5 Easy Things You Can Do to Energize Your Employees in 2018

The Roman god Janus, from whom the words “janitor” and “January” are derived, looks to both the past and the future.

The month of January is named after the Roman God Janus, the same god that we explained in this post is the god of “beginnings and ends.” It’s from Janus that the word “janitor” is derived, as he metaphorically represented doors and passages. In images, he’s depicted with two faces that enable him to look to the past and future.

As many make personal resolutions to kick off the New Year, January can also be the ideal time to look at what your department has accomplished in the past year and set goals for the future—much like Janus. A good place to start is by thinking about common issues you’ve experienced in the past and find ways around them for the future. For example, maybe you’re having issues keeping cleaning staff, or inventory keeps wandering off because cleaning workers hoard it. These are common issues facility management professionals face, but they aren’t issues that you can’t easily overcome with a little planning and organization.

A lot of common issues faced by cleaning professionals can be overcome with an empowered and energized staff. A good team is the basic building block of any successful cleaning operation. To help you get 2018 started off on the right foot, we’ve pulled together a list of easy ways you can energize your team:

1. Clean and organize your supply cabinets. You wouldn’t believe what we see in some cleaning closets and supply storage areas. In addition to old chemicals and unused equipment, we have found everything from leftover lunches, crumpled up papers and dirt that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the building. A lot of cleaning storage areas are downright filthy!

Rather than letting your inventory and storage areas become a place cleaning workers avoid, create a clean space that is well organized and allows them to easily find what they need, when they need it. Same goes with cleaning equipment—if it’s dirty, clean it up! Make it something your team is proud to use.

2. Start each morning with a warm-up. The Bureau of Labor statistics lists custodians as a top vocation for the highest rates of injury-causing days away from work in the U.S. Overexertion and repetitive motion injuries for custodial workers, resulting from common tasks such as pulling trash or lifting overfilled mop buckets.

Just one of the exercises in the University of Texas at Austin’s FIT START program.

Many of these injuries are preventable. The University of Texas at Austin has developed an award-winning program that helps custodial workers warm up for the day with exercises for arms, back, legs and neck. You can easily recreate this program to help your workers warm up for their day.

3. Bring recognition to your department. There are several awards given throughout the cleaning industry that showcase best-in-class cleaning operations. From industry trade associations, non-profits such as the Simon Institute and trade publications, such as Facility Cleaning Decisions and Sanitary Maintenance, there are several opportunities to bring much deserved recognition to your cleaning program, specific initiatives or individuals on your team.

One popular award we’d recommend is the Outstanding Cleaning Worker of the Year, which is presented annually at the Simon Industry’s annual Awards Banquet. This award recognizes hard-working individuals on your team who demonstrate a commitment to excellence in the profession. Click here if you know someone who would be a great 2018 award recipient.

Another way to bring recognition to your department and team is by celebrating #ThankaCleaner week or International Cleaners Week. Held annually on the second full week of September, you can invite the entire business to participate by finding ways to thank and recognize cleaning personnel.

4. Develop a system for tracking complaints. Oftentimes, complaints are treated like fires. We receive a call, dispatch the team and put out the fire. In a lot of operations, we can spend most of our day extinguishing these proverbial fires, which comes at a great expense to the cleaning manager’s time—and sanity. Yet at the end of the day, if you look at who is doing the complaining, it’s often just a handful of people doing the complaining.

As we discussed in this article, we often call these people the “potato chip people.” Why? Because they are the type of people who drop something and call custodial to respond. Overtime, the chronic complainers can put a considerable drain on your time and resources.

To reduce complaints, you need to first find out the source. Is the problem truly reflective of a deficiency in your cleaning program? Or, are complaints due to the fact that a handful of people don’t have a clear understanding of your scope of services? Developing a form to help track complaints can help you pinpoint the issue, saving you and your team both time and energy.

5. Provide independent employee training — with a certificate! A large majority of the training that happens in our industry is provided by manufacturer or distributor sales representatives. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it is often focused on a particular products and doesn’t give frontline cleaning workers a broader perspective into the hows and whys of their jobs.

An example of training that will help them better understand the science behind what they do is an introduction to microbiology. While they may know that most disinfectants require five to 10 minutes of dwell time to work, do they understand what organisms they are trying to kill, or how those organisms colonize and spread? Educated workers are empowered workers; this improves safety and worker retention.

