Perk Up Your Production Staff

When it comes to effective incentives, money is not necessarily the most important factor.

When looking at incentives and perks for your employees, it’s rarely about the money. Sure, everyone likes a raise, or the occasional bonus, but there are other ways to reward and recognize your best employees.

Sometimes the perspective of management is different from the perspective of the workers punching the time clock. A business owner I worked with once flaunted the fact that he paid for a life insurance policy for each of his 100 employees. He was amazed and more than a little offended when I suggested that his employees likely didn’t see this as a benefit to them. As proof, I offered to do a survey. The hand-out simply asked: “What are the benefits you receive from your employer?” The form had numbered lines and blank spaces. And the form had to be filled out in silence without conversation.

As you might guess, no one listed the life insurance policy as a company-offered benefit. But several employees noted that they received movie tickets when they did their job well. It was just a random “thank you” from management that seemed to have a profound effect on morale. For the price of two movie tickets, sodas and popcorn, these employees felt recognized and appreciated. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Repeating the same incentives can become stale, so it’s important to have new ideas and ways to motivate. And, it isn’t always necessary to focus a perk on individual achievement. A group incentive can be very effective as well.

As in many larger production shops, control of the radio can be a chore. In a shop I managed, we came up with the novel idea of a daily chart where every single employee had their own personal radio day. And we had a small selection of CDs as well. The employee, on his or her predetermined day, chose the music, or news, or no sound at all.

Once, when our production calendar had an upcoming bulge, it struck me that new CDs could be an interesting way to motivated production staff to squeeze six days’ worth of projected work into a five-day schedule. If employees finished everything by Friday afternoon, a committee from the production floor could buy 15 new CDs to fill out our collection. It seems like a small reward, but the production crew jumped at the challenge to the point of having supervisors running presses on breaks and over lunch. The six days of work we needed to complete in five was finished before my crew went home on Thursday.

You can’t expect your staff to do six days of work in five days on a regular basis, but the occasional need for extra production can be motivated with a simple and fairly inexpensive reward.

A perk can be as small as a gesture of appreciation. During a particularly hot summer, I arranged with the owners and other managers to surprise everyone on the production floor during afternoon break time with tubs of ice cream and toppings, served up to the staff by the president and other company managers. The result was smiles all around and a pumped up feeling of being appreciated for the hard work and sometimes harsh conditions of production.

Don’t forget to focus on success. It’s often tempting to spend time trying to encourage and motivate our marginal employees, at the expense of rewarding our best employees. Your best employees, the ones who arrive on time and ready to produce, work well with others and put forth maximum effort, will see when you focus all your energy and attention on marginal workers. Instead, praise and reward the best of the best, so the marginal employees take notice and desire the same recognition for themselves.

Incentives and perks don’t have to be cash awards or even carry a large price tag. The key is to set goals, publicly recognize achievement and change up the rewards now and again.


Terry Combs is a 35-plus-year veteran of the garment-printing industry and has managed production shops large and small across the United States. He has written hundreds of management and technical articles for garment-printing publications and spoken at industry events worldwide. He is currently in sales and training with Equipment Zone, Franklin Lakes, NJ, working from Scottsdale, AZ.