2018 Symposium Recap

“Please raise your hand if this is your first Symposium,” Kristie McNealy, MD, Executive Director of the Simon Institute instructed the packed room. More than a dozen hands shot up in the air. “Welcome! We have a great lineup of presentations and activities planned,” she promised. Two days later at the conclusion of the conference, attendees agreed—the 17th Annual Symposium at the Westgate in Park City, Utah, delivered. 

Facility professionals from across the country gathered at the annual event where (OS1) users and other cleaning executives discuss best practices and learn about new tools and equipment to improve safety and productivity within their custodial operations. It’s different from other industry conferences in that a majority of the sessions highlight actual product trials—speakers offer candid reviews of how a product or system worked within a facility. 

Simon Institute is an ANSI-Accredited Standards Developer, and McNealy kicked off the event with an exciting update about the status of the Safe Use of Cleaning Chemicals- ANSI/SI BSR SI-0001—it will soon go out for public review and comment. 

The first day of sessions included several talks on improving safety for custodial workers. Guido Piccarolo, CEO, discussed how new tools from Unger Enterprises that made custodial work easier for workers with disabilities at Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH). Flint Belk from the Workers Compensation Fund discussed ongoing safety issues within the custodial industry in his presentation “Right to Understand: Preventing Accidents by Following OSHA/ANSI Standards for Chemical Safety.” 

Additional sessions covered topics including strategies for improving recycling diversion rates, understanding blockchain technology and future applications within the facility management industry and ways workers and cleaning organizations can leverage the gig economy.

During the evening, attendees donned in evening gowns and tuxedos enjoyed dinner before the annual Cleaning Industry Awards ceremony. Janitors from as far as Barbados were recognized for their performance, as Mark Unger from Unger Enterprises presented the Outstanding Cleaning Worker Awards. 

Additional award recipients include:

(OS1) Green Certified Programs of Merit

• The University of Texas at Austin – L. Theo Bellmont Hall

• The University of Texas at Austin – Engineering Education and Research

• Mt. San Antontio College – Business and Computer Technology Complex, Buildings 77, 78, 79

(OS1) Green Certified Programs of Excellence

• GMI Building Services – Torrey Plaza

• Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM

• The University of Texas at Austin – Sid Richardson Hall

Best (OS1) Audit

Sandia National Labs

Workloading Award 

The University of Texas at Austin

Safety Award

Sandia National Labs

Training Program Award

The University of Texas at Austin

Trainer of the Year Award

Jeff Hawkins – Provo City School District

Best Cleaning Team Award

GMI Building Services

Best Cleaning Program

The University of Texas at Austin

 

For the first year, Simon Institute also presented the following new awards: 

“Stay the Course” — The University of Michigan 

“Research and Development” — Michigan State University 

“Inspiration” — Los Angeles Habilitation House

Wednesday morning kicked off with an impressive presentation on the superior ergonomic performance of the custodial program at Sandia National Laboratories from Cynthia Rivera, CSP, SSH, CEAS I, a health and safety specialist. Additional presentations covered the performance improvements of ProTeam’s battery pack vacuums and an insightful commentary on the successful career of the 2018 Pinnacle Award Winner, John Lawter. John Walker concluded the event with his presentation, “Risky Business: The Legal Ramifications of Balancing Workloads, Locsei versus Mayfield School District, Ohio.”

Attendees to this year agreed, the breadth of information and relevant insights presented this year was unparalleled. 

“At the center of everything we do is the person who does the work. I thought that all of the sessions at this year’s Symposium focused on improving the dignity and safety of the worker.”

—Guido Piccarolo of Los Angeles Habilitation House

“I just took on a new training position and found a lot of great information and tools I will be able to integrate into our program. It’s great to network with other universities and hear what is working for them.”

— Josh Sego, Michigan State University

“This was my first time attending. I found the people to be very welcoming and it enabled me to better understand the big picture of the industry.”

— Judy Ramirez, Michigan State University

“I always learn at these events. The best way to learn is from the people who are performing the work so we can improve our products. The content this year was also really good and engaging.”

— Rich Steinberg, ProTeam

“This was my first Symposium. I found it provided a great opportunity to network and make connections with other manufacturers and OS1 organizations.”

