Clean Up Spotty Productivity by Gainsharing (Part 2 of 2)


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Mariah E. de Forest |

EVANSTON, Ill. — By focusing on the cultural values of their growing foreign-born Latino workforce, drycleaning plants and laundries can boost productivity, lower per-unit costs and better meet ever-stiffer customer demands.

Most drycleaners have tried to motivate their workers for better productivity—with varying degrees of success. Those with mainly Mexican or Spanish-speaking workers find “gainsharing” gives them more productive employees and a greater competitive advantage. Why? Latin cultural traditions meld closely with gainsharing values.


Gainsharing avoids the drawbacks of profit sharing and 401(k)-based retirement plans for several reasons:

  • Gainsharing’s rewards are immediate. Employees identify what they do today with the bonuses they can earn at the end of a month.
  • Gainsharing encourages teamwork rather than destructive competition.
  • Gainsharing emphasizes cooperation and group effort. It is the only realistic plan that ties additional individual earnings to overall plant performance. Employees quickly learn that cooperation and collaboration pay off.
  • Because gainsharing rewards specific performances and recognizes collaboration, it appeals to a Mexican-born workforce. In fact, it has an even better chance of success with this workforce than other plans, because the basic concepts of the plan are in sync with their cultural expectations.


Since drycleaning companies differ in size, technology, customer base and internal situation, there is no one-size-fits-all gainsharing plan. Each must be tailored to an individual company’s particular needs, while taking into account the character of the workforce.


The proper rollout of a gainsharing program is a key to its success. It should include:

  • Meeting with the workforce to articulate goals (lower scrap and rework, faster throughput, better productivity) clearly and simply in Spanish.
  • Emphasizing gainsharing’s immediate rewards: bigger paychecks and employee unity. Positive employee attitudes are an important byproduct.
  • Underlining that gainsharing goals are achieved not just by “working harder,” but by working together to identify causes and remedies of production problems.
  • Training supervisors how best to interact with their Mexican workers.


Drycleaners are faced with customers ceaselessly insisting on lower prices, better quality and faster deliveries. Their key to success lies in enthusiastic employee cooperation in boosting productivity, lowering per-unit costs and improving quality.

What are you doing to generate such cooperation among your employees?

Click here for Part 1.

About the author

Mariah E. de Forest

Imberman and De Forest Inc.

Vice President

Mariah E. de Forest is vice president of Imberman and De Forest Inc., a national human resources consulting firm. She can be reached via e-mail at


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