn. It goes to show how much you lack confidence in their training as well as revealing the manager’s overbearing nature.

Citienergy Project, 9th Mile, Enugu


Setting expectations creates accountability in your business, removes all forms of ambiguity especially during appraisals for necessary entitlement. It makes your workers understand that they are actually responsible. Workers that are given specific tasks and deadlines will act more responsibly take ownership and deliver a better result without arguments. Besides, site workers have a way of claiming ignorant of the scope and nature of what they were contracted to do after they have started it. This is usually to ensure that additional tip is added to agreed charge.

Give instructions like “Look, your job today is to install that copping stone. I so trust you to do that. Do not hesitate to call me if you need anything”

4. Provide Incentives and adequate working conditions:

Sometimes we are motivated to act because of internal desires and wishes, but at other times, our behaviors are driven by a desire for external rewards. According to the work of Psychologist Clark Hull people are pulled toward behaviors that lead to rewards and pushed away from actions that might lead to negative consequences.

As a manager, think about what could motivate you generally. It could be a raise, gaining esteem, affiliation, improved living and working condition, accolades, power, sponsorship for training courses and job security. All these imply that incentives are not always monetary hence managers could take advantage of that. For instance, workers that go about their functions in safety wears tend to operate with an assurance of safety and a feeling of dignity in their labor. They tend to believe that the company has value for health and safety of workers.

Make efforts to observe work time schedule with breaks and definite opening and closing time even at site.

5. Keep materials supply consistent:

Haven known that an average casual construction worker is achievement-driven, consistent materials supply is of importance. Since some of these workers are paid based on the quantity of work they perform daily, the tendency to be discouraged by material insufficiency abounds. When these lack or epileptic supply is sustained over a long time, workers tend to find alternative sites.

It is worthy of note that under ideal conditions, construction workers could manage some short term shortage of funds for settlement of accrued wages than any form of delay in construction materials supply. Therefore, good managers keep tab of their supply and as well create a working relationship with suppliers to guarantee constant and timely material availability.

6. Pay as when due:

Finance is one of the most important reasons people engage in any form of labor. Construction work isn’t an exception. Pay workers early enough the moment your contract with them is due for the day. Certain site managers have a habit of keeping workers late into the night before they are finally paid for the day. This is not a healthy attitude because