— Adrian Cook, 3M

Don’t Be a “Tom”: 3 Questions You Can Ask to Craft a Job You Love

Tom is an investment banker who doesn’t like his job. Every day, he gets dressed a suit and tie before heading into work and “spacing out” at his desk for at least an hour. Around mid-morning, he finally gets around to checking in on his client’s portfolios, and wonders why he ever got into this career. It sounded glamorous — the title of “investment banker” always sounded when he talked to family and friends, and the money was good—it just was never fulfilling for him. Tom checks all the boxes required in his job description and then checks out for the day.

Tom’s good friend, Sara, started out in investment banking but eventually landed a job as the Director of Environmental Services at a large hospital. It wasn’t the job she initially envisioned for herself, but Sara loved the work. She loved the interaction she had with her team, nurses, doctors, patients and visitors to the hospital. Days went quickly and she didn’t dread coming to work each day. In addition to making sure the hospital remained clean, Sara also worked on community outreach and education programs. 

Tom makes a lot of money and has a prestigious title, so why does he hate his job? What makes Sara love her job so much? For as many Toms you meet, there are just as many Saras, so what’s the difference between the two? Is it the person or the work?

A recent episode of NPR’s “Hidden Brain” show explores this topic, looking specifically a group of cleaning workers in a hospital. Psychologist Amy Wrzeniewski of Yale University says that it’s not as much about the job we are performing, but how we think about the job that results in greater fulfillment. 

In her research, Wrzeniewski found two distinct differences between a group of custodial workers. Group A described custodial work as not very highly skilled where Group B said the exact opposite— that their work was extremely skilled and it would be difficult for someone to replace them. 

As she looked further into these characterizations and how the groups engaged with their work, Amy’s team found that Group A only performed the tasks that were expected of them. Like Tom, they were box checkers and did not go beyond the basic job description. 

When asked to discuss their responsibilities, Group B also talked about the specific cleaning tasks, but also talked about the interactions they had with medical staff, visitors and patients. For example, one cleaner worked on a long-term rehabilitation floor where several patients suffered from comas. Recognizing that patients were not necessarily aware of their environments, this worker regularly rearranged the artwork with the hope that a minor alteration in their environment might assist with the healing process. 

Other cleaners talked about how they would try to view the room from the patient’s vantage—looking up at the ceiling from the bed—to make sure they had removed any cobwebs or other issues.

Wrzeniewski calls this “job crafting” — or creating jobs that go beyond the standard description. People who “job craft” identify tasks and responsibilities within the scope of their position that engage them in other ways. 

As a custodial professional who likely is responsible for managing a team of custodial workers, think about this not only in terms of your own personal development, but how you can help custodial workers on your team craft the scope of their work to find more fulfillment. 

What are practical steps to job craft and find more meaning in your work? Amy suggests asking yourself (or your employees) the following:

1. What types of things do you enjoy and what tasks make you feel good? For example, if you enjoy interacting with patients and their families, can you find ways to better connect with them while you work? Are there tasks you can add to your job description that could relate to that interest?

2. What interpersonal relationships bring you the most enjoyment during your work day? From co-workers to building occupants, the relationships and interpersonal dynamics within the workplace can both be our greatest enjoyment and stress when it comes to our work. What are some ways we can enhance those relationships?

3. How does your organization benefit from your involvement? When researchers asked the custodians about their title, some gave their official title of a custodian or environmental services worker, but others said they were “healers.” Re-defining your role within the position can change your perspective while performing the work. 

While this is just a quick summary of Amy’s research, definitely consider listening to the full episode. It takes less than 30 minutes— check it out here: https://www.npr.org/2018/07/30/634047154/you-2-0-dream-jobs

You can also check out one of Amy’s articles in the Harvard Business Review here: https://hbr.org/2010/06/managing-yourself-turn-the-job-you-have-into-the-job-you-want.

We’d love to hear more about how you find fulfillment in your job—chime in on Facebook!

5 Questions You Should Ask About Your Custodial Closets

When you go in for your annual health examination, the doctor will often ask you a series of questions. For example, are you sleeping well? Do you have any aches and pains? How is your diet? The purpose of these questions is to assess your health and unmask any underlying symptoms that could point to a larger issue.

Over the years, we have found that by looking at a custodial closet, we can assess the health of a cleaning organization. The janitorial closet reveals key details not only about the cleaning worker, but also the management of the building. A dirty custodial closet is like a fever. It shows us that there’s something wrong somewhere in the operation. Safety, training and purchasing issues can all be uncovered in a janitor’s closet. 

