It was a call from a technician friend of mine. Jim had some news to relay. “I quit,” said Jim. “I’ve moved on to a different contractor.” To say the least, I was surprised. Jim had been at the company (it shall remain nameless) for more than five years and appeared to be in good standing. Why the move?

“You know, I worked my butt off there, but I never received any recognition,” Jim answered. “No ‘thank you.’ No reward. No time off. No company picnic. It was like I was working and working … for what?”

After a moment of silence, he stated something all contractor-owners should hear and remember: “As an employee, I never felt wanted or appreciated.”

Jim, of course, is not alone with his feelings. Money may attract people to the front door, but something else keeps them from going out the back exit. Although many people claim they are quitting for a better paying job elsewhere, survey after survey shows that a lack of appreciation and recognition is a primary reason why people quit their jobs.


As owner of a hectic contracting business, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business and operations. In most parts of the country, it’s been a hot summer this year, so I suspect most contractors have been busy, busy, and more busy. Troubles occur, however, when an owner - as well as a manager - forgets to compliment technicians, installers, and all employees involved in accomplishing task after task after task in the fast-paced months of June, July, and August. It’s understandable, but definitely inexcusable.

A nudge from the top can be very effective in not only keeping up employee morale, but employee retention. Just ask Jim. He said a “thank you” now and then would have been nice and definitely accepted. In other words, rewarding your employees doesn’t have to be costly. A boss should take the time to personally thank employees for doing a good job. The key is to do it regularly, specifically, and sincerely.

Unfortunately, many owners, bosses, and managers are far quicker to notice and make it known to employees - both publicly and in private - if something has gone wrong, or if a certain employee did wrong. After all, for most humans, it is easier to criticize than to compliment. It’s something we all need to be aware of and make an effort to shake and improve upon.

For instance, what would it take to have a supply of treats handy, each complete with a short note? When appropriate, one contractor I know hands out a roll of Lifesavers, and the note attached says, “Thanks for being a lifesaver today.” Another nice idea I heard was having cans of Orange Crush soda available, with a note: “Thanks for helping out in the crush.”

As they say, it’s the thought that counts. And, it’s still true.


If you struggle as to how to surprise and honor employees, turn to “1001 Ways to Reward Employees,” by Bob Nelson. The author provides some good, creative suggestions, including many low-cost ideas, such as:

• Bring in ice cream treats for everyone at the end of a particularly stressful week.

• When someone has been successful, offer him (or her) a chance to teach others what he (or she) did. As Nelson said, “This will allow the unit to learn from the successful experience, and will acknowledge the person’s unique contribution to the work.”

• Thank the employee by washing the employee’s car in the company parking lot so that all can see and appreciate.

• Take a few minutes during a staff meeting to recognize a successful project and present the participants with an appropriate token such as a certificate, a “congratulations” cake, or their favorite candy bar.

Those are just a few.

As a boss or manager, if you have some unique and successful ways of rewarding employees, do not hesitate to e-mail those winning tips to me. These ideas will be passed along toNEWSreaders, as it’s always good to learn from others.

At the same time, it’s always good to reward and show appreciation for top-notch employees. Just ask Jim.

Publication date:08/20/2007