ROANOKE, Va. — I  recently decided to interrupt my endless days of retirement by taking on a local part-time job near my home.  

I wanted something easy to do that did not require me to make management decisions. I decided 44 years in laundry management was enough, and I would just relax and let someone else deal with management issues. 

I went to work at the local airport, which is only a few miles from my house, driving rental cars from the airport drop-off location to the service center, and then driving the clean ones back to the appropriate pick-up location. 

The company I am working for has seen tremendous growth over the past several years—and has also experienced a lot of employee turnover. I suspect that their turnover has a lot to do with a poor quality new employee training program.

Now you may be thinking what does the car rental business and the laundry business have in common? At first glance they are totally different industries, but upon closer examination they have a lot in common.

Both pull from basically the same pool of potential employees for their entry-level jobs. The pay scale between the two industries are very similar. Both would greatly benefit from reduced turnover and a stable staff. Both industries perform well when they are well organized and have happy employees.

On my first day at work, I was told to report to the airport, and then they had an employee from the service center come pick me up. They had trouble setting me up on their computer system for entering my time, and even now, three weeks after starting, I cannot sign in on their system on my own. 

Each employee has their own way of getting things done, and there is the right way, the preferred way, and the fast (but not entirely legal) way of getting things done. The company lacks a formal training program, and each employee passes on tips to the other employees they like. 

As a new employee, it would be very easy for me to walk away from the job and go back to retirement. It is extremely frustrating not to be able to do the essential things, like clock in and out on my own, that should be done every day. There are critical pieces of equipment that I need to have to do my job effectively that I have not been given. 

I have no idea if they think I am doing a good job or not. These feelings are a directly result of a poor on boarding process.

To reduce turnover and improve the chances of keeping a new employee, I have always recommended that a trainer be assigned to a new employee from the moment they arrive on their first day. This person is responsible for introducing them to their fellow employees, making sure they get an assigned locker, know where the bathrooms are, where the breakroom is and teaching them the best techniques in how to process linen.  

Work is a social part of our lives, and feeling comfortable and that you belong in a situation is more important than the pay.

Having a consistent point of contact to guide you through this process is critical during the first week of employment. Both the car rental and the laundry industry assume that the job is easy and requires very little training—that almost anyone can do the job, that employees are interchangeable parts. 

Quality service and quality product are produced by a team of employees who thoroughly understand the nature of the business they are involved in and are committed to delivering the best they can. 

This sense of commitment comes from proper on boarding where the philosophy and nature of the business is thoroughly explained, the importance of a good market reputation is explained, and proper training is conducted. 

When I worked daily in the laundry industry, I used to call it a love-it or leave-it industry. Either people enjoyed the type of work they were doing and the team environment or they left in about a week.  

Many mangers I have known over the years have pointed to lower salaries in the laundry industry for our high turnover, but I believe it is not emphasizing our strengths that result in higher turnover. 

The laundry industry, like the car rental industry, has a predictable weekly cycle. This allows the employees to gain a weekly sense of accomplishment. The laundry industry, like the car rental industry, provides an opportunity for enjoyable teamwork and pride in group accomplishment. Each employee has production goals and can individually track their progress and know they are contributing to the whole.

Reducing turnover is dependent on teaching employees to understand what is expected of them, the best production techniques, making them feel a part of the whole and having a trusted trainer to answer their questions along the way. A trainer can explain the weekly cycle of the laundry business and tell the employee how to realize that the team is meeting their goal. 

Failure to properly on board a new employee will result in more frequent turnover and quantity and quality problems for the business.