You might also want to consider training programs that offer a certificate upon completion. What might seem like just a piece of paper can instill an enormous amount of pride and confidence in a custodial worker. It’s something they can share with family or friends, or just be something they put in their locker to remind them of their achievement.

As you can see, just a few small tweaks in your existing processes can completely change the energy in your department. When employees are engaged and excited, everyone wins.

SaveSave

Our Top Seven Posts from 2017

As we wind down an amazing whirlwind of a year, we’d first like to thank you for taking the time to read our musings on cleaning. We’re almost a year into this blogging thing and have learned so much about what you want to read, how you read it and ways we we can continue to deliver great information to help improve the way you look at and manage your custodial departments.

Earlier this month, we also launched the first issue of “Cleaning Matters,” a monthly electronic newsletter with best practices related to cleaning management and information to keep you updated about what’s happening in our world. If you didn’t receive a copy of it and would like to subscribe, please click here.

As we work to develop our calendar for next year, we thought we’d leave you with a recap of our top posts from this year. Here are the five most “liked” and clicked on posts from 2017:

  1. Let’s Take a Minute to Thank a Cleaner: Our tribute to the hardworking people who work when most others are sleeping, cleaning the buildings where we live, work, learn, heal and play.
  2. What Happens When People Walk into a Building and See Dirt: A study found that 99 percent of people would have a negative perception of a business that wasn’t clean. When it comes to repeat customers, it turns out that appearance really matters.
  3. Think “Janitor” Is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why: In this post, we dive into the origins of the word “janitor” and look at the profession of cleaning around the world.
  4. The Problem with the Way We’re Training Custodial Workers Today: Too often, custodial workers are handed a mop and told to clean without much additional instruction. We look into why that approach can yield big issues for a business.
  5. Provo City Schools – Part I: What is “Clean,” Anyway? We examine Dr. Jeffrey Campbell’s ground-breaking study on the impact of cleaning on public health in a three-part series; Part I looks at how we define cleanliness.
  6. A Look at Restrooms Around the World on World Toilet Day: From bayakou in Haiti to tsukaiyausa in Japan, a glimpse at restrooms and sanitation around the world.
  7. How You Can Use Data to Reduce the Threat of Outsourcing: How to get the data you need to prevent your custodial department from being outsourced.

Again, thank you for your support over the past year. We have some incredible things planned for 2018 and are so excited to have you along for this journey. If you have a topic you’d like to learn more about in the coming months, let us know and we’ll put it on the schedule!

Four Things Every Custodial Job Description Should Include

Job descriptions. These generic and ambiguous paragraphs are often inherited from predecessors, borrowed from colleagues or downloaded from an industry website. Because it’s such a painstaking activity, we rarely tackle the daunting task of crafting a job description from scratch.

Over the years, we have found that job descriptions are one of the most overlooked and underutilized aspects of managing a custodial department; yet, they are are critical to reducing liability, arbitrating union grievances, hiring, bidding projects, training and managing custodial workers. They are a fundamental building block upon which you can build the rest of your cleaning operation, so they should be written in a way that is not only reflective of the job and work being performed, but in a way that provides the individual performing the task with a clear understanding of HOW to perform the work.

But sadly, that rarely happens. Assigned to workers throughout our custodial departments, the descriptions capture highlights of responsibilities associated with a certain position, but do not include specifics, like the nuances specific to a facility. For example, I once was at a school where the janitor was responsible for “vacuuming floors” even though there wasn’t any carpet or soft flooring in the building.

So what are a few essential components of a quality job description and how can you use job descriptions as a building block for training custodial workers?

  1. FUNCTIONS: The functions outline all of the essential responsibilities of the job. This includes specific cleaning assignments based on the function. For example, within the (OS1) System, functions of a Utility Specialist include responsibilities such as cleaning glass, hauling trash to the dumpster and cleaning first impression areas.
  2. SPECIFICS/ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: With the general functions covered, the additional information section provides supplementary information to the key functions. For example, this might include safety information (e.g. lift equipment and trash bags safely using legs) or general reminders (e.g. keep the necessary keys for your area on you at all times throughout your shift).
  3. NOTES: The notes section offers a place where either additional responsibilities that become part of the job can be captured. For example, if a new table is placed in a conference area, you should list this in the notes to be added to the functions at a later time.