If you want to diagnose the health of your custodial operation, here are five key questions to ask when looking at custodial closets in your building:

1. Is equipment dirty? You can’t clean with dirty tools and equipment. Dirty vacuums belch out dust throughout hallways and dirty squeegees leave streaks on glass. Dirty microfiber cloths can lead to cross contamination and filthy bottles can lead to dirty hands—and potential safety issues. Dirty equipment reveals insights into your preventative maintenance program, or lack thereof. It also reveals how employees are treated and the effectiveness of your training program. 

2. Is the room cluttered? Clutter shows disorganization. Maybe custodial workers are bringing in personal items or hoarding cleaning supplies. It might mean that you need to talk to them about scheduling or provide additional spaces for them to take breaks. Cluttered closets are a safety issue — people can trip and fall in a cluttered space, or hurt themselves from improper lifting. 

3. Do you have access to all the closets? You might laugh, but you’d be surprised how many custodial operations we go into where custodians have changed the locks because they don’t want other people to have access to their closet. If you can’t access or see inside every closet, there’s a good chance that someone is hoarding equipment and supplies. 

4. What’s on the shelves? Are cleaning chemicals clearly marked? Are there several brands of the same product? This can lead to confusion and inconsistency throughout other areas of your operation. It can also present a potential safety issue, if custodial workers aren’t clear on what chemical they should be using and when.

5. Is the closet serving as a makeshift office, break room and/or chemical storage area? This is the biggest sign that your cleaning program has been mismanaged. Custodians typically don’t like to bother people. In fact, many times they’re so used to being invisible in an operation that they won’t ask for things they need – like space, storage and equal access to break/common areas. Many times they’ll choose to take lunch, breaks, or worse, hide out, in closets because they’ve been given the message that they don’t belong in the building.

Few people enjoy a trip to the doctor, but it’s one of those things you should do even when you feel healthy. Asking just a couple of questions about the health of your custodial closets can help diagnose larger issues within your operation. 

The Gateway Department: How to Mentor Employees for Success in Custodial and Beyond

If you don’t read the Harvard Business Review, you may want to check it out. While there’s only a limited number of articles you can read each month without a subscription, they always offer great insights and ideas to help you become a better manager. 

“How to Mentor Someone Who Doesn’t Know What Their Career Goals Should Be” by authors Tania Luna and Jordan Cohen was featured on HBR.org earlier this week and it really resonated with us. So often, custodial managers tell us that they struggle to get staff excited about the work we do. Some people see a gig in custodial like the game “hot potato.” As soon as they get in the position, they want out. But a lot of times, these people don’t even know what they do next.

The fact that the U.S. is experiencing an increasingly tight labor market with tougher immigration policies doesn’t help either. While not widely addressed in our industry at this point, these conditions can lead to that labor shortages that will continue to plague cleaning departments everywhere. That’s why it’s  important that we look at our teams and help them build useful skills that may not only transfer to other areas within our businesses, but also help them more clearly see the longer-term impact of their work in custodial.

Often, custodial is looked at as the “gateway” department for many reasons. Some people may take a job to get their foot in the door with a specific employer. Others may find a job in custodial because they are new to the U.S. and speak little English. Someone might take a job in a custodial department at a college or university to help get tuition reimbursement for a child or family member.

Add to this the fact that custodial work is extremely tough with little recognition, so job satisfaction is low. According to the HBR article, this condition isn’t isolated to the facility management industry. Authors cite a study that found 70 percent of employees across several industries reported are dissatisfied with the career opportunities available to them — a key driver for retention and engagement. Further, 75 percent of employers said they expect to face a shortage of qualifications and skills from employees.

Authors suggest that rather than looking at a “career path,” we need to change the way we look at a more growth-based framework. 

“Consider the etymology of the word “career.” It comes from the 16th-century word for “road.” When we envision a career, we imagine a direct path with a final destination. And not long ago, this concept was useful. Career growth meant attaining incremental increases in prestige and compensation. You could look at the past and use it as a gauge of the future — taking the steps that others took to get to where they got. This vision of career growth no longer matches reality. We no longer need to be good at predicting the future; we now have to succeed when the future is unpredictable. We have to abandon the career myth and create a new framework for personal and professional growth.”

When mentoring an employee, the inevitable question we most often default to is “what are your career goals?” Rather than having a person focus on rungs on a ladder — for example, becoming a supervisor or assistant director—ask questions about the nature of the work, such as “what types of work do you want to do less of and more of?” And, “What strengths do you have that you can build on?” This helps employees thing more critically about their responsibilities and personal growth potential. 

