Interview with Jake Storan, Operations Director at Johnson Hotel Linen (Birmingham) on retaining, attracting and training quality staff in a laundry. 


Forward: In early October, as part of the TSA Autumn Conference, Jake (as he is known by his staff and friends) was gracious enough to give ETSA Secretariat and DTV's Andreas Schumacher a tour of the laundry facility he manages. Immediately we noticed something special about the Johnson Group laundry, the average age of a worker was in the 30's, and he boasted an 80% staff retention rate. Moreover, the workers were very diverse, and about an equal divide between men and women. In an industry which is (generally speaking) struggling to attract and retain talent, we had to ask, what is Jake doing right? and how can that be externalized to the greater industry?

  1. Jake, the laundry in Birmingham is very successful, you have extremely high staff retention and the average age for your employee is in the 30 range. Staff retention and an aging labour force is something the industry as a whole struggles with.  In short, what are you doing right?

Answer: Staff retention is one of my priorities, engaging with all departmental colleges, knowing their names, understanding their cultures and needs in return gives loyalty, respect and a feeling of being part of a team, working for a family like business, yet being part of a corporate organization

  1. We all know, continued career growth is the key to fostering loyalty, how do you identify key talent in a person, nurture it and grow it in a way which is beneficial to the company?

Answer: Encouraging a fail-safe environment where by my team feel that no matter what ideas, thoughts or suggestions they may have, I listen, working close with each other, we can identify talent, plan a pathway in which learning becomes enjoyable, stretching their capability's without them feeling venerable,  this will assist in broadening their learning, uplifting their confidence, strengthening his/her skills to benefit both our teams and future talentStorhan


  1. Here in Europe, the EU is really trying to push upskilling through the lens of green and digital technology, is this something which you are trying to do, or is this not practical in a laundry setting?

Answer: We are always looking to gain benefits from new ideas and innovation, however it is key to make sure we manage what we have today without burdening our planet further, energy has to be managed hourly and daily to get usage, and consumption, maximizing efficiencies at all levels, this includes productivity/logistic and transport. digitally we are focus on upskilling our people, engaging in on line learning/courses, interacting with certified bodies, becoming more smarter and confidence people

  1. Obviously, people work in order to sustain themselves and provide. However, there are a multitude of factors which can influence if a person stays at their job, including flexibility, time off, creature comforts etc. Is there something unique you do for your workers which you think could be externalized to the greater industry?  

Answer: Working in a commercial laundry is extremely challenging at times, a clean well ran housekeeping unit is paramount, having the flexibility locally to harmonize the team, in conjunction with customer demands benefits our business, during the quieter periods our workforce requests extra time off, and adjustable working hours, also providing excellent welfare facilities/Wi-Fi and relaxing space they feel appreciative, regular events take place, the management team will serve our workforce with cakes/pastries/fruits and soft drinks, Festival holidays we celebrate with food "Easter Eggs/Christmas Hampers, raising money for local charities that are requested by our teams, engaging is the most key factor, personally I am in work 5.30am every morning as the nigh shift clock off and the day shift clock in, thanking all the teams for their support, again the same happen at 2pm as the morning shift clock off and the afternoon shift starts work

  1. You've said that you reach out to individuals who underperform in order to reach them on a human level and understand what barriers they might face, so to coach and mentor them. What might that look like?  

Answer: Human nature is not to fail, so to help individuals we need to understand why their performance has not been meet, encouragement with a buddy "on the job training" who can transfer their skills and ability's will positively grow the performance of individuals

  1. The majority of the workers in your laundry have a non-European origin, this is quite common amongst the industry. In relation to building good relations amongst staff and management are there certain cultural nuances managers should be aware of?

Answer: Absolutely like all cultures we have to know what really ticks their boxes, respect is the main driver, religious event need to be at the forefront at all times as not all faiths are Christians, so knowing what to say and do through out the year has a major impact in building relationships

  1. How do you handle gender and how do you encourage women team leaders specifically to go the extra mile? where would you need to improve?

Answer: I have never in 30 years had an issue in relation to gender, sometime due to manual handling it can become heavy work during a shift for a woman, hence we have a man, it's a common sense approach, encouraging women to become team leaders/supervisors shows that no matter what sex you are as long as you are willing to be developed its on merit you get to become a team leader/supervisor, motivational speak passion/drive and having the can do attitude is really the only way to excel and prove that its not a man's world, its equal.

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