PEMBROKE, Mass. — The Laundromat industry has typically not had top-quality employees.
Many “Laundromateurs” have told me about putting up with lateness, absence, personal problems and loafing on the job.
One operator spoke about arriving at his shop and finding the staffer out back smoking marijuana. Another operator complained that his staff colluded to slow down their pace.
When an operator recently said to me, “What can I do? These are the best people I can get to work in the industry,” I decided to write this column.
‘YOU DON’T HAVE TO SETTLE’
Even though our economy is improving and things are looking better than during the last five years, this is still a drastically reduced economy. Real growth is only 1-1.5%.
The foreclosure debacle has not run its course, the student loan mess is a time bomb ready to explode, and the official unemployment is still high at 6.5%.
But that’s only half the story. For one thing, millions of the employed are working at low-paying, part-time and contract-work jobs.
On another note, countless other potential workers have abandoned the workforce. There are probably 5 million individuals who would like to work, but have given up trying.
Corporate America is doing satisfactorily, but that is because they have cut staffing to the bone and keep raises to a minimum.
In short, today’s U.S. worker is the most short-changed in this world. He/she is given little respect, no appreciation and little hope for the future.
The employer’s mantra is: “If you don’t like it here, go somewhere else.”
The message for you is this: In this labor market, you don’t have to settle for second-rate employees.
There are lots of people out there who would love to work for you. And for every staffer you dismiss, there are 10 people who would take their place.
You can search for better people to replace existing slots, or you can demand improved performance from existing staffers.
This is not to say you can abuse your people. But, you can demand that they give you 100%.
This means coming to work every day and on time, putting in a full day’s work, and dealing with customers empathetically.
Your top employee really cares that the customer leaves satisfied. Your top employee likes a spotless store.
Your top employee enjoys that everything goes smoothly, day after day. Your top employee wants the company services—wash-dry-fold, etc.— to be the best around.
If you have a staffer with whom you are not satisfied, sit down with him or her and lay out your dissatisfaction.
Don’t mince words:
- “You come in late too often.”
- “You are too brusque with customers.”
- “You do not take enough pride in the shop’s appearance.”
- “You are slower than you should be in making change.”
- “When there no customers in the store, you think there’s nothing to do.”
- “You are very sloppy on your wash-dry-fold work.”
- “You make too many mistakes trying to fix machines.”
This is what’s called laying down the law.
Ask the staffer if there is anything he/she doesn’t understand. If the staffer agrees to try and improve, then work with the individual.
Coach him as to how he can improve. Role-play for him to see that he is dealing with customers in the manner you prescribe. In other words, you be the customer with a problem and see how the staffer interacts.
Suggest ways to improve. Observe his wash-dry-fold work and point out ways to improve. Let him demonstrate his cleaning skills.
If this coaching goes well, then you have a better employee, someone who measures up to your standards. If the staffer doesn’t improve or minimally improves, a second talking-to might be in order.
At this session, ask specific questions:
- “Why didn’t you handle the problem with the customer yesterday the way I taught you?”
- “Why can’t you clean the entrance area so that it really shines?”
- “Why were you so late in getting the stocking done?”
Eventually, something will happen. The staffer will either lose heart and just go through the motions, or give his notice.
Either way, you know you have to replace the staffer.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!