The article’s authors also suggest “focusing on transferable skills.” By empowering employees to “diversify their career capital” and think about a variety of transferable skills, such as communication, public speaking, management, etc., we help them find ways to grow personally and professionally. Within the (OS1) System, we have a language we call “OS1ian” that offers non-English speakers a fundamental set of vocabulary words they can use within the custodial operations, but also will be helpful for them in other areas of life. 

In a mentorship dynamic, you might ask someone what type of skills they would like to build upon to become more effective in their current position or what skill gaps they feel are holding them back?

Authors suggest we “create milestones” to acknowledge growth and achievements, because titles no longer represent advancement. 

“One way we’ve done this is to create badges that demarcate growth. For example, when managers receive training, they receive a certificate. To get their next badge, they must complete an advanced program. A badge system can demarcate skills, knowledge, and achievements — creating a portfolio of accomplishments rather than a traditional résumé.”

Training is such a critical part of what we do, so think about how your training program is structured to recognize achievement. Incentivize employees to accomplish a new set of milestones, such as a learning track in ergonomics or blood borne pathogens. This provides them with useful skills that empowers them, while also enabling them to grow professionally.

****** 

By the nature of the work, custodial departments will prevail as the “gateway” department for labor. But this uniquely positions custodial managers to help employees not only shape their futures, but form critical skills that will help them along the way — in custodial in beyond. 

What Can Happen When You Don’t Promote Your Custodial Department—and How to Overcome It (+ INFOGRAPHIC)

Do any of these things sound familiar?

Your office, supply areas, training and break rooms are located in the basement or another out-of-the-way location.

When department heads gather to discuss an upcoming event or program that will impact your entire organization, you are left out of the conversation.

When budget cuts happen, your department is often the first to feel the impact.

Cue the Aretha Franklin, because if any of these statements left you nodding your head in agreement, it might be time to generate some much deserved R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the incredible work your team is doing. It’s not that people intentionally overlook custodial departments, it’s that often times, custodial managers and employees are reluctant to talk about the importance of their work and boast about their accomplishments. 

And you should. 

Because what happens when you don’t promote your work is that you aren’t top of mind, and as a result, you might be getting left out of things unintentionally. 

So how do you educate others about the importance of cleaning and stay top of mind for visitors, employees and other occupants in the buildings you help maintain?

Print this out to keep on your desk and regularly remind yourself of ways you can promote your custodial department.

 

Friends, welcome to the world of public relations. We have a few simple strategies that you can use to help others in your building understand the importance of your department, thereby moving you to the head of the class (or at least, that’s the goal). 

  • Create employee recognition events. If you don’t already, you can recognize staff through events like International Housekeepers Week, Environmental Services Week and Thank a Cleaner days. Invite other departments to participate, by nominating a special custodial worker who has gone “above and beyond” or writing a letter to the entire staff to show appreciation. Another option might be to create a “Janitor of the Month” program where others in the facility are asked to recognize all-stars on your team. This strategy will not only empower and incentivize your employees, it will encourage others to think about how your team helps them. 
  • Develop signs and posters. If you’re using a special program, like our (OS1) System, have achieved a certain accreditation like Green Seal, or are using another program with benefits to building occupants, consider working with your marketing department to create special posters, table tents or signs to let people know that their building is cleaned in a way that limits the impact on their health and the environment. If you don’t have a marketing department, not to worry! There are several easy-to-use online design websites you can use (for free!), like canva.com. Simply create the material and either print it off yourself, or take it to your local print shop for a professionally printed product. 
  • Keep people informed through a monthly email or newsletter. Yes, it will take a few minutes to pull together, but you will see an immediate benefit from this effort. When looking for items to include, consider not only the “news” about your department, such as personnel news, upcoming activities or achievements, but also the human-interest news that could be of interest to readers. For example, you might consider profiling a team member each month or sharing stories of activities they like to participate in when they’re not at work. Humor can also be an effective way to keep readers engaged, so consider including a monthly picture of something funny or unique your team found on the grounds. The most important part of creating a newsletter is to make sure you do it regularly. If you don’t have the time or have concerns about how much you have to include, a quarterly newsletter would also work—just make sure you do it once you start. 
  • Apply for industry awards. The cleaning industry has several awards that recognize superior managers, cleaning programs, frontline cleaners and custodial departments. 

