CHICAGO — How important is your ability to communicate with your employees and customers? Does a manager need to be an effective salesman?
Is there a relationship between employee loyalty and the manager’s ability to effectively communicate?
Is there a relationship between quality communication from the laundry and the amount of abuse and linen loss that a facility experiences?
Of all the skills a manager must have to be successful, I believe that the ability to communicate with all levels of an organization and customers is the most critical. It is, after all, the manager’s ability to effectively get work done through other people and enlist his customers in helping to reduce costs that distinguishes him from the other employees.
The proper guidance and training of employees depends upon the manager’s knowledge and ability to communicate.
Some time ago, I was in a laundry where it was obvious that the manager had not taken the time to communicate his production goals and objectives. Consequently, the employees feeding the ironer were only producing an average of four sheets per minute.
When questioned about the pace of production, they responded that it must be adequate because the manager had never said anything. When told that the pace was not sufficient and that the ironer should be producing 12 sheets per minute, production immediately doubled.
I wandered up to the nursing units to see how the linen was being used. I noticed incontinent pads being layered, two or three, per bed. This created ridges where the patient would lay, increasing the chance of skin breakdown. To help eliminate the ridges, a nurse placed a towel on top of the layered pads.
This clearly is a site where a little two-way communication between the laundry manager and the linen users could reduce costs and increase the quality of patient care.
Why are they layering the pads? Is the existing pad too small? Do these pads have a tendency to leak? Do the nurses simply layer the pads out of habit?
Problems with the product can be corrected. Using one incontinent pad at a time is the ideal situation. Educating the staff about the pad’s qualities and use is definitely required here. This is a cost-saving opportunity awaiting some action.
During the same visit, I saw perfectly good bath towels being cut up to make washcloths. Nursing was reacting to a perceived chronic washcloth shortage by making some for their patients. The nurses felt their actions were justified, having assumed that the laundry didn’t care about patient care or it would be supplying the amount of washcloths they needed.
But this same nursing staff had created the shortage. When they felt some washcloths were too soiled with feces to be laundered and effectively cleaned, they threw them in the trash. Again, here is an opportunity where good two-way communication could help solve a long-standing problem.
When was the last time you reviewed your production rates and communicated them to your employees? When was the last time you acted like a consultant and assisted your customers to improve their linen utilization? Checking on your employees’ productivity and helping your customers better their linen utilization shows them you really care. A well-chosen word or two to an employee or a customer rewards a job well done or encourages them to try harder.
Communicate positively whenever possible. Telling an employee that you are sure they can improve if they try a little harder is much better than telling them you think they are lazy and may fire them if they don’t produce more.
Avoid using profane or abusive language. I have found that using profanity as adjectives does little to improve communication. Some managers use it to signal their employees that they are really upset. This is a trap of our own making. We determine the “key” behavior or words that “tell” our employees when we are really upset. Once these are set, we must use them each time we get upset. Breaking these established signals could take years.
Communicating effectively with employees and customers will help the laundry work as a cohesive unit and the manager to meet his or her departmental goals and objectives.