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Offering Employee Professional Development Opportunities (Part 1)

“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?”

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Samantha Propson, The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Samantha Propson
Samantha Propson

When an employee wants to expand their professional development with the company they currently work for, managers should be excited about their staff wanting to excel. It can take a lot for an individual to ask an employer to invest in them if they have never done it before. 

I was in that position when I was unsure of what direction my career was taking me. 

When companies are willing to work with employees and want to see professional growth, it can speak volumes about leadership and the organization. 

I have had more employees approach me, both hourly attendants to supervisors, and ask about what they could do to advance in their careers. There are a few different approaches that could work in any industry and that I have personally used in my department.

Some of the different methods could include:

  • On-site training and cross-training from staff that have tenure and experience. This would help the employee by gaining experience in multiple departments. Training from experienced staff offers the skill and knowledge of the company standard. Companies benefit by having more flexibility when scheduling and more coverage where there is a need.
  • Working together to set goals that are obtainable and meeting regularly to ensure they are staying on track. If they are not being challenged by the goals set, they may be ready to take on new projects and responsibilities with proper guidance. This can go hand in hand with frequent performance reviews rather than just annually. The more the employee knows about their performance, the more motivated they are.
  • Promoting from within and providing proper training to succeed in the new position. It is beneficial for the company to have an employee who has knowledge and standards of the department in mind. 
  • If there is an option for off-site training or seminars, this could prove to be beneficial. Whether it is to network with vendors or to attend motivational/skills workshops. These opportunities foster new ideas and create new working relationships. New partnerships can be made, and the skills learned can be applied to job duties.

Investing in our employees plays the biggest part in professional development. 

Companies benefit from employees who stay engaged and leaders who take the time to listen to the needs and values of their team. 

Equipment Manufacturing: Chuck Anderson, Chicago Dryer Company, San Diego, Calif.

Chuck Anderson
Chuck Anderson

Every company, regardless of size, should have or should be thinking about protocols for professional development opportunities for their employees, especially with today’s workforce desiring more meaningful and engaging employment. 

Upskilling employees will generally always benefit the company.  

I feel one of the easiest and possibly least expensive ways for a company to accomplish this is through cross-training by having an employee seeking advancement shadow a skilled department manager or team leader.  

Another idea is to sign up an employee or two to attend a TRSA Production Summit and Plant Tour, of which there are three scheduled for 2024. This provides an excellent platform for networking and insight into how other laundry plants operate. 

TRSA also offers a Certified Professional Laundry Manager Program and a Maintenance Certificate Program, both high-level programs. 

The Western Textile Service Association and other industry associations offer similar plant tours and networking events. These events could also be used to reward employees who provide exemplary service. 

The Association for Linen Management (ALM) is another excellent resource dedicated to the professional development of personnel involved in the textile care industry. ALM provides a plethora of training courses, workshops, webinars and certifications for these individuals. 

Check into the Laundry and Linen College held twice a year. 

If your audience and budget are larger, maybe look at bringing in a professional sales or leadership training company. 

I was fortunate to take part in a professional sales training program with a previous employer many years ago and still use the methodology of what I learned today. 

We maximized the time the sales team was together from all over the country during our annual kick-off meetings and worked on different learning modules each time until the program was complete. 

Being together as a sales team also gave us an opportunity to collaborate on whether our goals were being achieved and what areas might need more focus. There are many companies out there that can scale programs to fit your needs. 

Books are always a great way to learn and something you don’t always think of buying for yourself. I once had a sales manager who would provide the team with a new book each quarter. 

There are books on about every subject you can think of: leadership, personal development, computer skills, etc. 

I had a need early on in my career to learn Excel and taught myself by reading Excel for Dummies. It works!

Podcasts are another good outlet for professional development and offer asynchronous learning for an individual or a team. 

Reach out to your vendors to see what training programs they may offer. 

For example, many equipment manufacturers offer service schools or can provide on-site training for your employees. 

If an individual employee is seeking professional development outside the company plan which requires flex time or reimbursement, I would always ask for a professional development plan from the employee to make sure it aligns with the company’s goals and objectives and to make sure the employee is committed to continuing their employment. 

