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Building Up Employee Skill Sets (Conclusion)

Ongoing efforts are necessary to get the best from your team

CHICAGO — By offering training and other growth opportunities, dry cleaners can not only hang onto the best and brightest of their team, but make those employees more valuable and skilled as time goes on. 

In Part 1 of this series, we examined ways to lay down the groundwork to make sure training has its best chance of building a team’s skills, and in Part 2, we looked at cross-training and the benefits of both on- and off-site training efforts. Today, we’ll conclude this series by exploring what to look for in a trainer, possible barriers to advancement and some final thoughts about the benefits of building up your staff’s skills.

Finding the Right Trainer

Part of having people outside the company provide training is that it is a skill that not everyone has.

“On-site training can be challenging when the wrong person is doing the training,” says Brian Johnson, director of training for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI). “Just because someone is knowledgeable or good at certain tasks doesn’t necessarily make them a good trainer or instructor to others. So, if the current facility lacks a good trainer, or no one on-site has the knowledge or skills you want to develop, then it may be time to go to a place that has that expertise.”

Johnson believes that it’s in management’s best interest to take full advantage of off-site training opportunities.

“In every class, my students say the same thing — by going off-site, employees can physically and mentally separate themselves from the work environment,” he says. “This means fewer interruptions and more focus on learning skills. Off-site training can also strengthen the workplace culture. Employees view this as something special, and they feel more valued when they understand that their management thought enough of them to make that investment.”

Barriers to Advancement

In a perfect world, there would always be time, opportunity and availability for consistent training. But in the world we live in, cleaners have to make training a priority if they want to increase their team’s collective skills set.

“Managers are often busy, and if you have a big day or something comes up, we think we just don’t have the time,” says Sasha Ablitt, owner of Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners & Taylors in Santa Barbara, California. “I’ve come to believe that’s really just a mindset. It amazes me that, on the busiest day, we can still have a team meeting, and everything works out just fine in the end. And yet, if you left it to the employees, they’d say they didn’t have the time. So, every day is busy, but finding that time to cross-train has to be a priority — you just have to do it.”

Making training an ongoing effort is also key to gaining its benefits, she believes.

“Once you stop doing it, or if you let it slide, then they’ll know that you don’t mean it,” she says of a cleaner’s workforce. “You won’t have your employee buy in to the training if they watch you let it slide.”

Another barrier to training success, Johnson says, is the temptation to rush the process. 

“It takes time to learn new skill sets, and that amount of time varies from person to person,” he says. “Expecting miracles only frustrates everyone involved. Management should set some realistic expectations and goals on what an employee should achieve after a certain period of time. They should have goals, but they should be achievable.”

Building Up Individuals

When it comes to training, people have different ways of learning and processing information, and managers who try to use a “one-size-fits-all” approach might be setting themselves and their team up for frustration. 

“No two employees are the same,” Johnson says. “They will have varying levels of education experience. Employees will become more engaged when they feel you understand their specific needs. So, tailoring the program to them is very important.”

Getting an employee’s input can help with the creation of a successful, personalized plan.

“Employees may already have some interest in moving to another department or learning an additional skill,” says Johnson. “Again, communication is going to be key — employees need to have a clear understanding of what their roles and responsibilities will be, both during and after this process.”

Ablitt agrees, adding that performance reviews are times to gather valuable intelligence on your staff members.

“When you do your reviews, it’s always a good time to ask them questions so they have some input into it,” she says. “As in anything, when someone has input into it, they usually are more invested. So, ask them if there anything they’d like to learn how to do, move into or add on to their skill set.”

For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.  

Building Up Employee Skill Sets

(Photo: © belchonock/Depositphotos)

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