CHICAGO — The job market in many areas of the United States has been a nightmare for owners looking to grow their company as the demand for services has risen as the pandemic abated — and dry cleaners are no exception. Finding the right members to build a winning team has taken on added emphasis in the past few minutes.
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at strategies to find people who are legitimately looking for work, and in Part 2, we examined the interviewing process for finding the right talent for your business. In Part 3, we looked at some common errors employers make in building their teams, and we’ll conclude our series by investigating ways owners can keep those teams in place in a competitive market.
Keeping Them After the Hire
Again, with businesses competing for employees, it can be challenging to keep good employees on the team for the long term. While pay hikes are always appreciated, there are other ways owners can make sure their employees feel valued. Part of this is making sure these employees know that they are appreciated — and are more than just a cog in the machine.
“A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way to let your team members know that they’re valued,” says Jennifer Whitmarsh, a member of The Route Pros, a drycleaning consulting firm. “Dollars are nice, but in a month, individuals can forget about that pay rate.”
Just as creativity is necessary for today’s hiring market, Whitmarsh believes it’s needed in retention efforts, as well.
“Your team members will also remember the bottle of wine and the gift card that you gave them so they can have a nice date night with their spouse, over the 50-cent raise you gave them,” she says. “You can give them an added vacation day. All these things individually might not shoot your culture through the roof, but a combination of a few of these will make team members feel appreciated.”
Amy Wischmann oversees hiring at Benzinger’s Clothing Care, a drycleaning business with five locations and 40 employees in the Buffalo, New York, area. She says that her company has similar methods of appreciating their employees.
“When we hire people, we find out what they like,” she says. “We ask people specifically, ‘What’s your favorite coffee shop? What’s your favorite restaurant? Do you have a pet?’ So, when we do little things, little recognitions, even just a $5 or $10 gift card, it’s targeted.”
Letting their peers know they’re doing a great job is also a valuable method of respect that costs nothing.
“I think one of the best things is simple public recognition,” Wischmann says. “We have an internal newsletter, and we publish people’s accomplishments. It means a lot to people to be recognized by their managers or the owner in front of their peers.”
Perhaps even more fundamental is making sure the employee has the tools necessary to do his or her job.
“Training is an ongoing process,” Whitmarsh says. “One-on-one training might end after four weeks, or whatever your onboarding process calls for, but training never ends. No matter if you own the company or it’s your first day on the job, you’re always learning something. I think if you continue to have conversations about that, you’ll find out which team members are really satisfied with their job and which ones might not be.”
“I don’t think you can put enough emphasis on training as an employer,” Wischmann agrees. “I interview a lot of people who say they left their last job because they felt they were thrown into the position. Younger people are especially not used to that — they want to feel comfortable before being left to their own devices.”
It’s important for an owner or manager to get to know their employees as people rather than positions — it not only makes for a healthier workplace but can give leaders essential clues when an employee is becoming unhappy.
“I think one of the first things you’ll see is that they start to shut down,” Wischmann says. “They aren’t communicating as much. They’re calling off work more. People who were very consistent and reliable suddenly aren’t as reliable anymore. It’s important to address these issues face to face as soon as possible. That way, you can find out what’s changed or if there’s an issue they’re dealing with. It might be something at work, or it might be something at home. They might be having a childcare problem and need some time off. That’s a way of building loyalty.”
Whitmarsh believes another way of checking in with team members is to find out what they expect in the future.
Communication is key, she says, so you’ll know what they are saying and what they are not saying.
“Have these monthly or quarterly check-ins and ask them questions. ‘How are you liking your job? Where do you see yourself in a year? In five years?’ What’s going on in that person’s life? If one of your CSRs is graduating, or they’re going on to their next degree, see how you can continue to work with them instead of talking about it the day after they graduate.
“Once you learn and understand who they are outside of work, it can help you to determine how you can make sure you continue to fit into their life.”
For Part 1 of this series, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE, and for Part 3, click HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected] .