While these are three key elements to a quality job description, what separates a good job description from a great one is a flow chart. The flow chart provides a visual representation of the steps the custodial worker should take to complete their responsibilities. Following a top to bottom approach, it also identifies each task that needs to be completed and the order in which it should be completed, reducing opportunities for redundancies or overlooked areas. A flow chart shows where you start, where you finish and every step in between.

A flow chart offers specific instructions on what to clean in what order and is included in a Scouting Report for each employee. This reduces confusion and inconsistencies in cleaning.

A modern version of the traditional job description should be a living, breathing part of your operation that is continually changing and evolving. It’s something that has taken us more than 20 years to develop with some of the most advanced facility management programs out there. We use Scouting Reports in the (OS1) System and these three to four page booklets are utilized by custodial workers in ISO-9000 organizations across the U.S.

A quality job description is something every custodial worker deserves. It’s the foundation of a quality cleaning operation.

Looking for comprehensive job descriptions for your custodial operation? Check our the ManageMen Store for a set of common custodial positions: https://managemenstore.com/trainers/scouting-reports.html.

How You Can Use Data to Reduce the Threat of Outsourcing

Like it or not, we live in an age where data rules. So much, in fact, that the term “big data” has become more than just a buzzword, it’s central to the way businesses operate. Each day, billions of data bytes are collected as businesses track what we’re buying, where we’re going, what we’re watching and how we’re using the internet. Businesses use this data to better target their advertising and products with the ultimate goal of growing sales.

On the operational side, organizations also amass vast data banks related to all aspects of their business. This includes information about their supply chain, logistics, inventory and labor. This data is regularly analyzed to increase efficiencies, identify opportunities and improve margins.

Organizations that fail to produce data related to their cleaning operation run the risk of being outsourced.

That’s why when cleaning professionals neglect to collect and track data related to their operations, they ultimately fail. This failure can result in significant downsizing—or outsourcing.

Here’s a scenario we see too often:

Jim has managed a cleaning department for more than 15 years. Over this period, much of the cleanable square footage has remained the same, so Jim has maintained the same number employees to clean that space. While he’s had a few cuts, his budget has also remained largely unchanged over the years. He makes purchases based on recommendations from his distributor sales rep and previous purchase histories.

Enter Robert. Robert is the new CEO of the business where Jim works. In his first two weeks on the job, Robert meets with all the department managers to get a better understanding of the business. He asks Jim questions like, “How much time and chemical does it take for your team to clean the cafeteria?” and, “How would changing cleaning frequencies impact cleanliness?”

Jim broadly answers the questions, providing estimations based on his experience. But Jim can’t tell Robert that it takes two people on his team 42 minutes to clean the cafeteria using .5 ounces of all purpose cleaner concentrate. Jim doesn’t have this data. 

We all know how the scenario plays out. Not long after the meeting ends, Jim’s department is outsourced to a contract cleaning company who promises more for less. While the quality of cleaning plummets, it takes Robert and his executive team to realize the impact cleanliness has on both their customers’ experience and the productivity of the workers in their headquarter offices.

Developing Data through Workloading

Workloading your operations can product significant data related to your cleaning program, and it doesn’t require assistance from a consultant or someone who claims to know a secret formula. You can do it yourself. In fact, we’ve just wrapped up a crowd-sourced workloading project that includes 99 common (and benchmarked!) workloading times along with formulas you can use to workload your operations. Feel free to check out the booklet here, which will soon be released in a comprehensive do-it-yourself kit. But more on that later.

Really, the key to workloading is just understanding and working through a few relatively simple steps:

  1. Complete a thorough inventory of the space to be cleaned. Rather than using the gross square footage of the building, it’s best to walkthrough the building and manually calculate the cleanable square footage. This will help ensure the accuracy of the data and avoid skewed figures.
  2. List the cleaning tasks to take place. You should break down tasks into three categories, including daily, detail and project. Sample tasks may include empty trash, dust all horizontal surfaces, vacuuming, spot clean glass, etc.
  3. Calculate the time necessary to perform the tasks. There are thousands of variables that can impact cleaning times, but unless plan on conducting your own time and motion study, you can start with the times provided in the 612 Cleaning Times Booklet.
  4. Begin workloading the data. Begin by developing a chart that identifies the frequencies, tasks and the time performed for each task. For example, a daily task, such as dusting, may be performed 260 times per year where scrubbing flowers may be done once a month, or 12 times a year.

