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3 Steps to Getting Sign Employees to Work Harder

We offer ideas for incentivizing productivity in this month’s “Ask Signs of the Times.”




How do you get employees to work hard the whole time they are on your clock?! Incentive ideas?

First, which employees? Some jobs may lend themselves to “breaks” — such as installers waiting for something — more than others. Next, how possible is what you’re asking? For example, can someone running a router table quickly transition to other tasks? And how would you measure this? Amount of work completed, finished earlier than scheduled?

Once you sort out what you can realistically expect and how to track it, as far as incentives go, here are some thoughts:

  1. Communicate all expectations and how you will measure them very clearly.
  2. The incentive itself should be something prized or valued; time and money have ways of getting attention. A time-based incentive could involve PTO or letting everyone off early on Friday. Monetary incentives don’t have to mean cash, and could take the forms of lunches, parties or prizes.
  3. Whatever you decide, make sure your system can be adjusted, ratcheted down so to speak. Why? Studies have shown that once employees feel a bonus is or has become impossible to achieve, they become demotivated. So, consider gold, silver and bronze-level rewards for hard work that can be both measured and rewarded.

Is there a sign-training school somewhere? We have tried at the local vocational centers with no luck.

Signs of the Times knows of no comprehensive sign-training school — certainly nothing available nationally as for other trades, such as plumbing and construction. ISA offers targeted online courses. Vocational training can help with certain skills such as welding and electrical work, but the lack of specific sign-training facilities is one of the largest contributing factors to the challenge companies face when trying to attract, hire and retain skilled talent, especially new or young employees. Thus, sign companies are on the hook to provide the majority of their own training.

How much on average are raw materials up in cost — rough estimate? How are other sign companies handling inflation? Riding out the storm or adjusting daily?

We recently surveyed our Brain Squad, asking both how much their costs and pricing have increased in the past 12 months (see St, April 2022, page 58). While more than 70% of the respondents stated that their costs had increased by more than 10%, fewer than 40% reported increasing their pricing by the same amount. The cost responses produced a bell curve with “10+% to 15%” the experience of 41% and representing the median range. A further 42% were fairly evenly split between “5+% to 10” and “15+% to 20%.”

The pricing response curve skewed toward lower ranges: “5+% to 10%” was the choice of the plurality at 39%, with “10+% to 15%” at 30% but only “1% to 5%” the reality for 22% of participating Brain Squad members. What this suggests is that sign companies as a whole may not be raising their pricing as much as their costs have increased — and perhaps they are, thereby “riding out the storm” — or that the prices they are adjusting are lagging behind.

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Introducing the Sign Industry Podcast

The Sign Industry Podcast is a platform for every sign person out there — from the old-timers who bent neon and hand-lettered boats to those venturing into new technologies — we want to get their stories out for everyone to hear. Come join us and listen to stories, learn tricks or techniques, and get insights of what’s to come. We are the world’s second oldest profession. The folks who started the world’s oldest profession needed a sign.

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