3 Ways to Show Construction Worker Appreciation Like “Undercover Boss”

Originally Published by The Capterra Construction Management Blog

You’ve probably seen Undercover Boss, but if you haven’t, the formula works like this:

The CEOs of major companies, like Waste Management Inc., The Dwyer Group, and Orkin, go “undercover” in their massive companies. Typically, they find some workers that they really like, and some they really don’t care for.

If the lack of work satisfaction is on an epidemic scale, bosses have to look within to see if it’s a personal problem with employees, or a systemic, company-wide issue that needs quick resolution.

Either way, at the end of the episode, the undercover CEO reveals him or herself in a one-on-one meeting with the employees that they were exposed to. They bestow their workers with gifts, both personal and professional, and everyone leaves the conversation happy.

In that moment, the worker feels appreciated and valued for their contribution to the company. And the good bosses, the ones that notice the systemic problems, they make real changes to their company.

Unfortunately, a moment of appreciation doesn’t last. Worker appreciation must be demonstrated whenever possible–and showing gratitude for your workers can help your construction company’s bottom line.

Clearly, this is a tactic construction managers should pursue, but how?

If your company is largely made up of contractors, you don’t worry too much about retention. But there are other reasons to keep your construction workers happy.

For example, if you don’t make your workers feel valued, they may not do as good a job as they otherwise would. And happy employees tend to make more profitable firms.

Below, I list the top 3 ways to show gratefulness to your construction staff. Best of all, one of these options are free, and the rest are small investments. It’s like replicating the end scene of Undercover Boss regularly.

1. Allocate earned safety awards.

DPR Construction is consistently giving its contractors thousands of dollars, paid time off, and even monthly wine bars for the whole team.

They’re one of the leading construction firms in workplace safety, and, for them, it’s all about reinvestment in their workers’ happiness.

All of these prizes are dedicated to celebrating employees who exceed expectations when following safety practices. Workers are extra-motivated to protect themselves against dangerous situations.

And it pays off.

Fortune rated DPR Construction as one of the “Best Places to Work For.” They also manage to rake in $2.5 billion annually.

You might not have the same budget as DPR Construction, but you still have lots of options. They include:

  • Employee of the month incentives, like public recognition, small rewards (gift cards, anyone?), and lunches or dinners to celebrate.
  • Giving your best safety employees more responsibilities helps them feel valued and secure in their jobs. Offer them the opportunity to show off their safety skills in onboarding programs.
  • Make a monthly commitment to get together with your team to socialize together–without any work or requirements involved.

2. Get to know your employees.

I get it, construction managers are busy. They’re sometimes not even on site–instead their buried in zoning law babble, hashing out budgets, and, of course, planning, organizing, scheduling, directing, controlling, and finishing their construction firm’s projects, all with construction management software.

Yet, in spite of their job’s busyness, the best still have a fantastic relationship with their contractors.

I’m sure you’ve had excellent managers, forgettable managers, and managers that could have inspired Horrible Bosses. The best managers make their team feel valued and appreciated, even if just through physically being there. How?

  • Strive to be a servant leader; make sure that you are doing everything within your power to advocate for your team’s needs.
  • Use your one-on-one time wisely. If you reserve that time just for sharing bad news (even if you are just the messenger), you will be inadvertently making your contractors scared of you. Get to know your team. Be it a 5-minute cigarette break or a lunch together, you will be communicating that you appreciate your workers and want to know them as people, not just building tools.
  • Say “thank you” and be humble. It seems obvious to anyone in a leadership position, but it’s amazing how “leaders” regularly forget. Business News Daily offers a great list of what to say, including “I’m glad to have you on the team” and “I know I can always count on you for _____.”

3. Encourage your contractors to appreciate each other.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all your employees respected and promoted each other?

It would make being that “Undercover Boss” much easier. Instead of having to slap on a disguise to hand pick every outstanding employee, contractors–who work with each other every day on site–put in for which of their colleagues should get recognized.

For example, Grasshopper.com reports that Zappos “encourages team appreciation by letting team members add $50 to a co-worker’s pay check when they’ve done something great.”

Doing so also promotes a healthy relationship between your contractors, making your company a place worth working for.

How can you do this?

  • Take a new spin on the employee of the month idea; have construction workers “vote” for each other to see who is the most productive.
  • Post nice things contractors have said about each other in a public forum.
  • Follow the Zappos method of giving contractors the ability to tack on to one of their coworker’s paycheck.


Showing appreciation to your construction workers isn’t hard. Reward them for a job well done, thank them for their hard work, and foster an environment where contractors want to work for you.

Take that, Undercover Boss.

I’d love to hear your comments because I’m sure you all have more suggestions on how to show gratitude to your contractors. Leave a sentence or two about what you do to show construction worker appreciation–and please let me know what I missed!