Next, allocate the amount of time for each task to the appropriate square footage. Then, add non-surface items per unit to be cleaned. In your final step, you should calculate the time for each task and multiply multiply that by the frequency. This number should offer a clear picture of the amount of time and labor required to clean your facility.

Ultimately, the formula is to take the task and multiply it by the time (required to perform the task), then multiply that number by the frequency. The final calculated number is your basic workload.

TASK x TIME x FREQUENCY = WORKLOAD

This piece of data is just one of several you should have in your pocket should “Robert” show up at your business and schedule a meeting.

Click here to receive your copy of our DIY Workloading Guide and stay tuned for more information our complete DIY Workloading Kit, coming soon!

SaveSave

A Look at Restrooms Around the World on World Toilet Day

Every year on Nov. 19th, World Toilet Day is celebrated with the goal of inspiring action and improving the global sanitation crisis. Sadly, more than 4.5 billion people throughout the world live without access to a household toilet, and this absence of a clean, sanitary environment not only fuels the spread of disease, it reinforces the cycle of poverty. In contrast, restroom sanitation is a key cultural focus in other parts of the world, reinforced through stories and song. In recognition of World Toilet Day, we’re looking at significance of restrooms in two very different parts of the world and how various these societies treat the people who are responsible for keeping them clean.

HAITI: In a place like Haiti where there’s no sewer system, more than 3 million residents (1 in 5 Haitians) use outhouses—so nearly every restroom is “public.” The people charged with cleaning out public toilets are known as bayakou. Their jobs are critical because Haiti is in the midst of a cholera epidemic. Deemed a “significant threat to global public health,” cholera results from poor hygiene, limited access to sanitation and inadequate water supply. While their jobs are critical to the health of people and children in Haiti, bayakou are often so scorned by the public that some never tell their spouses what they do for a living. Oftentimes, they clean at night because the smell is less intense and so they can hide in the darkness.

With no sewer systems in place, public restrooms in Haiti are cleaned by workers known as bayakou who often don’t tell their families about their work because of their shame.

JAPAN: On the other side of the world in Japan, visitors can expect the opposite experience when entering a public restroom. As writer Kaori Shoji suggests in the Japan Times, “you can expect a certain standard of cleanliness and tsukaiyasusa (accessibility) in most nooks and crannies.” This is because the restroom is a “prime feature of Japanese life” to the point that lore suggested daughters who cleaned the family toilet were destined to become beautiful, and would in turn bear beautiful daughters. In 2010, the song “Toire no Kamisama” or “The Toilet God” was a best seller, and just two years ago, the Japanese government launched the Japan Toilet Prize to “ensure that washrooms are always clean and safe.”

In U.S., we’re somewhere in the middle. While we’re fortunate to have access to public restrooms and sewage systems to reduce our exposure to diseases like cholera, it’s far from being treated as the most important room in the house when it comes to cleaning. In many facilities, the people who clean these areas are unappreciated for what they do. In the (OS1) System, we call these workers “restroom specialists.” But because their work goes unrecognized in most buildings, few restroom cleaners take pride in what they do. You’ll often hear custodians joke about being the “queen of the latrine” or “chief of the toilet brigade.”

Yet the role of the restroom specialist is no joke—it’s hard work and critical to business. In a recent Facility Cleaning Decisions survey, 56 percent of cleaning professionals say that restrooms are the most difficult areas in a facility to keep clean. Lack of supplies, trash, odor and spills are common issues plaguing cleaning workers.

From the customer perspective, a dirty restroom is a major turn-off. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults say they wouldn’t return to a restaurant with dirty restrooms. An article featured earlier this month in Convenience Store Decisions found the same — “Clean Restrooms Are Good Business” it concluded.

So what is needed to help improve restroom cleanliness in the U.S.? A few things:

  1. Educating more people about the implications of a dirty restroom. A dirty restroom not only poses health risks, but also can also be a deterrent to customers.
  2. Appreciating, recognizing and supporting restroom specialists and custodians responsible for cleaning the restrooms.
  3. Moving beyond “the box” mentality. Restroom cleaning isn’t just a little box someone checks off after they have picked up a few pieces of stray paper towels. It needs to be a system that regularly monitors and maintains restroom surfaces in a way that ensures a consistent level of cleanliness—and health.

