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Engage Laundry Staff for More Satisfied Employees

Author identifies ways for on-premises laundries to ‘win the battle’ with high turnover rates

HOUSTON — Why does Monday seem so far from Friday, but Friday so close to Monday? Or why does time fly on the weekend when you’re not at your place of employment, yet drag on Monday and the remainder of the work week?

The answer is all too predictable: Many employees dread Monday mornings, and for good reason. Their job is simply a way to earn money. It’s not something they enjoy. For too many, it’s the start of another work week with five long days before the weekend and the satisfaction and simple joy that comes with time off.

But you can make the job fun, or at least more enjoyable. And the good part is that doing so will help you increase employee satisfaction, and thus help you keep staff members who are dependable and responsible. 

For the on-premises laundry (OPL) business, it’s even more important to keep employees engaged in their job, since the industry, particularly in nursing homes and hotels, faces high turnover for the simple reason that laundry is not a sexy business. In fact, doing laundry is usually about the last job that anyone wants. But it has to be done, and if you find a good laundry employee, you need to add benefits that will make him or her want to stay.

I don’t think anyone has totally figured out how to engage laundry staff, but there are definitely things you can do to win the battle with high turnover rates.

First, give employees incentives to do a good job. Make it a competitive situation, and give them some type of reward—financial or otherwise—if the in-house laundry is running efficiently, on-time and within the allotted parameters. 

Maybe you give employees an extra $12 a day for meeting the standards. That’s only $1.50 extra an hour for an eight-hour shift, but that equals an additional $60 a week or $240 a month. And that’s a lot of money—and a lot of incentive—for someone who may be earning between $10 and $12 an hour.

Along that line, have a contest or competition. For example, around the Super Bowl each year, we run a competition within our service department and will give away a 55- or 65-inch television. A chance to win a big-screen TV can create a lot of motivation for employees to excel in their jobs. 

Third, give employees the proper training so they know how to do their job well and understand things such as what is the correct load size. The training doesn’t have to be extensive—usually an hour is sufficient—but it should be enough to help them understand what happens when they cut corners or don’t pay attention to quality. 

Don’t just use YouTube videos for your training; create your own training methods that include “here’s why we do it this way and here’s the result when we don’t.” You need to make sure your laundry employees understand that even the “little things” can have a big, and negative, impact in the laundry operation. 

Fourth, allow employees time to get out and walk the floor of your nursing home, hotel or other facility. Have them see and meet the residents so they remember that there are faces attached to the items they are laundering and sending out the door each day. 

Let your laundry employees get engaged with the nursing home residents and find out how they like their laundry done. While they can’t engage with hotel visitors since they mostly change on a daily basis, remind your laundry attendants to take pride in the fact that they are the ones washing the linens that people are sleeping on. 

Are the sheets soft, or is it like sleeping on cardboard? Are the towels soft, or do they feel like sandpaper? Soft sheets and towels are a big part of the service that hotel guests expect, and it’s easy to forget how important a role laundry plays into a hotel’s services.

Fifth, treat your employees like they matter, because they do. Provide them with decent benefits. Let them know you recognize they are doing a good job. Be friendly and a team player who is willing to help out at times. 

Everyone likes to be appreciated. Keeping the job enjoyable will make it more fun, which makes it easier for people to show up for work on a Monday morning.

And perhaps most importantly, make sure they have quality laundry equipment that will allow them to do their job well. You need up-to-date laundry equipment, but too often, the laundry room is the last thing added when designing a new building. 

While UniMac’s TotalVue technology is more of an owner’s tool rather than an attendant’s tool—it gives managers and executives complete visibility to key performance statistics in their laundry operation—you need to share that information so your laundry employees learn how they can be more efficient on the job. 

In the beginning, that means sharing the utilization, efficiency and throughput statistics on a weekly basis with your laundry manager or staff, until you are getting rates in the 90-95% range. Then, you can move to a monthly report to ensure you maintain those rates.

So, go to your laundry staff and say you’re only using the equipment at 75% of capacity and that means you’re not being efficient. Tell them how to increase their efficiency and throughput, and that will help decrease downtime, labor and operational expenses.

Don’t forget to also share this data with the maintenance staff. Let them know when there are error codes—such as when the bearings need greasing—so they can ensure your laundry equipment is operating at an optimal level.

Really, it all comes down to increasing your utilization rates and decreasing your downtime and operational expenses. In short, higher performance, lower costs. And it is so much easier to do that if you have engaged and happy laundry employees.

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

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