Improving Employee Retention

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“I’ve hired a lot of people recently, only to have them leave after a short time. How can I get more of my employees to stay in the laundry?”

Healthcare Laundry: Richard Engler, John Peter Smith Health Network, Fort Worth, Texas

When reviewing this question, I believe that there are two items to consider here. 

The first part is whether you really want people who are looking for other places to stay in your laundry operation. For me, the answer is an emphatic no. 

Employees who are not engaged with their work are not what you want to base your operation’s performance on, much less your productivity metrics and organizational success. Employees who are not interested in being part of the team can regress to several behaviors, if they do not just stop coming to work altogether.

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Richard Engler

Richard Engler

The infamous “retired in place” employee is common. This employee will do only the (minimum) required tasks and never give anything more. This is dangerous as it can be highly infectious and daunting for your high performers to witness. 

The “drama club” employee is very painful for the other team members targeted by this bored employee who wants to move on, and this process will ruin an otherwise good team’s members by destroying their job satisfaction. When one employee throws another employee in front of the “bus,” everyone, including the witnesses, lose. A strong informal communications network is more common than ever with social media and can be very insidious.  

The “counter culture” employee can be highly destructive for the entire team. This employee has not only social skills, but also leadership potential and does not feel that the current assignment is worth their continued commitment. 

Destabilizing alternative viewpoints can be seductive to many team members where the leadership’s communication pathways are not clear and prompt in addressing the item du jour. When there is an alternate opinion, or worse, silence from leadership, the team members will end up being compelled to choose sides; we can easily see where that will lead.

The second part is pointing your recruitment, selection and retention efforts toward the kind of team members you want on your team. As jobs available to workers are more plentiful every day and labor markets are so varied, I recommend focusing on the options to help find the right new team members you want to stay.  

Once the interview process has begun and we like what we see in the candidate, we take a complete facility tour. Showing what is expected from the candidate is key to helping make a good match. Be sure to show every job expected, and do not downplay any part of the jobs—good or bad.  

We also insist that the candidate meet with and talk to another person in that job class so that a less formal exchange of work information can be shared. This helps with getting the understanding of expectations very clear in the candidate’s mind.

Once the candidate is selected, a welcome card is sent out. The new team member is introduced to the team at the shift huddle and assigned a mentor and training partner for initial training. This selection is done by the supervisory person who had interviewed the candidate.  

Within the first week of employment, the manager has a 15-minute meeting with the new employee to ensure that things are as expected, sufficient training has been accomplished and was retained, what was learned and enjoyed, as well as what concerns may have arisen, if any. A brief action plan is agreed on and another meeting to reassess is agreed to for two weeks ahead.  

The same event and actions occur at week four, week eight and week 12. At that time, a review of performance is created, and the team member is asked to review the organization and operations as part of the 
process. A mid-year meeting is scheduled and then the annual review.

This plan will help keep your new team member engaged and actively participating in his/her own development. Clear and timely communication pathways reduce the negative impact from the items listed before and foster a more open approach to building a personally tailored team member experience. 

Isn’t that really what is being asked for by your team?

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