If you want to recognize World Toilet Day, you have a couple of options. To help reduce the number of people without access to a household toilet, you can donate to the World Toilet Organization, which is a non-profit organization aimed at providing a clean and safe toilet for everyone, everywhere at all times.

You can also take a minute to thank the person who cleans the public restrooms where you work or visit. By letting them know you appreciate what they do, you help improve their appreciation and respect for the work they perform.

Additional resources: “Inside the Hidden Dangers of Life without Toilets.”

SaveSave

Why Cleaning Professionals Are Flocking to Janitor University

You know that feeling you get when you step off a roller coaster? That disoriented moment when you try to collect your thoughts because the rush was so incredible that “what’s next” becomes secondary to “wow, I can’t believe that just happened.”

That’s us right now, coming off a high from one of the best weeks of Janitor University (JU) in its almost 25-year history. We had the largest class in several years, with a diverse group of attendees joining us from academia, government agencies, laboratories and building service contractors. Some attendees were taking refresher courses to earn their masters or professor certificates, but we also hosted a lot newcomers to the class. Why is this exciting? Because it tells us that many professionals are interested in learning how to manage cleaning in a way that promotes a healthy indoor environment rather than polluting the indoors by spreading around dirt through ineffective products and practices.

As students get settled in on the first day, we talk through the current issues in the industry and why a standardized approach to cleaning is so important.

Since we’re regularly out in the field working one-on-one with managers, janitors and custodians, we have a lot of great images and stories that bring these points to life. The most important lesson during the first day of class is the stigma attached to cleaning and how we need to work in a way that brings professionalism to the industry and pride to the individuals performing the work. tThe first day of this course sets up the next day where we defined what a high performance cleaning system looks like.

On the second day of the program, we review the four most important functions of cleaning management. This includes:

1) Daily kitting and how to monitor the amount of solution and product used by custodial workers.

2) Tracking communication for complaints, requests, mistakes and compliments.

3) Practical tracking of equipment use in order to plan for preventative maintenance.

4) Performing quality assessments internally based on process factors. We like to call this “quality assessments without the white glove.”

Another great piece students to JU enjoy is the work loading exercise. Recognizing that most cleaning professionals can’t agree on a common-set of work loading terms, we distill the components into a game to help simplify the principles behind work loading. Because, simplification! Beyond all the knowledge and education, attendees also benefit from the networking that happens during the event. We regularly hear stories from people who develop professional contacts and friendships that last long after Janitor University is over.

All attendees are encouraged to sign up for the class at least once every three years, because we’re regularly updating the curriculum so it reflects the current recommended best practices for cleaning.

Albert Einstein once said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” As an industry, we have to get smarter and change the way we’re cleaning our buildings. If the students to last week’s JU are any indication, we’re on the way. We’ve had more than 2,000 people complete the program over the years, and attendees regularly tell us that JU is the most comprehensive cleaning management curriculum they’ve seen.

If you’re interested in participating in an upcoming Janitor University, stay tuned! We’ve got exciting news as we’ll be taking JU on the road in 2018. We are looking for more ways to enable cleaning professionals to participate in our courses, so we hope you’ll join us!

 

SaveSave

Understanding Topophilia and How It Impacts Productivity in the Workplace

Have you heard of the term “topophilia”? It’s a term that highlights how people feel about a place. As we work to create more productive and innovative work environments, ManageMen’s Ben Walker suggests in this month’s issue of Facility Cleaning Decisions that the cleanliness of a work environment will directly impact not just WHAT people feel about where they work, but also HOW they feel while they’re working.

Read the full article here.

How to Stop the Commoditization of Cleaning [HINT: It Starts with Purchasing]

When we first moved into our house, we went to a local big-box hardware store and purchased a lawn mower. We had just moved out of an apartment and had a lot of lawn maintenance equipment to buy, so we took the word of the salesperson at the store who told us that the cheaper lawn mower would work just fine for our needs. We didn’t do any research and made the decision completely on cost—and a recommendation from a stranger.

Well…. It turns out that wasn’t so smart because just last year, three years after purchasing that original lawn mower, we bought another lawn mower.

Have you ever heard the phrase “buy nice or buy twice”?

