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Offering Employee Professional Development Opportunities (Conclusion)

“I’ve had more employees asking about professional development opportunities. What ideas do you have that we can offer to benefit employees and the company?”

Healthcare Laundry: Jay Juffre, ImageFIRST, King of Prussia, Pa.

Jay Juffre
Jay Juffre

Knowing what your employees seek professionally is very important.  

Some folks want to simply come to work, do their job and go home while others aspire beyond their current position. It is our role as leaders to know which group each fall into. 

The best way to approach this situation is through clear communication. 

For example, when speaking with employees, talk about these two groups, “If you love what you are doing for us, great! If you desire to do something more with the company, there are plenty of opportunities.”  

Ensure there is a clear channel for folks who want an opportunity to express that to their supervisors.  

When you have an employee express interest in doing more, there are two key questions you should ask them: why and what. Why do they want additional opportunities? And what do they see themselves doing?  

The why is so you better understand their motivations. Maybe it is more money. Maybe it is to feel more fulfilled at work. 

Regardless, getting promoted or taking on bigger assignments at work is never easy and so understanding where they are coming from can be key to helping them succeed.   

When you know what they want to do, the key is to help determine what is preventing them from getting there. It could be knowledge of the job, technical skills or additional training and development.  

Whenever you have an employee who wants to take on more, encourage them. Let them know that you want to help them achieve their goals. Make sure they understand the potential difficulty or extra effort it may take to get there.  

It is important to lay out a clear path to success with milestones and expectations. Gain agreement on the path forward and decide how regularly to touch base on the progress. 

Ultimately, our industry affords driven individuals to ascend the ranks and have a great career. It is our role to mentor those who want this opportunity and encourage them to get there.

Chemicals Supply: Leonardo Gastelum, Norchem Corp., Los Angeles, Calif.

Leonardo Gastelum
Leonardo Gastelum

Depending on the position one holds in the organization, and the direction one wants to advance in, I would recommend the following approaches to mutually benefit both the employee and the company. 

One area that is rapidly advancing and is critical to the commercial laundry industry is technology. As a whole, it applies to nearly every person’s role in a company. 

Encouraging employees to stay abreast of technological advancements, evolving systems and updated processes within their field is crucial.

Sourcing training programs or classes for specific trades, software or equipment the company regularly relies on can serve as an avenue for employees to enhance their knowledge and in turn provide value to the organization. 

Access to continuous learning about new developments and refining existing skills contributes to professional growth and, more importantly, retains employees in the long term. 

Allowing employees to demonstrate their skills or passion to advance in the form of new challenges in their current position, cross-functionally or on specific projects can further show a willingness to allow professional development and enhancement within the organization. 

We have found in the technical setting that skill-based training is most effective when participants have the opportunity to learn, practice and receive feedback from a mentor or a seasoned employee. 

If the company does not have the mentor or training infrastructure to support this type of development in-house, then I would highly encourage the company to consider stipends for training programs available in the employee’s specific field or within the textile rental services industry at large. 

Developmental assignments, whether entirely new or added responsibilities, are key in fostering growth by presenting challenges that push individuals beyond their comfort zones and necessitate innovative thinking and action.

Commercial Laundry: Rodrigo Patron, Lace House Linen, Petaluma, Calif.

Rodrigo Patron
Rodrigo Patron

We have always been interested in providing our employees with training and development opportunities. However, the time and expenses associated with traveling to training sessions can make them difficult to attend. 

Fortunately, with the advent of efficient video conferencing platforms, it has become much easier for our employees to receive quality education without having to travel and be away from work for extended periods. 

Even though some classes are always better in person, especially for hands-on training for engineers or mechanics, it is great to have options for courses that are 100% online or a combination of online and video conferences. 

We currently select employees for training based on their level of interest and a quick evaluation process that checks basic things like attendance, tardiness and seniority. We generally prefer to send employees who have been with us for at least their probation period. 

Just recently, two of our supervisors graduated from a three-month laundry supervisory skills training program, which was a great experience for both the employees and the rest of the staff at our plant. 

Our supervisors graduated at the top of their class and brought many new ideas and skills to our plant. 

