BATESVILLE, Ark. — Hiring can be a tall order in our world. As we all know, being a back-of-the-house department has its challenges. After all, even doing our own laundry at home can be a task many hate, or at the very least rank it fairly low on the household chores list.
Our laundry services a hospital as well as various clinics within the healthcare system we are a part of. So, our daily volumes are quite large. We are processing 1.5 million pounds annually and require a dedicated staff. So, add that busy, healthcare environment to an already less-than-exciting task, and hiring can really be challenging.
However, we have had good luck in hiring a few people through a unique relationship we have with a group that supplements our full-time staff. I would recommend such an arrangement for other laundries as a means to address the often difficult hiring task and its equally trying sibling of employee turnover.
A COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP
The nice thing about the laundry task is it is quite repetitive and easy to pick up. I’ve heard of some laundries partnering with organizations that represent and help empower mentally challenged clients. This is where the simple, repetitive tasks like folding become strengths and make them perfectly suited for outside partnerships with those organizations as a means to address hiring challenges.
Roughly 10 years ago our hospital board of directors, made up of, as you would expect, local business leaders—bankers, business owners, etc.—explored the idea of partnering with a Christian ministry that helps men in dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. These are not hardened criminals, and that’s definitely a distinction and something you’ll want to think about if you explore such agreements. You and your human resource department will undoubtedly want to reduce risk and liability.
In our agreement, the ministry provides five men to assist our facility in meeting its daily production. The men benefit from being able to work at a steady pace doing a repetitive task. The arrangement is a win-win.
We pay a consideration to the ministry that amounts to state minimums for the labor of the fixed number of men (five). They also provide a group leader in charge of the men, which takes supervision off our plate as well. While we only pay for a set number of men, the ministry regularly brings double that amount to keep a large pool trained on the task.
These men complement our staff of four, and this relationship has been nothing short of a major success.
THE INSIDE TRACK
While this arrangement has been beneficial for both entities, over the last few years it has paid additional dividends for
our organization when we have had a couple full-time openings pop up. Knowing the time-consuming nature of hiring and training for this job, in addition to the turnover that many laundries experience, our arrangement put the hospital in a great position to hire an experienced worker.
We had already had a “test drive” of sorts with these prospective employees. The time spent with these gentlemen showed not only that they could do the job, but they also had the right temperament for the position. I’m looking for an overall positive attitude and the general character of the individual, along with good attendance (we know the laundry doesn’t stop and people need to be here).
As an organization, we avoided hiring from this pool in the past, even with the six months we got to see them work in the program. As an added layer of security in our decision, we hired them first through a temp agency, which brought an additional three months to the probationary period. The human resources department was more comfortable going this route.
I think a key component to the success of our full-time hires has been rotating staff. As we’ve discussed, the laundry environment can be tedious and repetitive. That’s what leads to the turnover of employees.
In our operation, staff rotates out. Because we process loads for clinics, staff might make deliveries and pickups. Equally important, I believe, is having them get on the floors of the hospital and interact with nursing and other staff.
Laundry staff isn’t tied down to just processing loads day in and day out. These interactions no doubt help create more job satisfaction. But I think the value goes both ways. It’s easy to view laundry pieces, whether piled up or neatly folded ready for the floor, as just objects. But when staff is on the floors, they get to see those linens in use.
No longer are they “just laundry staff.” Seeing pieces in use and engaging with staff helps them see that they play a vital role in the facility’s operations. That type of mindset keeps them committed to quality and going the extra mile.
A laundry that faces a revolving door of staff members is not only inefficient due to the wasted resources put into training someone who leaves, but also likely suffers in quality because of the turnover.
Partnerships like the one our hospital has may be the answer for many laundries facing hiring challenges. After 10 years of this partnership, we couldn’t be happier with the results. The key component to our start was having the backing of the board of directors. Bringing human resources leadership around to the idea may require some work and insulating from liabilities, etc.
But the advantages aren’t limited to just doing something good in your community, while also meeting staffing needs. In our case, the test-drive period helped us make great hiring decisions when we needed to, which saved a ton of time and effort. I’m a big advocate of tapping into the community to develop a win-win scenario.