 

American School & University: Green Cleaning Award

Simon Institute: Outstanding Cleaning Worker Award

Facilities Maintenance Decisions: Achievement Awards

Receiving an award not only gives you recognition throughout the industry, but it also will validate the integrity of your program within your facility, helping others realize you have a best-in-class operation. 

Even if you don’t decide to do any of these things, you may just want to think about tooting your horn a little more. We’ve seen way too many people doing great things not receive the recognition they deserve because of their modesty and humility. An excellent, well-managed cleaning program benefits everyone, so let’s talk about it!

Why You Need to Seriously Think About Attending Symposium This August

There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this blog post, you’ve heard us talk about Symposium. This annual gathering of facility management professionals has been happening for almost 20 years now, and each year, we welcome both new and familiar faces to the two-day event. 

But if you haven’t attended or even heard about Symposium, here’s a quick download: The Simon Institute Symposium (previously known as the (OS1) Users Symposium), is an annual gathering of professionals representing different areas of the cleaning industry who meet and discuss best practices for a custodial operation. If you go, you’ll hear presentations from professionals at some of the top organizations throughout the country, including the United States Postal Service, Sandia National Labs, University of Texas – Austin, and many more, about proven strategies that have improved at least one area of their custodial operation. In fact, you can check out several past presentations here.

In addition to the incredible knowledge and information sharing, attendees also benefit from networking with industry experts. You see, Symposium isn’t exclusively attended by facility management professionals, but also members of the Cleaning Industry Alliance and other representatives, such as researchers, safety experts and more. 

But what really sets Symposium apart from other industry events is that it’s formatted to facilitate an exchange of ideas. Those who have attended will tell you that sessions are extremely interactive and are designed to foster dialogue between everyone in the room. If you are serious about improving your custodial operations, the Simon Institute wants you to take home several actionable ideas to try.

Interested? Even a little bit? Here are five more reasons why you should consider attending.

  1. Explore Park City! The event starts on Monday, so think about arriving a little earlier to enjoy all that Park City, Utah, and the surrounding mountains have to offer. Take a drive through Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway; check out Olympic Park, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics; or hop around downtown and enjoy the great culinary treasurers of the city. Whatever your interest, you’ll find it in Park City.
  2. Enjoy a personalized experience. Symposium isn’t a huge event attended by thousands. In fact, the Simon Institute intentionally keeps the group small so people have the opportunity to truly connect and network with one another. Maybe you listened to a presentation from Flynt Belk from the Workers’ Compensation Fund about performing a risk analysis and have some follow-up questions for him. This format will enable you to easily connect with him during a networking break or dinner and address those questions.
  3. It’ll make you smarter. No really, Symposium speakers are leaders in their field. You’ll hear actual case studies of proven strategies that have worked to reduce costs, engage workers, improve safety or address other common issues experienced by facility management professionals. The goal of Symposium is to identify and discuss best practices to make your custodial operation better. 
  4. Enjoy the top awards program for the cleaning industry. Each year, the Simon Institute hands out several awards during our “Cleaning Industry Awards Banquet.” Billed as the top awards program in the cleaning industry, it recognizes the top leaders, innovators and achievers in the industry. Also special to the program is the industry’s only awards program for cleaning workers. Several organizations bring their top performing staff to be recognized during this special event. 
  5. You’ll leave inspired. Attendees to Symposium agree—there’s a special buzz you get when you attend Symposium. The quality of attendees, presentations and experience will leave you excited about new things you can try to make your custodial operation clean better, more safely and in the most efficient way possible. 

“[At the 2017 Simon Institute Symposium] I was joined by roughly 75 high-ranking facility executives determined to create best practices and better benchmarks for their departments and the industry as a whole,” said Corinne Zudonyi, Editor-in-Chief of Facility Cleaning Decisions and Cleanlink.com. “Sessions included the sharing of successes from some of the largest and most innovative cleaning programs across the country.”

If you’re thinking about joining us in August and would like to talk to a previous attendee about what you can expect, let us know. We’ll put you in touch with someone.  But don’t wait too long! Our early bird rate expires July 1st and the hotel block at the exclusive Westgate Park City expires July 7th and our group code is S/O 63-244. Click here to reserve your seat!

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Five Easy Ways to Attract More Millennials to the Cleaning Industry

Millennials seek engagement, so by giving them a voice and asking for their input, you can help increase their workplace satisfaction.

