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Survey: Staffing Challenges Affect Laundry Operations

Respondents face high turnover, unfilled positions

CHICAGO — Laundry and linen service providers are experiencing challenges when it comes to staffing their operations. Some positions seem to have a revolving door with employees cycling in and out, while other posts remain unfilled.

And these challenges negatively impact laundry operations.

That’s what respondents to a recent American Laundry News Your Views survey indicate.

Survey respondents were almost evenly split when asked if their facility experienced a high rate of turnover, with 49.2% answering “yes” and 50.8% indicating “no.”

In terms of the laundry positions experiencing the most turnover, as would be expected, those who took the survey point to various production jobs throughout the facilities. These include soil sorting, feeder attendants and folding.

However, a few respondents indicate that their business has high turnover with drivers and customer service representatives, and one says the company experiences turnover in manager/supervisor roles.

So, why does the laundry and linen service industry experience high turnover in production jobs? Nearly 22% of respondents indicate it’s because “work is labor-intensive and/or hours are long.” Almost 17% say it’s because working conditions can be uncomfortable, such as high temperatures and the necessity to stand for long periods of time.

Another 17% of survey takers indicate the turnover is because of “lots of competition for jobs.”

“Wages are typically lower than other industries,” writes a respondent. “Our industry is not known and needs to have an outreach program so that young, new workers can see the career opportunity, regardless of position.”

Adds another, “The new generation doesn’t like to work.”

On the other side of the coin, 76.3% of managers who took the survey say they have positions that are difficult to fill.

When asked to describe the positions, many respondents indicate they have difficulty finding maintenance staff. Others indicate that they have trouble finding sales personnel.

Some say they can’t find qualified managers and supervisors.

“It takes longer to fill lead/supervisory positions,” one survey taker writes.

“Positions of increased responsibilities like wash/dryer equipment operators are difficult to fill,” another respondent agrees.

The reason for staff positions remaining unfilled in the industry? Nearly 30% of respondents indicate it’s a lack of skilled workers. Similar to respondents to reasons for high turnover, 23.3% say “inadequate compensation” makes hiring difficult. Along those lines, 18.3% say they can’t fill positions because there are “lots of other jobs on the market.”

Interestingly, only 5% of those who took the survey indicate a lack of awareness of the industry is the reason for unfilled position. And only 8.3% says it’s because of a “negative perception of the industry.”

However, those aren’t the only reasons for unfilled positions, according to some respondents.

“Work ethic in this region is lacking,” writes one.

Another writes, “Red tape in posting positions.”

Of course, the big question is how managers can keep employees from leaving. Answers were “recognize employee accomplishments” (14.8%), “compensate fairly” (11.5%), “communicate expectations better” (6.7%) and “provide advancement opportunities” (1.6%). However, the majority of respondents (64%) say the answer is “all of the above.”

When asked how important it is for managers to keep staff members happy, almost 64% percent of respondents say it is “extremely important.” A little more than 31% say it’s “somewhat important.”

Just over 3% indicate keeping staff happy is “neither important or unimportant,” while 1.6% say it’s “somewhat unimportant.”

In the end, high turnover and unfilled positions affect laundry and linen service operations negatively. More than 40% of survey takers say staff fluctuations cause operations to run “less efficiently, costing time and money.” The next highest effect respondents indicate (30%) is “finding replacements takes considerable time and money.”

Other effects of staff fluctuations include “less effort made toward building teamwork and camaraderie” (8.3%), “challenging to keep employees up to speed on operational requirements” (6.7%) and “less experienced workers make more mistakes” (6.7%).

While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.

Subscribers to American Laundry News e-mails are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each quarter. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and identify industry trends.

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