With the labor shortage and steep competition for quality tradespeople, it’s more crucial than ever for contractors to build lasting bonds with their onsite crew. Thankfully, one of the best ways to foster long-term loyalty is through simple acts of gratitude.

Affective commitment is an employee’s emotional attachment to a company, and it’s earned when employers demonstrate that they truly care about their workers’ happiness and well-being. Often, these small gestures mean differentiating yourself from the competition and retaining talent that may grow out of your price range. For instance, a worker with 20 years of experience will be more inclined to turn down higher offers if they feel taken care of by their current employer.

If you’re strapped for ideas for how to make your onsite crew feel appreciated, here are eight simple tips on how to start — all advice given by real-life workers on Reddit.

1. Replace their consumables

Even though it’s expected, few contractors actually replace their workers’ consumables.

One of the easiest ways to develop bad blood with onsite workers is by asking them to use their own drill bits, blades, glasses, respirator filters, headlamp batteries — you name it — knowing that the money for those supplies is coming out of their own pockets.

Whenever you know your onsite workers are using their own consumables, pick up replacements at the hardware store and bill it to your current job, or ask the parts runner to grab them.

2. Give a uniform allowance

This one is simple: provide company shirts, sweaters, coats, hats, and gloves.

If you don’t have company clothing to provide, one Reddit user recommends giving a stipend: $200 a year for pants and $200 a year for boots. Or, make it a generic uniform allowance that workers can use as needed.

3. Feed your crew

Is the owner going to be onsite around noon? Bring the crew lunch or take them out to a restaurant. Is there millwork or cleaning to be done at the shop? Provide a barbecue lunch and stock the fridge with cold drinks. It can even be as simple as taking drink orders on a hot day.

A Reddit user recounted, “I ran a 4,800 square-foot historical renovation, and one of the things I did was take orders for Circle K soft drinks or Powerade. Then, I’d go and hand out the orders to each of the crew members.”

4. Provide good coffee

No one wants to drink a weak, watery cup of joe at five o’clock in the morning. If you can, spend a little extra on quality coffee. According to one Reddit user, a decent standard for “cheap” coffee is medium roast Green Mountain Coffee.

“It’s good enough for most people, can be bought in big bags for large offices, and it doesn’t taste like it was cut with battery acid and motor oil. A Dunkin’ Donuts box is always good for site runs as well, although it is more money. I’ve seen a lot of contractors on railways get a few dozen donuts and coffee for any weekend/night/12-hour work and allow their subs or even the inspectors to grab some.”

5. Get to know your workers

While it might feel like a no-brainer, it’s important to get to know your crew. Learn what everyone onsite does, talk to them about why their work matters, and accommodate their individual needs however you can.

There are tons of ways to do this. As one Reddit user mentioned, “When an employee shows up late often, ask them why. If they have to drop off their kids at school and it makes it their mornings tight, shift their schedule so they start 15 minutes later but also stay 15 minutes later.”

6. Make their lives easier

Another easy way to show your workers you care is by occasionally pitching in on the more menial tasks around the job site or office.

“I’ll take out the garbage when I see one that is full,” said one Reddit user. “I’ll help load a truck if I’m nearby. Hell, if you want to go crazy, pick up a shovel and help.”

Another user recounted, “I was working on fixing up my house before moving in and took time off to do so. I was offered any tool I needed, and our owner even offered to peel off a dude from a site and send him to help me for free. We have some pallets of tile and lumber that are just sitting around, take ‘em if you want ‘em. Need to move something? Please, take a company truck and handle it. Oh, your car is in the shop? Here’s a loaner.”

7. Involve their families

Your workers’ families are important to them, so involve them in your plans and gestures as a company.

“My president’s wife sends everyone handwritten cards for every holiday and birthday — even a personal one to me for Veteran’s Day. Once a month, they used to invite everyone to a cookout at the shop, kids and family included. They definitely showed everyone they cared,” one Reddit user said.

8. Say thanks

“Thank you.”
“You made this happen.”
“I appreciate you.”
“Our clients are happy.”
“Good job.”

Saying thanks is easy and doesn’t cost a thing, but these words aren’t spoken nearly enough on job sites. Thanking your crew is the most important thing you must do to show them that you understand how pivotal they are to your success.

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