The “greying” of the cleaning industry is a hot button topic for a lot of people these days. Over the next few years, we’ll experience a mass exodus as baby boomers leave the cleaning industry to retire. According to a recent article in Contracting Profits, one third of janitors and one third of supervisors are age 55 and over. But this situation isn’t unique to end-user segment—we can also expect to see vacancies throughout the manufacturer and distributor side of the industry too.

Of additional concern is that very few organizations are planning for what happens after these workers leave. A recent reader survey from Facility Cleaning Decisions found that more than half of custodial managers (56 percent) do not have a succession plan in place for themselves and/or a manager on their staff.

The need for attracting younger talent to the industry is very real, as we risk losing a lot of tribal knowledge as retirees pack their bags. But when we talk about attracting millennials to our industry, we need to move past the technology conversation. Sure, most millennials were born with a cellphone in their hands, but that doesn’t necessarily exempt the cleaning industry from being appealing to a younger demographic. In fact, there are several things about it that could be appealing to younger workers — depending on how your department is structured. We’ve pulled together a list of simple things we can do to make any department—from jan/san sales to custodial operations—more appealing to millennials and beyond.

  1. Give younger workers a voice. Rarely do managers tap new employees for input. Understandably, we spend a lot of time talking—talking as we train on policies and procedures. Talking as we introduce them to other coworkers and staff. But we also should spend time listening to these new workers. By engaging them and asking them for their impressions on a regular basis, we help give them a voice—something that is important to a generation that seeks closer relationships with their bosses and more engagement. 
  2. Talk about the importance of cleaning. Millennial workers want work that has more meaning—they aren’t as happy making widgets for company XYZ as their parents were 20 years ago. They want to know that their work makes a difference and helps others. As such, we should help them understand the importance of cleaning—how cleaning not only plays a big role in the health of building occupants, but also in their productivity. Use it as a talking point during the interview process and in ongoing meetings.
  3. Create more opportunities for women. The cleaning industry has long been known as a male-dominated industry, but there are many women who have created successful careers for themselves in the cleaning industry. Initiatives such as mentorship programs to workplace inclusion policies can help increase the number of opportunities to women and create diversity in our workplaces. 
  4. Give back to the community. Cleaning is a service-based industry, and a service that can be easily used when it comes to giving back to the surrounding community. Organizing events where your department can help clean-up a local non-profit, provide products to a shelter or even work with a local organization to provide job training will not only benefit the community, but can be attractive to socially-minded millennials. 
  5. Make [more] learning opportunities available. Growing up with the internet has its benefits, and an increased hunger for education and learning is one. The high school graduation is the highest in more than two decades (72 percent) and of those graduates, 68 percent have enrolled in college. Because these workers are constantly consuming information through digital devices, workplaces should make sure workers also have access to the information and opportunities they need to perform their jobs to peak performance. Even if your workplace doesn’t provide reimbursement programs, work with employees who demonstrate an interest in ongoing education to create time for them to attend events. 

Low unemployment rates are making the fight for quality employees tougher than ever and professionals everywhere are starting to see that we can’t just do things the way we’ve always done them if we want to attract and retain young professionals to our workplaces. Keeping these strategies in mind will help make sure your organization is prepared for future success.

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The Heart of Cleaning: Recognizing the People Who Make It All Happen

If you’re reading this blog, you already know that it takes a special kind of person to work as a custodian or janitor. The work is hard and often thankless. Wages can be low and people often talk down to you like you’re not important. When you see a full coffee cup in the trash can, you can’t help but think of the little consideration people have for others that their actions might impact. It might be your second or third job, but cleaning is something you probably do in the evening, when everyone else in your family is at home sleeping. When your shift is over, there’s a good chance your shoulders or back ache—but you come back the next day and do it all over again. 

As if the work of a custodian isn’t tough enough, we often see negative portrayals of cleaning workers in the media.

A custodian is blamed for stealing or abuse. A housekeeper in a hotel uses the same cloth to wipe down the toilet and sink. These stories play into the negative stereotype of the profession and, as we see it, just aren’t fair—99 percent of custodial workers aren’t thieves or villains. That’s why it’s important to celebrate the positive stories that truly reflect the heart of most people who work so hard cleaning the buildings where we stay, work, learn, heal and visit.

