How to Manage Painting Employees


Hey, do you have painters that are currently exhibiting behaviors that you do not approve of? It could be showing up late, it could be going over budget, it could be the way they do their work. If you do, you’re not alone. Most painting contractors struggle with this.

I’m Brandon Lewis with Painters Weekly and Painters Academy, and I want to talk to you about how to change the behavior of your painting contractors. Let’s take for example, going over budget. This is something that routinely happens. We’re going to assume that you’re using production rates in advance. That means, how many square feet per hour a painter can paint, how many linear feet a painter can paint, how many number of things a painter can paint in an hour, that you arrive at a labor hour number, based on measurements.

Then and only then, do you put that budget in front of someone that’s verified, so you can hold them accountable. Often, people put painters in front of budgets. It could be days, it could be hours, and the painters will consistently go over budget. And you may have one crew that’s always under budget, one crew that’s always kind of sort of on budget, and a couple of crews that are consistently under budget. Most owners have one system and one system only for trying to change their painters’ behavior. The first thing is the stern talking to, and there are lots of these that happen. The stern talking to, that doesn’t quite seem to get anything changed. Okay, that’s number one.

And then all the way on the other spectrum, is firing someone. So somewhere between the stern talking to and firing someone, lots of behaviors can be exhibited that are not in the best interest of the painter, the customer, or your company. When the only motivating factors that are tied to a painter’s behavior is whether or not the boss is going to get a little agitated, or finally, when they’ve gone over budget forever, they are fired. Those are really two ineffective extremes. So I’m going to suggest that you put other motivators on top of this.

Number one, I’m going to suggest that you make them document their hours on a daily basis, that they are the ones keeping up with coming in on budget for projects.

Number two, I’m going to ask that those hours be reported publicly in your crew meetings, and that you get engagement from them on why projects are going over budget. What is causing this to happen consistently? And also, to praise and reward them when projects come in under budget.

Number three, you need to tie in rewards for coming in under budget. And those could be bonuses for saved labor, it could be other incentives of gifts, certainly recognition.

And finally, competition between crews and crew leaders of who can save the most labor really motivates a certain percentage of your crew leaders who are go-getters.

Now we have gone from an environment where all we did before is have a stern talking to with them, and then when it got bad enough, we just abruptly fire them, to a system where the numbers are the numbers, there’s no playing favorites, everyone knows what the budget is. That we incentivize them if they come in under budget, where we have recognized them publicly for their accomplishments, and have engaged them in the conversation. And we’ve also put them in an area, where if they’re competitive, they can now shine.

If you want to change your painters’ behavior, and this is just one of example of many, you have to apply multiple forces, multiple motivators, multiple incentives and disincentives, to get them to act. Just having the old stern talking to and then the final firing is going to leave you in a place where even folks that have good aptitude can’t perform, and the folks who have poor aptitude will be surprised unnecessarily when they’re terminated.

So do something in between to make sure that you come in on budget, or that you stop or start the behavior that you’re looking to have exhibited, so that people can do what’s in the best interest of both the client, the company, and themselves.

I’m Brandon Lewis with Painters Academy and Painters Weekly. I’ll see you next week.