ROANOKE, Va. — Five years ago in late December, I retired from active laundry management after a 44-year career. I have watched the industry with great interest from the sidelines ever since. 

I saw many changes during my working years, so it came as no surprise that changes continued to hit the industry. 

In many ways, I am very glad to sit on the sideline and watch and not have to deal with supply-chain problems and the need to adapt to COVID-19. But one challenge has remained constant throughout my 44 years of active management and into my five years of retirement.

That constant is the effective management of our most crucial resource, our people.

During the past five years, I have gotten to travel the world and get involved as a part-time worker in the car rental business. I have watched as COVID shut down for a while and then fundamentally changed that industry. I have watched as supervisors and managers struggled with handling the challenges of working with a smaller work crew.

Suddenly, effective personnel and productivity management became a key concern for these companies. The need for improved interview skills, employee training, employee guidance and effective discipline became increasingly more important. 

The industry transformed, suddenly, from employing retired workers as part-time drivers to having to change to younger employees because of the health concerns of their elder employees.

Trying to attract new employees while competing against generous unemployment benefits was a very real challenge.

Needing to hire the right person for the job instead of just anyone became more important. Effectively managing your employee group to attain good productivity with a minimum of turnover became even more important. 

Understanding the value your company brings to each employee helps in hiring correctly and in lowering employee turnover.

Many of these challenges also exist in the laundry industry. Both are entry-level jobs, and there are many parallels between the needs of both industries.

So, what are you doing to meet these needs? Do all your supervisors and lead workers utilize good people management skills? Most importantly, is everyone treated the same and held to the same standards?

Nothing causes problems faster than giving special privileges to a small number of employees. Employees expect fair treatment and expect everyone to play by the same set of rules. They expect their raises to either be across the board equal or fairly based on some measurable criteria.

If based on measurable criteria, they expect to be given updates throughout the year on how they are doing. Evaluation time should never come as a surprise.

With the start of 2022, it is time to do an organizational assessment and review how you are doing in the people department.

During a recent employee feedback session at my part-time job, the human resources representative asked a group of my fellow employees what we liked most about our current job.

The answer given most frequently was that we all really enjoyed working together both as a team and on a social basis. That feeling can easily be destroyed by a poor hire or poor personnel management.

Over the past 49 years, I have seen many challenges come and go, but the need for good personnel management never changes.