We also see this happening too often within cleaning operations. While a recent survey from Facility Cleaning Decisions shows that 62 percent of cleaning departments were safe from budget cuts in the past year, 56 percent of respondents said that the “lowest cost” was most important when purchasing products or equipment. And at no fault of cleaning managers, this is often a sad reality for many operations in our industry because cleaning isn’t looked at as a critical area in most businesses. When there’s little value for what we do, cost plays a key driver in many purchasing decisions.

But the initial cost of an item is much different than its price over its lifetime. Think about some of the potential implications associated with buying a poorly designed and/or “cheap” product:

  • Higher cost of ownership: If you’re buying two lower-cost vacuums in the same period of time that you would use another higher-quality vacuum that costs a little more, you’re not saving money.
  • Greater impact on employees: Better quality products often feature designs that make it easier and safer for employees to operate, such as being lighter or more ergonomically designed. They may also be less efficient, requiring employees to have to clean a surface more than once.
  • Higher environmental cost: Higher quality items typically last longer, reducing the number of products headed to the landfill.
  • Reduced employee morale: By not investing in equipment, you’re not investing in employees—and believe us, they take note.
  • Business interruptions and headaches: A more cheaply made product may be more prone to break down. If other equipment isn’t available, it can result in a service disruption while repairs take place.

*****************

Recently, leaders from the ManageMen team had the opportunity to visit the research and development lab of a U.S. based manufacturer that supplies products to the cleaning industry. Filled with engineers, scientists and product designers, the space was something you’d imagine belonging to a high-tech firm in Silicon Valley—not a company developing equipment for the professional cleaning industry.

The environment was designed for creativity, innovation and collaboration. Techs wanted to know the common issues plaguing most cleaning departments and workers so they could design solutions to solve these issues. And the solutions they were creating were incredible — things that could truly change the way we clean our buildings while improving the safety and livelihood of the people performing that cleaning.

The issue is that many of the innovations never leave that lab. When product managers and salespeople have the opportunity to weigh in, they quickly squelch ideas, recognizing that the market won’t support it. Why? Because in most situations, the innovations will come with a high price tag. Developing innovative, products is only part of the equation. Many industry brands require that their products undergo rigorous performance and quality testing before they go to market, and all that testing comes at an expense.

We need to move beyond this cost-driven focus on purchasing. While cost will always play a factor, it should not be the only factor we consider when evaluating equipment and supplies. That mentality commoditizes our cleaning operations.

Instead, we need to think more about the overall PRICE of a product. We need to look at the price of that product over its lifetime—not just the upfront cost, but the cost we pay to make a phone call when it breaks down, the cost of the downtime when that unit is not in operation and the toil it takes on cleaning workers. These considerations, and many others, contribute to its overall price.

If we aren’t the first to put value in our cleaning operations, who will?

The Universal Language of Cleaning

Language. It’s one of the most beautiful yet challenging aspects of training custodial workers. Because many cleaners have either recently immigrated to the U.S. or are first-generation citizens, our trainers and auditors encounter a variety of languages in the field—Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Burmese, French and Polish, just to name a few. Within those languages, we encounter even more sub-languages; for example, Cubans in Florida speak a different dialect of Spanish than Guatemalans. The French spoken by Haitians is different than French spoken in Montreal. You can imagine the challenge this presents during training or when we create training materials for custodial workers.

One might think that because many immigrants tend to live in close-knit communities with others from their same region, that they may not want or need  to learn English when they come to the U.S.; however, research points to the opposite. In the book “Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society,” researchers found that 99 percent of immigrant students studied felt that English was important for them to learn. Many immigrants want to learn English not only to assist with social interactions, but because they feel it’s critical for success—another study reveals that 85 percent of immigrants say that it is hard to get a good job or do well in the U.S. without learning English.

So how do we communicate with workers while also providing them with tools to educate and empower them? We do it with the language of (OS1ian). If you’ve ever spent any time in a hospital listening to doctors and nurses converse, you know that they have their own set of terms which can make it sound like they are speaking gibberish to anyone not in the medical profession. Similarly, lawyers communicate using “legalese”—technical jargon that fill legal documents. So, we asked, why not develop a professional language for the cleaning industry?

Just a few of the key terms a Restroom Specialist must learn to speak (OS1)ian.

(OS1)ian — a universal language for the cleaning industry— was developed based on specialist duties and identifyed key terms associated with each position. Each position has approximately 45 basic words and 10 to 15 terms that a specialist must be able to use in their day-to-day operations. For example, the vocabulary of a vacuum specialist includes vac station, paddle tool and inspect plug. A light-duty specialist will learn terms like wastebasket, barrel and fill line.

