|  About  |  Contact  |  eNewsletter Signup

Labor Crises – Front and Center Part II

By Craig Lloyd, CEO Laundrycareeers.com

Last week we discussed what is the labor crisis and what is causing it. Click here to read the first part of our in-depth analysis of the shared concerns of laundry industry professionals.



What can we do about it? Start with a root cause analysis that serves to pinpoint specific issues and trends with your local workforce. Identify a reasonable sample of past employees who were either laid off last year or elected to resign. Through co-workers or creative follow-up attempt to research whether they are currently employed, and if so, where. If not employed, then why not? In this way if your plant labor shortages have a common denominator then address it directly.

If transportation issues are limiting your non-exempt labor pool, then perhaps this is the time to investigate hiring “gig” drivers with vans to get some of your employees to and from work.

Keith Ware, VP of Operations with NOVO, sees the challenges and believes improving morale will fix it quicker than dramatic wage increases. Make the job fun supported by managers who have the ability to be people-oriented cheerleaders.

CJ McCauley, GM with Moneysworth Linen Services in North Carolina, has had much success with the H-2B Visa program which has enabled them to employ 45 production associates from Mexico on a six-month renewal format. This has been on-going for a few years with the help of a consultant who grew up in Mexico and was able to navigate the bureaucracy on both ends.

Now more than ever, the plant HR person needs to be enthusiastic, energetic, and pro-active. If possible, expedite on-boarding the same day of the interview. If email messaging candidates isn’t getting a response and if phone calls keep going to their voicemail, then consider texting to schedule a time to talk. Text them a link to your website.

Does our voice in Washington have an impact? If not today, then perhaps for 2022 onward? A longtime laundry friend of mine from my National Linen days who is currently a General Manager in Florida sent me the 1980 – 2020 INS stats detailing the number of admitted refugees. His comments:

“Since our industry has become increasingly dependent on foreign-born labor, a quick review of recent INS stats reveals a roadblock to successful staffing opportunities. My plant had a seemingly endless supply of immigrant candidates as recently as 2017. Then US borders saw unprecedented entry barriers implemented. Between 2016 and 2020, the number of admitted refugees was reduced from 84,995 annual authorized entries to 11,841. In the 1990’s, this number was over 132,000 admitted refugees. As American-born workers have grown increasingly unwilling to do this type of work, labor sources have to come from elsewhere. If our borders place such restrictions on immigrants seeking INS Work Authorization, our labor options will be a problem. I’m attaching a U.S. Department of State stat-sheet for this data.”

Recruiting leading to hiring of course is only half the challenge – the other is retention. In our industry the owners, senior managers and floor managers all need to sync together to create positive work environments. Time and time again I hear the double whammy stories from laundry friends all over the country – the respective plant can find suitable candidates who accept the job offer only to quit within the first week or two; worse, some do not even show up for their first day of work.

Our laundry plant environment is physically demanding, we all know that. No doubt that message is made clear to the candidate during the interview hiring process. Ask them why they would want to work in a physically demanding position. If they seem unsure, then point out reasons that may resonate with them. For example – the production pace of the plant makes the time go by quickly, it’s a good way to stay in shape, there will always be laundry plants since the work needs to be done locally, there is plenty to learn if they rotate through the departments, etc.

Sometime during their first week a management or staff person (HR, plant manager, GM) should take them aside, maybe even to a sit-down office and simply chat with them about their impressions thus far during their first week. If they have any concerns, then do your best to address and hopefully resolve them.

As managers and owners, we have always taken on the challenges of operating a laundry plant, if we didn’t know it before, we know it now – you can’t run a laundry plant without people!

Good luck, I know it won’t be easy.


Image Top Right (c) CanStockPhoto


About the Author
Craig Lloyd is the founder and CEO of LaundryCareers.com, a management search firm specializing in the industrial laundry industry since 1998.  Previously he was the Director of Staffing and Relocation for the National Linen Service.  He has toured hundreds of laundry plants nationwide, completed his CPLM through a three-year PMI program and enjoyed membership with most of the laundry industry trade associations.  Craig can be reached at craig@laundrycareers.com for discussion on any staffing issues.