Uniforms/Workwear Manufacturing: Duane Houvener, ADI-American Dawn Inc., Los Angeles, Calif. 

Duane Houvener
Duane Houvener

Employee training and development opportunities are great ways to enhance their skills, boost morale and benefit your company. The following are some ideas and solutions you should consider.

Training Programs. Offer workshops, seminars or online courses relevant to their current and possible future roles/goals. This might include technical skills, leadership training, communication workshops or industry-specific certifications. 

Contact your current vendors/suppliers for their training programs that will help your employees. 

Mentorship Programs. Job-shadow employees with more experienced colleagues who can mentor and support them in their development.

Tuition Reimbursement or Educational Stipends. Support employees pursuing advanced/industry education or certifications relevant to their roles and goals and offer financial assistance. 

Such assistance could include complete reimbursement or maybe reimbursement based on the level of achievement in the given course. For example, an “A” gets complete reimbursement while a “B” gets 80% reimbursement.

Cross-Training Opportunities. Encourage employees to learn about different departments within the company to broaden their skills and understanding of the business. 

Job-share with other like companies within the many organizations we have within this industry. 

Peer Learning or Knowledge-Sharing Sessions. Encourage employees to share their expertise with others in the form of presentations, workshops or informal discussions. 

Public speaking is an important function of leadership. Getting an employee comfortable doing so is important. 

Performance-Based Promotions and Incentives. Reward employees who actively engage in learning and skill development. Rewards may be simply recognition, monetary or any other position enhancement. 

Remember, the key to successful professional development programs is tailoring them to your employees while aligning with the company’s goals and objectives. Always encourage a culture that values continuous learning and growth that will foster employee engagement and loyalty.

We have great employees hidden in plain sight, at all levels within our organization. 

Too many employees feel that they can’t, or won’t, be recognized. Giving someone a chance to excel will not only help them, but also help your organization. Probably ten-fold. 

As Richard Branson famously said, “Train employees well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough that they won’t want to.”

Equipment/Supply Distribution: Ross Sanders, Streamline Solutions, Orlando, Fla.

Ross Sanders
Ross Sanders

Any time that you can give your workers the opportunity to grow, it is a major plus for both you and them. 

Of course, it all depends on the size of your company, where you are currently as a company and the actual employees themselves. 

We always felt that not only do we want our employees to grow, but we also must make sure that there is a positive atmosphere within our company so that they will want to develop their own actual opportunities through their hard work and want to stay long-term with us. 

We want them to feel that with their long-term development along with them learning more and more about our company and the industry itself, their long-term success is primarily derived from our working environment and their perseverance.

On our end, we have been lucky enough to have extremely smart and strong employees. Every one of them! They all feel like they are a part of a team and when one grows, the entire team and the company does.

I don’t mean to make this seem like it is an easy thing to do. Your internal culture is not developed overnight, whether it is good or bad.

As a company, you must continually make sure that you “feel the vibe in the room” and help to keep everyone positive and all with the same goals.

As the end of the NFL regular season comes to a close, this is the time that you see many coaches leaving their positions, and when that happens, it is the best time for the respective teams to promote those coaches from within to higher positions.

The coaches were developed by their teams, and no doubt, each team would prefer to keep those highly qualified individuals on their own team. You would hate to lose those great coaches to a heated rival.

Well, it’s no different for us at Streamline Solutions and any of the laundry companies out there. Sometimes we have promoted people but also given them the opportunity to get involved in different aspects of our company, and by doing so, it expands their knowledge of not only our company but even of their inner selves.

How good is it when you allow someone that same growth opportunity who started doing what some may consider basic work for you all those years ago to then become a manager within that same firm?

Knowing that someone knew that they had that chance and then developed themselves into something that they may not even thought that they were capable of doing is ridiculously satisfying for all parties involved.

Whether it is a set-in-stone program that the laundry has developed and made well known within the company or having that so-called “positive vibe” internally where your workers know that with good old hard work and true dedication that they will have the opportunity to develop and grow within your firm is a true necessity to keeping you strong, viable and growing yourself as a major company in today’s laundry industry.

Check back tomorrow for advice from healthcare laundry, chemicals, commercial laundry, consulting services and textile/uniform rental experts.

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