COMMERCIAL LAUNDRY SOFTWARE PSYCHOLOGY: BE THE MANAGER YOUR EMPLOYEES NEED

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Fouad Egbaria | July 9, 2024

In a previous article, we talked about the ways in which Spindle commercial laundry software is about more than data. 

Spindle's data is easy to digest and provides actionable recommendations and insights in real time, serving as an ever-present right-hand man, mentor, coach or consultant. 

As we outlined previously, Spindle can be a foundation for strategy, culture, mentorship and much more — in other words, things that can extend far beyond the numbers. 

After all, at the end of the day, employees are human beings, not just numbers. 

That's why, if you're a plant manager, it's important to get into the mind of the employee to understand them at their level. 

Below, we'll outline some psychological principles explained in detail in the great book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. They're ideas that you probably understand intuitively but maybe haven't thought about in detail. 

In this article, we'll apply some of those ideas to the commercial laundry space so you can see how Spindle can be a tool to help you connect with and motivate your workforce

THE MIND OF THE EMPLOYEE

Let's dive a little deeper into a commercial laundry operation and the mind of the employee.

An employee in a commercial laundry plant typically has a segmented task they focus on during their shift, whether it's feeding machines, folding, separating, hanging garments, and so on. 

Even the most self-motivated employee, who is driven to work hard consistently, and hit their shift targets, can have off days or even simply an off hour or two. 

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the employee who routinely slacks off, doesn't hit their targets and only works hard if they know they're being watched closely. 

Then, of course, you have everybody in between: intermittently motivated, more or less hitting their targets (but sometimes not). Good, but not necessarily superstar employees. 

First, let's do away with two assumptions: 1) That the self-motivated worker doesn't "need" any additional help or encouragement to do a good job and 2) The generally unmotivated worker is a lost cause. 

The reality is, both personas represent opportunities.

Rather than "good" or "bad" employees, it's better to think of them in the context of percentage of full potential reached. While the former doesn't have as far to ascend, the power of the "aggregation of marginal gains," as "Atomic Gains" explains, can be the key to unlocking greater levels of productivity and happiness in your plant. 

THE PROBLEM

As we've noted elsewhere, over half of small business owners report they have jobs they cannot fill. Finding — and then retaining — employees can be a real challenge. (In another article, we delved into the subject of how to find and retain good employees.)

It's even harder to retain good employees if they feel unfulfilled or unrewarded for their work. 

That's why it's more important than ever to understand the psychology of the employee and what business owners and managers can do to boost retention and increase productivity. "Atomic Habits" outlines four psychological stages in the process toward forming new habits: cue, craving, response and reward. 

As Clear explains, "the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits." To draw from my personal experience, a high school basketball coach of mine used to tell us "perfect practice makes perfect." Doing things consistently well in practice (i.e., building better habits) leads to consistently better performance on gameday. 

Of course, it doesn't happen overnight. There are ups and downs, frustrations and setbacks, during the process. It's important to remember that building a good habit doesn't happen instantaneously, so you should try to weather those setbacks and keep moving forward in a positive direction, rather than becoming frustrated and lapsing back into bad habits. 

CUE, CRAVING, RESPONSE, REWARD

To refer back to "Atomic Habits," the book refers to four steps of habit forming: cue, craving, response and reward. In other words, the pathway to a new habit begins with a cue, or some type of trigger that pushes someone toward a certain action.  The four steps of the habit building cycle, as outlined in "Atomic Habits" by James Clear

So how do these apply to a commercial laundry operation leveraging Spindle and employee behaviors therein?

In other words, how can Spindle help you and your employees build new, positive work habits?

Let's take a quick look. 

Cue

A cue is some type of trigger that results in someone acting to achieve a goal and, eventually, a reward. Cues can come in many different forms.

For example, cues can be based on time. You wake up in the morning and have coffee, or maybe lace up your shoes and go for a run.

They can also be based on location. For example, you're on an airplane and decide to have a tomato juice, even though you almost never drink tomato juice otherwise ... which, believe it or not, studies have shown people to be more likely to enjoy a tomato juice on an airplane. Cues can also be based on preceding events, emotional state or other people. 

What is a "cue" for a commercial laundry worker? In the context of Spindle, the color-coded, traffic light-style data displays are a clear example. Monitor Employee Productivity

With Spindle data displays installed at various work stations, employees can watch their productivity levels in real time. When the display shows green, that means they're at healthy levels of productivity. Yellow indicates borderline performance, while red indicates lacking performance. 

In sports, the "perfect practice" example works well, too.

You prepare for a certain scenario in practice; when you see it in transpiring in the game, it serves as a cue that triggers a series of emotions and responses. You want to, say, defend the opponent's play, which you can see coming because you've conditioned yourself to see those cues.

You then respond by being in the right place at the right time and making the appropriate play, all so you can reap a reward: celebrating with your teammates, praise from your coach or fans, and potential additional distinctions (e.g., individual awards and/or contributing to the team goal of winning the game, making the playoffs, etc.). 

