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The Four Keys of Employee Retention (Part 1)

Inexpensive ways to let your team know you care

CHICAGO — Jeff Jordan knows that finding the right mix of employees — and then keeping them on your team — has never been more challenging.

 “You’re constantly churning, you’re constantly training and you’re constantly have to seek out new people,” says Jordan, VP of business development at Fabritec International.

Jordan spoke on a panel that addressed hiring and retaining employees earlier this year, sponsored by the North East Fabricare Association (NEFA), the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA), the Pennsylvania & Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA) and the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI).

“It’s a tough labor environment right now, and employees aren’t engaged,” Jordan says. “A recent survey showed that 55% of your employees weren’t actively engaged in their job — they’re just there for a paycheck. Another 19% were actively disengaged — they were actually hurting you by being there altogether.”

Finding Your Unique Advantage

Keeping the 26% of people who are engaged in their job has never been more important, Jordan says. One of the keys to building a long-term team is knowing what your unique advantage is in the employment market; in other words, what can you offer to your team that other, perhaps bigger employers, can’t or won’t give to their employees.

In Kentucky, where Jordan is located, UPS and Amazon are area powerhouses when it comes to employment. “They are huge pulls in the labor market,” he says, noting that these companies have signs all over touting their $22 an hour starting wages, sign-on bonuses, tuition reimbursements and other benefits. “This is tough to compete with as a small business,” he says.

To get quality employees, Jordan says, dry cleaners have to play the game differently from big companies who can throw money at situations. “A dry cleaner is part of a community,” Jordan says. “You know the people who come into your store, and you know the area you’re servicing.”

Better still, when a good leader is at the helm, the employees know that they are seen as more than numbers. “We have an advantage as a small business of being able to react and create new policies quickly,” Jordan says, “to help our employees achieve their goals and to figure out what it is our employees want from their job. Because I promise you, it’s more than just their paycheck.”

When defining his four keys to employee retention, Jordan referenced the findings of the book Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans that lists, after 15 years of research and thousands of exit interviews, the top four desires employees want to receive from their job:

Key No. 1: Provide Exciting, Challenging or Meaningful Work

While pressing clothes might not seem exciting, Jordan urges leaders to dig deeper into what dry cleaners actually do.

“Consider that intimate relationship you have with customers,” he says. “Me bringing you my clothes is a very personal relationship. A lot of the time, it’s difficult to find things you like that fit, and I need to trust my dry cleaner to get the job done right. You relaying that importance to your employees starts to build their feeling of having challenging, meaningful work that has a purpose for them.”

Dry cleaners, by the nature of their work, forge relationships with various parts of the community. “Do you wash uniforms for local EMS, fire and police departments?” Jordan asks. “What about cheerleader and football uniforms? The work your employees are doing is impacting their community. They might have a son that plays football or a brother on the police force. That’s a close personal connection to the community, and you can’t get that working at Amazon, watching thousands of boxes go by.”

Leadership is key to letting employees see their job in the bigger picture. “You set the tone for applying meaning and purpose to the work,” Jordan says.

Come back Tuesday for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll look at the second and third keys of employee retention: support and recognition.