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Incentivizing Employees to Stay (Part 1)

Building businesses that attract — and keep — the best teams

CHICAGO — A dry cleaner’s greatest asset isn’t the equipment in the plant or their number of storefronts. The biggest factor in determining the success or failure of the business is the team put into place to serve its clients. So, when a cleaner has built a winning team, it’s crucial to keep that team in place and building for the future. 

When leaders start to take their team for granted, however, this could spell disaster. There are many ways to show appreciation for a job well done. While pay raises are always welcome, there are other methods cleaners can use to make team members feel wanted, and needed, for what they contribute to the company.

Celebrating Wins

When it comes to making employees feel valued, simply acknowledging good work is a great place to start. 

“As management, we play a huge role in incentivizing our staff,” says Dr. Alex Ellis, a transformational speaker and trainer who specializes in workplace culture. “If we feel a worker is going above and beyond the call of duty on their job, if they are a peak performer, I think that celebrating them and their contribution not only encourages them to keep up the good work, but I think it also encourages their co-workers to want to do the same.”

Feeling that they are “seen” is important to workers, Ellis says.

“Sometimes, just simply acknowledging them by saying how much you appreciate them goes a long way,” he says. “‘I see you’ve been coming in early. I see you stay in later. You’ve increased your productivity by leaps and bounds from when you first started. I appreciate what you bring to the table. Thanks so much for being such an exceptional employee.’ Just acknowledging it goes a long way because, at the end of the day, we all want to be seen as individuals.”

“I think management teams have to be thinking outside the box,” says David Grippi, chief operating officer at Clean Brands, a garment-care franchise that represents, among other brands, Lapels Cleaners and Martinizing Cleaners. “It’s seeing what motivates employees outside of pay that can get them to do different things, whether that’s working for a bonus day off, or rewards like being named the team member of the week or the month.”

Flexing When Possible

While it’s not a new concept, the idea of flexible work schedules blossomed during the COVID pandemic. While the structure of a drycleaning company limits the options when it comes to scheduling, cleaners shouldn’t overlook this potential perk. 

“We’ve had some owners who have gotten flexible,” Grippi says. “We have an owner who has four mothers on staff, and they want to be home for their kids in the morning. They came to the owner and asked if it would be OK if they came in and did their production at 8 p.m., worked until 11 p.m., and then went home, slept, and could get their kids up and ready for school in the morning. The owner thought it was a great idea, and it’s worked fantastic for her.”

Solutions like this might not work for everyone on staff, Grippi says, but leaders can examine possibilities on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s hard to be flexible with the counter, which has to be open during store hours,” he says, “but if you have people in production wanting to work nights, it’s not a bad idea, because you’re going to walk in at 7 a.m. and all the work is done for you.”

Ellis believes that cleaners can be flexible, even if they have smaller staffs.

“Take a look at your week, to see which days are peak days,” he says. “Your peak days might be Fridays and Saturdays, but low days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Knowing that, maybe you can start later or have different hours on those days when it’s really slow. Those are the days where, instead of having three people on, maybe we could scale down to one and give some of the team flexibility in their hours.”

Come back on Tuesday for Part 2 of this series, where we’ll examine the power of investing in your people.

Incentivizing Employees to Stay


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