I have had numerous discussions with my fellow laundry managers in recent years about job security. This certainly has been a hot topic around the country. Can you stay at a job too long? Is the concept of working for just one or two employers during your career a thing of the past?
Our discussions revealed three key issues:
ASCERTAINING MARKET VALUE
It is difficult for any organization to keep up with market changes. Managers can boost their potential value by increasing their education, developing better productivity-management skills, and obtaining certifications or registrations.
Certain management skills are in greater demand today. Today’s managers are expected to be proficient in word-processing and spreadsheet programs, budgeting and cost justification, linen-tracking systems, and employee relations. Productivity management is an area of great emphasis now and will continue to be in the future. The greater a manager’s demonstrated skills in these areas, the greater his or her market value.
It is difficult to determine what a manager’s skills are worth in the employment market. Most of us assume we are being paid fairly, wish we had a little more, and go about doing our job.
There are several ways to establish your market value. You can apply for an open position that looks interesting, you can talk to one of the recruiters who make a living matching managers with job openings, or you can simply listen when opportunity comes knocking.
Most managers are uncomfortable trying to determine their market value and will list their family’s needs or their unwillingness to move as the principal reasons for avoiding it.
For those managers who have greatly increased their skill level, a substantial raise is possible, especially if they explore all offers. The downside is that, most of the time, they must be willing to move.
LOSS OF RESPECT AS TIME PASSES
Organizations tend to focus on “What have you done for me lately?” and downplay the importance of your past performance. There is a danger in doing your job properly by handling customer complaints as they arise, thus keeping your boss and other administrators free to concentrate on other matters.
After a number of years, administration looks at a smooth-running department and begins to think that almost anyone could do your job. A well-run laundry can be compared to a duck on a pond. To the observer, the duck seems to glide across the water with little or no effort. What he does not see is its feet paddling furiously just beneath the surface. In our effort to instill confidence, we try to insulate our bosses from seeing what it takes to make the laundry appear to be a smooth-running organization.
An administrator’s average tenure is about four years. The organization’s memory may only be four years long. If you were hired to take over a poorly run laundry and have made significant operational improvements, the memory of that event will fade over time or be totally lost if that administrator leaves the organization.
It has always amazed me, as a linen supplier, how quickly an organization can forget about their previous vendor’s poor processing quality and service. They are doomed to repeat the same mistake of assuming that all outside service vendors are alike with each succeeding contract. Price then becomes the only thing that matters.
I have seen the same thing happen with management positions. The memory of what happens when poor or inadequate management runs the laundry or another service department is quickly forgotten. The salary of existing management becomes the key consideration in the cost/benefit analysis. It is not surprising that a number of competent laundry managers are replaced each year as healthcare facilities face ever-expanding financial challenges.
One case in point involves a healthcare central laundry in Memphis, Tenn. Its manager had been with the organization more than 15 years and had built the laundry into a large, well-run operation. An aggressive administrator out to prove he could save the organization money put his faith in the promises of a management company instead of this manager.
The manager could read the handwriting on the wall and beat the administrator to the punch by retiring before his employment could be terminated. The administrator contracted the laundry’s management. Over the next year, the cost rose dramatically, productivity plummeted, and work had to be sent to other laundries in order to satisfy customers’ needs. The management company was fired and another hired. Once a company or service line develops a bad reputation in the marketplace, it takes years to re-establish its good reputation.
STRIKE WHILE THE IRON IS HOT!
Many managers I know have turned down job opportunities because they came at a time when they were not looking. In my discussions with colleagues, we concurred that it would be in a manager’s best interest to seriously consider any job offer they receive between the fifth and 10th years of employment.
The simple fact is, a manager is more employable while they have a job than when they are unemployed. I believe that one should never make opportunity knock twice. Of course, the parallel story is that when walking through a tunnel, the light ahead can be the end of the tunnel or an oncoming train.
Never take or seriously consider a job offer that is not acceptable to you based on scope of responsibility, salary, and area of the country.
A manager I worked with in Milwaukee was approached about a job as a chemical service representative. The prospective employer took him out to dinner and actively recruited him. Flattered by the attention and hard sell, he decided to make the change. But he had not done his homework about the new position and did not know what to expect.
He spent his first week working on the road, helping to install a new customer. He quickly realized that he missed being home every night with his wife and family. This was a critical aspect he had not considered. Fortunately, his former employer had not filled his old job and welcomed him back.
This manager often said that he learned more in that one week about what was truly important to him than he had learned in the previous 10 years.
The new rules of management say that job security is based on what you know how to do and your most visible results. An occasional job offer could help you decide if your salary is in line with market value. After a decade on the job, take a look at the market. Your value as a manager will be at its peak—strike while the iron is hot!
The Memphis manager found it difficult to find another job when he decided he was too young to stay retired. Even with excellent business connections, the stigma of not being employed in the laundry industry, plus his age, made it difficult for him to find another job. He eventually found a new management position but freely admits he should have paid more attention to the job offers that had come his way over the years.