Takeaway: Cues, which can be based on a wide range of stimuli, are the trigger for a future action. With Spindle, color-coded data displays serve as a visual cue. 

Craving 

Most of the time, employees want to do well. The challenge is, they might not have the data or feedback to let them know when they are doing well or, conversely, if they need to step it up. 

Based on the color cues, an employee could do one of a few things. If they see green, they'll want to work to make sure their display remains green. If they see yellow, they'll want to strive to get back up to green. If they see red, they'll feel a greater sense of urgency to get back up to stronger levels of output. 

As "Atomic Habits" explains, cravings are the "motivational force behind every habit."

Over time, through positive reinforcement, most people will want — or crave, in these terms — some form of action. 

Going back to the morning routine example, the groggy person isn't necessarily craving coffee in and of itself — they're craving the feeling that comes with it. A boosted sense of alertness and a feeling of the ability to be more productive ... these are the things that come with the habit of drinking coffee every morning when you wake up. 

Takeaway: When an employee sees the cue, they're prompted to crave a certain outcome accordingly (i.e., if they're green, they'll want to keep up the good work...if they're yellow or red, they'll crave improvement). 

Response

Next, the response is the acting component of the craving. If an employee craves a return to green levels, they'll work harder to get there, whether they've fallen to yellow or red.

If they're already at green but want to improve from, say, 97% to 100%, they'll track those numbers on the display, crave improvement and respond accordingly, in real time. ("Respond" is, of course, the next step, outlined below.)

One important point Clear makes about responses: "Whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and how much friction is associated with the behavior." 

One form of friction is not enough feedback, data, visual cues, etc. to form a coherent response. If you don't know how to respond, it makes it much more difficult to do so (and definitely more difficult to do so in an effective way). 

Matt Chambers Quote

Spindle displays remove that friction but putting productivity numbers front and center at each workstation. 

This question of motivation is important because there we should note it comes in two forms: inherent motivation (people who self-motivated and driven to do well, regardless of external factors) and external motivation, like the promise of an incentive bonus for consistently excellent work. 

As you can see from the testimonial at right from one site using Spindle, the data pushes employees to want to do better. 

Takeaway: The response is the follow-up to a craving. As Clear explains, "whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and how much friction is associated with the behavior."

Reward

Lastly — and this one is very important for the development of a new habit and tying this whole process together — is the reward.

For some people, the feeling of self-gratification of a job well done is enough. 

The reality is, however, that doesn't apply to everyone. 

In many cases, an incentives program rewarding employees for excellent work can be a boon over time. While adding an additional amount to an employee's paycheck can seem like a cost to your business that you'd rather not incur, it's better (and more accurate) to think of it as an investment. When you invest money, it feels like a cost at the time of allocation, but after weeks, months and years, the aforementioned "aggregation of marginal gains" becomes clear. 

As a manager, you should use these data to make sure you are acknowledging your employees when they are doing well. In addition, Spindle software provides "Coachable Moments," which highlight opportunities for improvement in your plant. If you have one-to-one meetings with your employees, you can use that information to coach up your employees and address these opportunities in a constructive way before problems become persistent. In some cases, an employee might not even know something they're doing (or not doing) is an issue, so open and consistent communication is key. 

If employees become conditioned to see these cues, crave better performance (with the promise of reward), act on that craving and then receive a reward for it, this process will eventually become a habit ... and excellence isn't an end product, it's a habit cultivated over time. 

In this case, the habit is high performance at a task within the commercial laundry environment.

Takeaway: When reinforced enough times via a reward, strong work ethic and productivity will become a habit. That reinforcement can come in the form of everything from verbal recognition by managers to financial compensation through an incentives program. 

Individual and Collective

With so many specialized tasks in the commercial laundry site, you can think of it like a sports team.

Take football, for example. A team with good wide receivers and a good quarterback can still struggle if the offensive line doesn't block well. Similarly, in the commercial laundry, if one link in the chain is faulty, it can impact the entire process. For example, if items aren't sorted properly, they could end up in the wrong places in the plant, leading to productivity slowdowns. 

That's why it's important to emphasize this four-step model across the organization, regardless of historical performance, in order to get full buy-in from your workforce and optimal collaboration. That way, when one team member succeeds, other employees feel like they are succeeding, too.

In that vein, you might also consider implementing both individual and team-based incentives. 

SUMMARY

We've talked about the features of Spindle software in other places, so if you'd like to learn more about the software, you can visit our Resources page. In terms of data, Spindle real-time operations software helps you keep up to date on everything that's going on in your plant. 

However, as we've reviewed in this article, there are unseen, psychological components to this data. Any application of the software and consideration of the data it provides is incomplete without equal consideration to the psychological forces that motivate people. 

You, too, can be the Zen Master of your operation. You don't need a psychology degree or a years of meditation to get there, either: all you need is a basic understand of the core principles outlined in this article. 

Get the most out of Spindle and get the most out of your employees. 

Want to learn more? You don't need a fancy psychology degree or additional employees to implement these ideas in your plant.

Contact us to learn how you can use psychology and Spindle to boost productivity.

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