Cleaning Workers with Big Hearts

The first story comes from Northern Kentucky, where a janitor who earned $3.70/hour or about $7,000 year in 1976—a little ore than midway through his career. Alvin Randlett never graduated from high school, but spent 32 years working for a local elementary school before retiring in 2001. Known for his hard work and dedication to the school, his close friend shared that people all around town knew him and would yell out to him in passing, often giving him a hug. Never touching a dime of his pension, Randlett willed his life savings of $175,000 to child abuse victims through the Kentucky Child Victims’ Trust Fund. 

Across the river in Cincinnati, an elementary school janitor was recently named the 2018 Cintas Janitor of the Year. Beloved by students, parents and staff at a public elementary school, “Mr. Bob” received more than 182,100 votes to earn the title. In the week prior to the announcement, Mr. Bob worked with students to build bird houses for their mothers for Mother’s Day. In thanking those who helped him win, Mr. Bob said, “Make no mistake, the $5000 is incredibly awesome and will go to great use; however, the real prize is the way I was made to feel. That is priceless.”

Our neighbors to the north in Novia Scotia shared a story last week about a much-loved janitor who worked at a nursing home for 40 years. Johnny MacLeod lives with Down syndrome, but that had no impact on his performance or attendance. In fact, co-workers told the media that he never complains. 

“No matter what you would ask of him, he would never say to you, ‘That’s not my job,’” says support services manager Carolyn Zwicker. “He just takes it and just goes with it. He’s just amazing. We can’t imagine life without our little Johnny.”

Then there’s the story of Scott LaFayette, Sandia National Laboratories’ (SNL) 2017 Custodian of the Year and a 2017 Outstanding Cleaning Worker. Scott LaFayette retired from the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) after serving 22 with the department and joined the Sandia custodial team. Presently, Scott is assigned custodial duties within critical and high-visible buildings at SNL. He ensures that these buildings are always clean by adding a touch of excellent customer service in his work. Scott is ardently aware of the expected Engineering Safety culture pursuit within SNL.

He began his career at APD as a Patrolman, advancing up the ranks to Field Training Officer, Sergeant (four years), and retiring as a Lieutenant (seven years). Scott received his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

There are so many incredible people who keep the cleaning industry moving. Without the custodians and janitors, there would be no one to use the cleaning products that are manufactured, no one to remove dirt from our buildings to keep them healthy, no one to train and use the cleaning systems we design.

Whether you see this job as a transition in your life or a full-time career, whether you work in a school, a hospital, a hotel or an office building, know that we see you. We understand the hard work you do. We know it can be painful at times. But we also know that to do the work you do, it takes incredible strength, patience and perseverance. It takes a special kind of person to be a custodial worker. A person with a lot of heart. Thank you for all that you do.

Nominate a custodial worker you know who demonstrates excellence in everything they do for a 2018 Outstanding Cleaning Worker award by July 16, 2018. These awards will be presented during the 2018 (OS1) Users Symposium in Park City, UT, Aug. 6-8, 2018.

How Do You Measure Up? Using Audits as a Tool for Improvement

It’s audit season, and for people unfamiliar with the (OS1) process, that means it’s the time when we hit the streets to review how (OS1) users are doing. Some might view this as unnecessary, but it’s really what sets our system apart from any other cleaning program. You see, understanding the OS1 program and implementing it in an organization is just part of the process. The key to success is ongoing measurement, which is achieved through an audit. 

For an (OS1) user, performance is critical. A central tenant of our philosophy is “to clean for health protection first and appearance second.” To accomplish this, we want to be sure our users are cleaning in a way that creates a healthy condition by reducing exposures and risks. 

Over the past 20-plus years that we’ve been performing audits, we’ve found that they are a great way for custodial managers to keep staff focused because it discourages complacency. When people hear that someone will be coming to their facility to watch them work, ask them questions and evaluate the condition of their equipment and supply cabinets to establish compliance with the (OS1) system, they tend to stay on top of their game. 

For a manager, audits are also a great way to benchmark cleaning levels and set goals for higher performance. At the end of an audit, the operation is provided a complete report that identifies areas of compliance and non-compliance. Pictures accompany the report to validate report findings. Each audit is scored and benchmarked against other (OS1) operations so users know where they stand.

An audit will review all training logs to ensure that custodial staff members receive ongoing development and training.

We’ve seen organizations that operate at a superior audit score go without an audit for a few years, and we’re always surprised to see how quickly complacency can derail the system. For example, at one large university, users were regularly getting audit scores of 90 percent and higher. They went three years without an audit, and when we went back, they received a 65 percent score. Supply closets were disorganized, custodial workers couldn’t identify certain products or processes, equipment was dirty—not what we’d expect from an (OS1) user. 

