Developing a Dedicated Crew

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Developing a Dedicated Crew

Author says creating loyalty ‘is a daily task and not just a thank-you lunch on special days’

ROANOKE, Va. — In December, I told the staff of American Laundry News that I would stop writing articles effective with the July edition. While I have enjoyed writing articles for the laundry industry since 1977, I feel it is time to move on and retire from this monthly task. 

This has been a labor of love to an industry to which I gave 50 years of my life.

Yesterday, we went from 70 degrees on Sunday to the first heavy snowfall of the year on Monday. Sudden changes like this challenge our industry in many ways.

Snow does not come very often to Roanoke, Virginia, or to many areas that got snow over the last several days. Going from unexpected warmth one day to a blizzard the next shocks the system.

It also shocks our employees and tests their loyalties. The laundry industry is still very labor dependent, and sudden heavy snowstorms close schools, daycare facilities, and put normal, well-thought-out plans for children in chaos.

Being a stubborn person, I made it to my part-time job driving cars for Enterprise at the Roanoke Airport, but I know many employees across the city did not make it into work. I know of several locations that went out and purchased lunches for the employees that did show up under difficult circumstances.

This is a nice show of appreciation, but a one-time event has a limited lasting effect.

I made a point over my last five years of management to do a morning walkthrough of the laundry. It was a slow walk, and I took time to say hello and good morning to every employee.

I took time to listen to their questions or news about their families. We connected on a personal basis not just as employee/manager. I often thanked them for their hard work and reminded them how important their work is and how much the healthcare facilities we serviced depended upon us.

My office door was a scary barrier that many an employee did not dare try to enter, but out on the production floor or in the breakroom they felt comfortable with asking questions and giving me suggestions related to the work.

I always thanked them for their ideas and gave them full credit when we used their ideas. Employees who work at a job every day will often be the source of excellent process improvement ideas. 

Respect is always a two-way street.

I am confident that those workplaces that have engaged, dedicated employees had no trouble getting their employees to show up for work. Pizza restaurant employees saw the storm and knew that the lunch orders would be huge thanks to the snow.

Laundry employees see the snow and know that accidents will happen, extra linen will be used and their services will be in high demand. Their understanding of their business and the importance of their role in that business is a part of them.

During my many years of management, I went through major unexpected snowstorms, equipment breakdowns, extended power loss and extreme temperatures. During my 44 years of management, I was always blessed to work with employees who understood their jobs and their importance to getting the product out the door.

Developing a dedicated crew is a daily task and not just a thank-you lunch on special days.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].