To assist with literacy, specialists complete an (OS1)ian worksheet in Boot Camp with the key terms provided in greyscale. The intent isn’t to test or trick workers, but to help them develop both written and oral proficiency of the terms. As the cleaner adopts new responsibilities, their vocabulary will expand to include as many as 250 phrases, helping them develop a working English vocabulary.

Before rolling (OS1ian) out, we tested it with a third-shift crew at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who spoke Chinese, Russian and Romanian. It was met with an overwhelming reception—finally, we were all able to speak the same language. In years since, we’ve found that using a standardized vocabulary benefits workers with dyslexia, functional illiteracy and cognitive perception disorders.

When everyone speaks the same language, cleaning processes and systems are safer and more efficient —there are fewer misunderstandings and mistakes. But the benefits extend well beyond the workplace—learning (OS1ian) empowers workers personally as well. It provides them with common set of English terms to set them on a path of career success as they create a new life in the U.S.

The limits of my language are the limits of my world.

‒Ludwig Wittgenstein

The Problem with the Way We’re Training Custodial Workers Today

So he could afford his daughter’s tuition at a local private school, Bob took on a second job as a custodian at the school. He looked forward to the job, much of his day was spent behind a desk, so custodial work would keep him active and involved in her school. He was also was excited to learn something new.

On his first day, Bob showed up for work and was shown a short movie about cleaning chemicals and how to use them. Next, his boss showed him his cart which overflowed with spray bottles, cloths, bags, gloves, floor scrapers and mops. “Duane’s going to show you around tonight,” he advised. “Tomorrow you’ll start on your own.”

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years,” Duane told him as they walked between classrooms. “I know they say to clean from top to bottom, but I’ve got a great system down that works for me.”

The next day, Bob was on his own. The work was hard—much harder than he expected. He strained his back emptying trash and his hands cramped from mopping the floor. When he woke up the next morning, he had trouble getting out of bed. After a few weeks, Bob quit. He found another job at a local warehouse that would help him supplement tuition costs. But had he received the proper training, there’s a good chance Bob would still be there today.

 

**********************

 

Injury caused from improper lifting or repetitive motions is just one of the many issues that can result when we neglect to train our custodial workers. In many cleaning operations, custodial training includes a hodgepodge of show-and-tell, classroom-style instruction and vendor-led training programs specific to a particular product. Very few cleaning operations have a comprehensive training program in place that not only teaches employees HOW to clean, but WHY they clean. Training should not only provide workers with the overall understanding of why their jobs are critical and how cleaning impacts the health of people in the buildings they clean, but also protocols for how and when to perform specific cleaning tasks.

Last week, we held our annual (OS1) Coach Class. This intensive two-day program provides trainers and instructors with the latest information and resources needed to maintain a world-class cleaning program. One of the key benefits to this class is that participants share best practices and insights they have gathered as they plan their schedule for the upcoming year. We are continually updating our curriculum so that all of the (OS1) trainers and coaches have the most recent research and data to support their cleaning protocols. The coaches then take these training programs back to their facilities and use them to conduct ongoing education for their custodial teams during the next year. 

Participants in our (OS1) Coach Class spend an intensive two days learning and planning custodial training programs for 2018.

Our studies have found that cleaning operations supported with a comprehensive training program, such as that which is provided within the (OS1) System, can improve productivity by as much as 16 percent. In one example, the average square footage of cleaning productivity (SFPE) improved from approximately 27,000 SFPE to 39,000 SFPE. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Cleaning workers understand their importance of their work as it relates to the success of the business and the health of building occupants.
  2. They are taught how to properly perform cleaning tasks in a way that minimizes risk and injury.
  3. Workers are empowered through the educational process and receive one-on-one coaching by expert trainers.

It’s time we stop treating custodial work like it’s something that everyone automatically knows how to do. We can’t just throw a mop in someone’s hand and expect them to go to work. This approach results in the issues many cleaning operations face today: injuries, high turnover and low-morale. Cleaning is a profession, and like any professional field requires proper training and education.

As Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

If you don’t have a comprehensive training program in place for new employees and continuing education programs for your current staff members, it’s time to give some thought to how you can improve these resources. Your cleaning program deserves more and so do your employees.