Connect with us

Ask Signs of the Times

What Are the Best Training Suggestions for New Sign Employees?

We answer this reader question in October’s “Ask Signs of the Times.”




With the sign industry being so vast and constantly changing, what are the best training suggestions for new employees that are both new to the company and new to the industry?

Answer from Eric E. Larsen, Empire Architectural Design + Sign, Midland, MI, who has contributed to columns, articles and a webinar on recruiting and retaining new, young employees:

  • I would first have a conversation with your new employee as to their interests, even if they have nothing to do with the sign industry…
  • If they are artistic, then look over their work. If they like sculpting, then they will probably like fabrication or neon bending. If they like drawing, then of course it’s the design room for them to learn vinyl layout or large format printing. If they are detail oriented, then put them in final prep or paint. If they like the outdoors or assembling things, then they need to be on a crew putting up signs.
  • [You can] always start them on vinyl weeding and applying transfer paper… the simplest jobs in the shop… Encourage them to ask questions and maybe allow them to watch a skilled person doing their job for a bit. Never discourage them or push them to something they will not like. You won’t keep them long if you do so.
  • Always ask a skilled employee if they would like to mentor the new person. There is no better teacher than someone who likes what they do.

Every time we introduce a new project or way of doing things, or even when we propose a solution to a problem, there are members of staff who will find a reason to reject it. How do I deal with such people?

Amy Gallo, author of the Hbr Guide to Dealing with Conflict, suggests these phrases to help you deal with such situations:

  • “You’ve made a good point, but if we x, then y.”
  • “When you keep pointing out the negative, we lose the enthusiasm we need to be really creative and productive. But you’ve shown me x, and I believe that you can y.”
  • “May I explain why I disagree with you?”
  • “Can you rephrase that in a positive way?”
  • “Perhaps so, but here’s the good/alternative I see.”
  • “Let’s brainstorm on how to fix it.”
  • “I’d appreciate it if you could give me some alternatives.”
  • “Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Now let’s …”
  • “Can we get a second opinion on that from …?”
  • “What would you do?”
  • “What do you need to fix it/move forward?”
  • “I can see why you’d think that/feel that way. What’s your next step?”
  • “You sound upset/pessimistic. Is that what you were trying to convey?”
  • “Can we approach this from a different angle?”

Gallo says it’s important to remember that a pessimist usually isn’t out to hurt you on purpose. “They might not even realize how much they come across as a downer,” she wrote. “Aim to truly listen and empathize rather than passing judgment, and over time, they’ll trust you and learn not to stay in the pits.”

Want to see your questions featured in this department? Send your emails to:



Who’s Steering Signs of the Times?

We dive into the history of the sign industry’s oldest trade journal, highlighting some interesting facts about how it all started to where it’s headed. Did you know that Signs of the Times is nearly 120 years old?

Promoted Headlines






Most Popular