The best organizations work like they’re always facing an audit. They set goals. They look for ways to improve the way they clean. 

If your cleaning department is just going through the motions and you’re looking for ideas to take it to the next level, here are a few key performance indicators we’d recommend tracking, in addition to common indicators such as supply costs and turnover:

Training: Set educational goals for your team. In addition to regular in-services that provide them with training on work-related topics such as blood borne pathogens, chemical handling or ergonomics, provide them with resources to other training they can take through local vocational schools or industry organizations. Tie training goals to their performance reviews so they understand the importance of personal development. 

Safety: Look at how often custodial workers are injured and work to identify the cause of the injuries. Approximately 16,480 cleaners are injured each year from overexertion. If your team experiences back or neck injuries, consider strategies such as using lighter-weight equipment, increasing the number of storage closets available or pre-shift warm up exercises. Track injury rates and Workers Compensation payouts to see how your department measures overtime. 

Workload Balance: Evaluate the responsibilities and tasks assigned to custodial workers to ensure that they are evenly balanced between each team member. While this is a soft metric, it is critical that the balance is regularly evaluated to ensure the even distribution of responsibilities. 

Complaints: It regularly surprises us how organizations handle complaints. A lot of times, custodial managers will just handle the issue at hand and be done with it. Tracking complaints over time can help you gain insight into the root issue and potentially remove the condition that is causing the complaint. An obvious example might be that if you’re regularly receiving complaints about water spills in the restroom, you could add another cleaning rotation.

You will never know if you are taking your custodial operation to the next level if you aren’t measuring—whether internally or using an independent expert to help evaluate your operations. We’d love to hear what KPIs you evaluate — join us for a discussion on our Linkedin page! 

Sustainability Talk II: Steps for Eliminating Downstream Waste [with INFOGRAPHIC]

We’re back for part two of our trash talking, the focus of our Earth Month series. In part one, we looked at upstream decisions you can make to eliminate waste, through source reduction or sustainable purchasing practices—basically making smart decisions about the products you purchase before they even enter the building. Today we’re looking at downstream initiatives for waste reduction. This includes recycling, composting and reuse strategies. 

While most of us call it “trash,” the technical term for garbage is municipal solid waste, or MSW. This covers everything we use and then throw away, such as product packaging, bottles, food scraps, paint, old equipment—basically anything you put in your trash can. While many facilities have recycling programs in place, the EPA estimates that 75 percent of the waste stream is recyclable, but that we only recycle about 30 percent of that total. 

Approximately HALF of the 254 million tons of trash generated in the U.S. each year comes from businesses. All that trash has to go somewhere, and the result is growing landfills. This is just one startling graphic from Fast Company that shows just how much of the U.S. is covered in landfills. 

Downstream MSW reductions can be made through some fairly simple steps within your facility. If you’re not already using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to track your rate, energy and water use over time, that’s a good place to start. This will allow you to measure the success of your programs and see what’s working — and what’s not.

Here are three categories you can use for separating downstream waste:

Reuse: When you can’t eliminate waste at the source, look for alternative uses for products. For example, you might be able to use materials received for inbound shipments for outgoing shipments. You might also be able to partner with a local business that can reuse your waste, such as plastic bottles, old buckets or equipment. 

Recycle: Recycling not only helps reduce the amount of virgin materials used in the manufacturing of goods, it also supports jobs in the recycling industry. Common types of recycling include single stream (all items go into the same bin and the recycler handles sorting), paper and cardboard, source separation (sorting materials at the facility) and eWaste (electronic waste). 

Compost: Organic waste, such as certain types of food scraps, yard waste and even some types of containers can be composted and used as a fertilizer. If you have an onsite cafeteria or if you work in the hospitality industry, this could be an excellent waste diversion strategy. 

As we mentioned in part one, a good first step to identifying ways to effectively reduces your MSW is to conduct an audit of your current waste stream so you have a benchmark for your program. If you don’t have a recycling program in place, start small by focusing on items such as paper and/or plastic. More advanced programs might look at options for composting food waste, which help reduce the amount of methane gas emitted from landfills. 

Reducing MSW isn’t just about limiting material going to the landfill, it can also be good for business. Millennials want to work for employers committed to sustainability. People want to do business with sustainable brands. If you’re not recycling at work, let Earth Month be the month you begin your program. Good luck!

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