Laundry Employee Training in a COVID-19 World
Four experts talk effective training methods
CHICAGO — David Griggs, general manager of Superior Linen Service’s Healthcare Division in Muskogee, Oklahoma, says two common issues that most laundries face are employee turnover and employee accidents.
“While no program can completely stop either issue, you can go a long way toward solving these issues with a good continual employee training program,” he says.
“Unorganized facilities create employee frustration that usually leads to both turnover and accidents. They also generally produce a poor quality product that gets sent to their customers.”
Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and training laundry employees can be challenging at best.
American Laundry News communicated about effective laundry employee training today with Griggs; Sylvia Williams, Human Resources Manager for Prudential Overall Supply headquartered in Irvine, California; Tommy Cocanougher, Director-Operations Engineering for Cintas Corp.; and Deana A. Griffin, president of The Griffin Group Inc. in Staunton, Virginia.
In Part 1, the experts talked about the effects of the pandemic on training. This time, they discuss training methods.
Describe some of the more effective methods of laundry employee training.
WILLIAMS: At Prudential, we have found that the most effective method to train our employees is by pairing them up with a knowledgeable buddy. The “Buddy System,” as we refer to it, provides them hands-on training with someone who is a subject matter expert in that skill.
The employees may also find it less intimidating to approach their assigned “Buddy” with questions if they do not understand a process. We encourage our new hires to ask questions and provide them ongoing effective feedback during the training process.
COCANOUGHER: In one-on-one training, don’t just explain “how” but explain “why.” Teach what happens if the task is not correctly completed and the impact both upstream and downstream.
Remove the complexity of product identification, soil classifications, quality standards and the like by use of effective visual boards in the work area.
For positions that are more highly technical or complicated, relying on a high level of specific steps, a printed playbook or reference book may be helpful. Laminate the pages, mount them in the work area, and teach your employees how to reference them as they learn the new job.
GRIFFIN: I’d say effective training methods include:
- Technology-based learning/eLearning.
- Cross-training/job rotation.
- Films and videos.
- On-the-job training.
- Instructor/manager-led training.
- Virtual training meetings.
How often should laundry employees undergo training? Why?
WILLIAMS: An employee’s ability to retain the skills they learned during cross-training is only as good as the training that took place and the frequency in which it was taught. In order for cross-training to be effective, it should be ongoing.
COCANOUGHER: Regular training meetings among the team can add value if planned and carried out properly. These may be in several forms:
Pre-shift Team Meetings—Take 5-10 minutes to set the daily goal, talk about safety, and recognize individuals or teams for outstanding performance.
Monthly Safety/Production/Business Meetings—An hour to 90 minutes every other week should be sufficient in most plants to complete required safety training, speak about the condition of the business, and provide specialized recognition such as service awards, etc.
Employees must be made to feel appreciated and an important part of something bigger than themselves. Engaging them in the training will lead to engaging them in the decisions about plant floor activities and helps to build a strong dedicated team.
GRIFFIN: Every six months to one year.
Annual OSHA training for all employees is mandatory, and training for new-hire employees within 10 days of hire. Compliance training is required annually.
Employee training programs help to improve the knowledge and skills of employees to match the various changes in the industry.
GRIGGS: New obstacles seem to pop up every week in our laundry. We have a new stain suddenly appear or the size of our bundles seems to magically go from 12 by 20 to 14 by 24 without anyone alerting management.
To help combat these changes, short, quick meetings should be done weekly. Meetings should go over safety and quality issues that may have come up from the prior week. If employees are getting into bad work habits, it is much easier to correct them a week in versus a month out.
How can a laundry effectively train employees without taking too much time off the floor?
WILLIAMS: Training takes time, there is no way around that. If a company dedicates time upfront when the employee is recently hired, they are going to see the return on investment later on.
When an employee is newly hired, they are new to our process—let’s be honest, a lot of times they are new to the industry. Their productivity is not as efficient as someone who has experience in the role they were hired for, so it’s important to spend time with them to get them there.
It doesn’t matter how busy your schedule is or if now is not a good time, it’s always a good time to train. We cannot hold employees accountable for their production if we never took the time to properly train them.
COCANOUGHER: Frequent contact with each employee, particularly those who are new or in new roles, throughout the shift will allow you to spot incorrect processes, praise/correct activities and build on the training necessary for success.
Floor supervisors should have a routine that puts them in touch with each employee every hour—and not just to say “hi” but to have meaningful conversation and observation that will support the training needs of the operation.
GRIFFIN: Technology-based training/online learning/eLearning allows employees to learn at their own pace on their own time.
If a laundry operator were asking you about how to improve their training program, what would you tell them?
WILLIAMS: Set a solid foundation. The building is only as strong as the foundation it sits on.
An organization’s training program should be able to provide the employee with clear, standardized work instructions. The employee should know what they have to do, how they have to do it and what is expected of them.
Cross-training is vital to a company’s ability to not only adapt to sudden changes within the market but to be able to sustain when there are sudden shifts in the workforce.
COCANOUGHER: There is no cookie-cutter method—while all in the industry do essentially the same thing, our local operations and staffs are different, with varying degrees of experience and skill.
A true assessment of your training program will include asking your employees—they know better than anyone what is needed! They are your best resource for improving anything in your plant.
GRIFFIN: If knowledge is power, then learning is fundamental! Continuous improvement training teaches a system that leads to the evolutionary development of every aspect of a business—its products, services and methods.
GRIGGS: Training programs, like laundries in general, are constant works in progress. Do not start your training program out thinking it will automatically be fine-tuned and robust.
Try starting out with talking about one or no more than two topics at first. Overloading employees with items that you have been wanting to talk to them about for months all in the first week of your new training program will turn the employees and supervisors off concerning your training program.
Weekly bullet points of items to look at or safety issues usually obtain more employee buy-in. The trainer should work hard at keeping the message in the form of training and not turn it into a general complaint session. We all like to be trained, but none of us liked to be criticized.
Miss Part 1, where the experts talked about the effects of the pandemic on training? Click HERE now to read it!