The program was a combination of online and live video conference calls, which made it very convenient for the participants. Most of the classes were available online, and each student could complete the coursework on their own time, with the occasional live video conference that was scheduled in advance. 

The program offered a lot of value and provided complete information on real-life laundry scenarios. More importantly, it offered a great opportunity for our supervisors to meet other supervisors from different types of laundry plants. 

We have found TRSA to be a great resource for these types of programs. Most courses are very affordable and sometimes even free of cost for TRSA members. 

Another great resource for training and getting new ideas is to visit another plant. Although scheduling a plant tour in some laundry companies is harder than getting admitted to an Ivy League school, it is worth asking around. 

Experiencing another laundry plant during peak working hours is as close as you can get to real-life training, and it’s a great way to learn new things, get new ideas and develop relations with other people from our industry. 

It goes without saying that if you get to tour another plant, you should always extend an invitation to visit yours!

Consulting Services: Stephanie Gregg, Vizient, Little Elm, Texas

Stephanie Gregg
Stephanie Gregg

I have found the best and most effective professional development occurs when the education is hands-on and interactive.  

Engage in webinars and meetings where panels of experts discuss topics that allow for questions and answers rather than a presentation with a slide deck. Seek a diverse group of experts to learn the business, such as contract specialists, co-op board members, laundry and textile suppliers, and technology suppliers.

Utilize professional organizations such as the Association for Linen Management (ALM), the Association for Health Care Environment (AHE), and the American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA), attending a conference at least every three years.  

Many have free webinars or virtual classes that you can attend as a group and then discuss how it applies to your organization. If your company is a member of a GPO (group purchasing organization), register for the webinars that offer CEUs (continuing education units) and apply to your business (Joint Commission standards, OSHA Standards, HLAC regulations).

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions or request suppliers/consultants hold a training session with your team once a quarter that can be focused on your individual needs.

Textile/Uniform Rental: W. Kirby Wagg, Performance Matters, Sarasota, Fla.

W. Kirby Wagg
W. Kirby Wagg

Employee engagement is the single most important aspect of operating a business in 2024.

Your team members must be your focus; understanding their mindset will benefit your employees and your company.

During employee one-on-one meetings (this is a must!) you will find out what drives your team members, what their dreams are, what they need today and tomorrow that will help them continue to learn, grow and develop in your company. 

If they want to further develop their education or learn a new skill, then you owe it to them to help them make that happen. 

There are always ways to work out schedules and possibly create ways to allocate dollars that can assist them in achieving their goals. 

Perhaps you can involve other companies in our industry or the community to partner with you in a way that is mutually beneficial or perhaps split the cost. 

Your team will see that you are serious about helping them, and through this process, you will build trust. 

Your team will then be more focused on your customers and turnover in your company will see a decrease—your team becomes your recruiters!

As a leader, if your team is not your focus, your business will eventually fail. 

Think about it: if you are always stressing about customers, and not looking after your team members, then you will have a staggering turnover in your team.

Simon Sinek ( says that three factors determine a team’s success:

  • Trust.
  • Effective leadership.
  • A shared vision.

A Gallup finding says that just 10% of people put in manager roles have a strong natural ability to do so. Do we need to better develop our managers? I would say so! 

Invest in your managers with professional development first, then invest in the rest of your team. The payback is so quick that you will develop a schedule where education and training are always at the forefront of your daily routine. 

It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just effective.

Leaders on all levels drive employee engagement and employee retention and the single best skill leaders need to improve both is to build trust. 

To build trust, leaders need to focus on employees’ needs today versus overall organizational needs for tomorrow. To build that high level of trust that will retain and engage employees that will lead to productivity and profits, regular sit-down meetings (some call them “stay interviews”) are essential. 

Listening, probing and note-taking are essential for identifying employees’ greatest needs and addressing them … all to build that high level of trust.

Professional development is delivered in many different venues: clinics, online, hands-on courses at local schools or colleges, and other laundries. 

Listen to your team and your company will be successful!               

Click here to read Part 1 with professional development ideas from experts in hospitality laundry, equipment and uniform/workwear manufacturing, and distribution.

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