Construction workers, by nature, are not afforded the same working conditions as office or factory workers whose surroundings are protected from nature’s elements and provide everyday comforts such as indoor restrooms, good lighting, break rooms, air conditioning and heating.  To the contrary, construction workers are subjected to harsh elements, such as cold, wind, rain and brutal heat which are intensified when working on high-rise buildings. How do we as a company motivate our construction workers who work in the extreme elements inherent in the construction of very tall buildings? We practice these simple steps:

Be Respectful – As a company, we must be respectful of the everyday needs and workplace conditions of our workers in order to earn their respect for the very projects they are building. On high-rise construction sites, we take into account the challenges that workers face by paying close attention to needed adjustments and personal comforts.  For example, sanitary facilities and restrooms with privacy are never more than one floor away to prevent inconvenient 15 – 30 minute travel breaks to lower floors.  In addition, adequate vertical transportation must be made available to transport workers during “rush” hours in the morning, at lunch times, and evening.  Adequate hoisting should also be provided so that workers don’t have long waits for personnel movement or material deliveries with necessary adequate loading dock facilities.  Respecting that workers are entitled to as much comfort and convenience as possible on high-rise buildings, makes their work day easier and more manageable and demonstrates the appropriate respect they deserve.

Communication is Key – It is important to have clear communication pathways between the workers and their day-to-day managers.  We encourage workers to raise their problems or challenges so that they can be discussed in a constructive manner -- without judgment -- with their supervisors.  We hold weekly team meetings in which goals are set and evaluated and agendas established taking into consideration working conditions, such as high winds and weather conditions, which may interrupt work flow.  Minutes of these meetings are taken and distributed to make clear what the goals are and what is expected at all times.  There is no guesswork.   Workers are made to feel part of the team when it comes to problem solving so that their voices and opinions are heard, evaluated and addressed. This helps develop good self-esteem and pride in the work they are performing. In other words, there is no “them and us” and there is no “me” – the building team is made up of “we.”   

Understand what is Expected – Workers need to have a clear and well-defined understanding of what is expected of them. It’s not enough to say “work hard” and do a “good” job.  Clear and continuous two-way communication must be spelled out with step-by-step directions, holding people accountable, and then once communicated, giving them full and unquestioned responsibility. We want our workers to understand that they are not just constructing a building, but that they are contributing to a community, creating a home where people live and raise a family, and providing a lifestyle with great outdoor spaces, parks and other amenities.  This helps them to understand the “Big Picture” of what they are creating and instill a sense of pride in their work. For the rest of their lives, construction workers will point to a building they worked on and tell their spouses, children and grandchildren of their contribution to the skyline of New York.

Recognition – Workers need to be recognized for the work they are doing.  It’s not just about keeping time schedules and working hard, it’s about working smart, safely and caring for each other on the job site.  Our superintendents give out weekly rewards and hold recognition luncheons to reward a job well done or when someone exceeds expectations.  As CEO, I make it a practice to visit job sites and interact with the workers to show that my outlook is about them and what they are doing in their day-to-day lives.  Workers not only have to be fairly financially compensated for the work they are doing as professionals, but they must also take pride in their work in order to be fulfilled and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Show You Care – The most important role any manager can play in motivating workers is to show that he or she has a strong concern for worker safety and at the end of the day in a high-hazard job they get to go home without injury or incident. Plaza has instituted a worker-incentive program that recognizes workers who are diligent, exhibit care and respect for the project, and show concern for their own and others’ safety.  Workers are continuously recognized and rewarded for best work practices throughout the job, as well as motivated to work safely and comply with safety regulations. To support best working practices, workers are provided with a number of incentives, including gift cards, work boots, flat screen televisions, and worker recognition luncheons and/or breakfasts. In the past Plaza has given away cars at the completion of a project for an outstanding work/safety record, and will do so again to further motivate workers about best work practices and safety records.

Richard Wood is President and CEO of Plaza Construction.