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Hiring Practices: Stay True to Your Mission (Part 1)

Acting out of desperation usually leads to regret


CHICAGO — Now nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses remain challenged to fill open jobs. In a recent American Coin-Op Your Views survey, roughly 38% of laundromat owners polled said they were either “slightly understaffed” or “severely understaffed.”

Some laundry owners find themselves offering higher wages and perks to try to fill their positions (more about that in a bit).

But when pressured to fill vacant attendant positions, for example, a lack of quality candidates may entice the person doing the hiring to overlook certain job-seeker deficiencies to get a slot filled. (You’ve heard of hiring a “warm body,” right?)

Laundry skills are specialized, and the pool of candidates with direct experience is small, according to locally based Starchup, which offers an app-based POS and delivery platform for laundries and dry cleaners. It warns that hiring out of desperation can result in quick turnover, poor performance, a drag on your culture, or, worse, a stain on your business reputation.

So, the company has some suggestions for your next employee search:

BEFORE THE SEARCH

Birds of a Feather Flock Together — Like hires like, so if the person you entrust with hiring is lazy or complacent and does not push themselves to achieve excellence on a daily basis, then the recruiter will not seek high quality in a new hire. Candidates will also see this and self-select.

Pick a Lane and Stay In It — Select a search avenue—be it a headhunter (for key salaried roles), online job sites like Indeed.com and Craigslist.org, or good old-fashioned black-and-white print—and stick with it.

Each option comes with its pros and cons, so determine the one best suited for your needs and style. Using many at once will prove rewarding; most candidates are using multiple sources anyway and may apply multiple times.

Prepare for Low Quality, Seek High Potential — Most people are unemployed for a reason, so keep this in mind when reading over the high number of résumés. Do not get disheartened, and do not stop sorting and filtering; the good ones are in there, you just have to look.

Put Yourself in the Candidate’s Shoes — Candidates will research your company before they apply. What will they find? Your reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp may be customer-driven, but they can tell a prospective employee a lot about the company and the types of issues they may have to deal with on the job. Review your Glassdoor.com profile as an employer; if you don’t have one, consider setting one up. You can also post jobs that are aggregated to other sites from there. Understand that high-potential employees pay attention to these things, even if you do not.

Be Prepared to Move Fast — Good candidates don’t stay on the market long. Consider scheduling dedicated time each day on your calendar for recruiting so you can stay on top of it. If you put it off, it will not receive the attention it requires. When you meet a great candidate, schedule next steps quickly. Remember that you are competing with other employers who will see the same qualities that you do!

Be Ready to Discuss Compensation — Sometimes getting the best candidates means paying more. We are often fixated on a dollar figure and have trouble moving past it. Reframe the cost and see if it helps you think differently.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a driver, you generally pay $20 an hour for candidates, and you won’t consider paying more than that. But then, a great candidate interviews with you who wants $21 an hour. That dollar more per hour costs an extra $2,080 a year (another $40/week or $80/pay period). Will the quality of this employee save you that much in productivity? What do you estimate the cost of having the role open for another month to be? What is the cost of settling for a lower-quality hire at $20/hour in two months? Reframing costs in your mind may help you make a better decision.

WORKFORCE STABILITY THROUGH INCENTIVES

Multi-store owner Chuck Hinkel knows that finding and hiring good laundry attendants can be difficult, so he offers certain incentives aimed at keeping his staff invested in their business’s continued success.

Hinkel, who’s been in the laundry business since 2015, owns three locations. Two fully attended Laundry Depot stores are in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of New York; he employs two full-time employees (he plans to add a third in March) and five part-timers. An unattended store called Laundry Junction is in Greece, N.Y., near Rochester.

Vacation rentals and beds-and-breakfasts are plentiful in the Finger Lakes, so his two stores there offer pickup and delivery service that Hinkel describes as “booming.”

“I can’t do this business and be successful without [my employees], so I thought it would be important to build loyalty with those people and to get people that want to stay with you and … really make them partners in the business,” Hinkel says. “I preach to them that, ‘If I make more money, you make more money.’”

His attendants receive 20% commission on all wash/dry/fold business. Bonuses are available based on performance. Hinkel offers a 401(k) retirement savings plan; if an employee contributes 5% of their wages, he matches 4%. Plus, there’s profit sharing, with employees receiving a year-end check if the business does well.

“Not only does that build loyalty but it gives them ownership of the business, without giving them ownership,” he says. Further, “you’re showing people you want them to be around, you don’t want it to be a stepping stone, you want it to be a job [they] can work for a long time.”

Hinkel recognizes that having a profitable WDF business enables him to offer these incentives, and that not every laundry can do the same.

“There’s just a lot of variables. I’m very lucky where I am that this has worked for me.”

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!