Motivating Laundry Employees to Do Their Best

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Motivating Laundry Employees to Do Their Best (Conclusion)

Think long and hard before offering perks

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It can be difficult to motivate employees who are incapable of, or unwilling to, respond to motivation. It all begins with the hiring.

Motivation starts with you.

In Part 1 of this column, I examined the importance of positive management behavior and encouraging teamwork. Let me continue:


Think long and hard about what perks you may want to offer employees, because sometimes they can backfire on you in the future.

Will you be able to maintain a certain perk years down the road? Once given, perks are not easy to take away from employees. Doing so can have a negative effect.

• Pay — People need to eat and to pay their bills. Pay your workers as much as you can afford. Certainly, you should pay great workers more than your competitors would or else you’ll lose them to the highest bidder.

• Incentive-Driven Bonuses — If done right, giving an employee a “piece of the action” can be a great motivator! This term means that you tie bonuses to the income for wash-dry-fold, for example.

It gives employees a sense of ownership and a true interest in helping your business grow. Now, everyone is on the same side to impress customers. It’s exciting to earn a little more from a busy week.

Use your creativity: try 1-2% of the drop-off gross, or a flat bonus for hitting a new high in drop-off poundage in a week.

• Tips — Tips are excellent motivators, but you need rules. You want your crew to earn as many tips as possible. Make sure every employee knows that excellence will bring them more and larger tips. That’s not just excellence in processing but also in how they treat the customers.

However, you must be clear that you will allow no cherry picking of drop-offs from big tippers. If you don’t, you will see employee infighting. Your policy should be fair: “Except for rush jobs, all drop-offs must be done in number and time order.” Cherry picking will drag morale down real quick!

I’ve heard of mat owners offering less pay because of tipping, or the boss takes all tips to “fairly distribute” them. You won’t get happy workers by doing that!

I considered it tacky to have a tip jar on the counter, but I know they do work.

If your employees work hard, if they perform quality work, and act professionally with customers, the tips come.

• Make Your Mat the Best — Everyone likes being part of a winning team, so if your mat is clean, attractive and busy, your employees will take pride in working there. It’s depressing to work in a run-down store. Also, a busy drop-off service will bring in more tips.

• Free Laundry for Employees — Yes, it’s a natural perk for laundry workers. In my case, I felt I had to control any potential abuse.

My rule was that employees could bring in and process their own laundry, but not on company time, and they had to pay to use the machines. Everything else—soap, booster, bleach, softener, hangers, bags, shoulder guards, sock wrappers, spotting chemicals, whatever—was free.

• Surprise! — Surprise your staff once in a while. Bring in some treats, like a box of donuts or a pizza.

• Opportunities for Greater Earning — Give workers the chance to earn more. I offered certain jobs apart from laundry. For instance, we screen-printed our nylon bags and T-shirts in the basement of one mat. Doing that job paid them more, but I saved money by doing it in-house.

I know of a business that gives a nice bonus to each employee who convinces a customer to leave a great online review. The review has to include the employee’s name for the bonus to be paid. Doing something similar will help proactive employees earn more but it’ll also help your business gain more positive reviews.

• Safe and Comfortable Environment — Your employees must feel safe and comfortable in your mat. You should have written policies protecting them from harassment (whether based on sex, race, religion or gender) clearly spelled out in your employee manual. This will protect your business as well.

Install plenty of cameras. Plenty of good lighting also helps.

Some mats have no heat or air conditioning. Who is happy about going to work at a place knowing that they’ll feel too cold or too hot the whole time they’re there? Not your workers, and not your customers, either.

• Reward Loyalty and Longevity — If a worker feels like there is a future working for you, that helps. Try things like offering rewards for working a certain number of years.

I gave a 1-week vacation after one year, then two weeks after five years. A 10-year anniversary earned a gold coin (you can buy them as small as a quarter ounce) and a nice little party to celebrate their milestone. A paid day off on the employee’s birthday is nice, too. And a Christmas bonus is a must, as far as I’m concerned.

Once you get a few great workers and you treat them well, you know what happens? It comes back to you in employee retention and behavior. And when you need to hire a new employee, they will recommend your business to their friends … who, if you’re lucky, will be just like them.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

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