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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Janitor University: Educating People from Around the Industry and Beyond

Approximately 10 percent of the average custodial budget is dedicated to “stuff” or the products and equipments used to clean the facility—that’s about $20 billion a year, based on our estimates. The other 90 percent of a custodial budget is dedicated to labor, which adds up to approximately $200 billion a year. Outside of a few federal regulatory standards established by agencies like the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), very few standards or systems are in place to regulate how cleaning is performed. As a result, people clean in a variety of different ways, which results in cleaning that looks like this:

and this:

There’s also a large gap in the amount of training resources available to educate facility managers and custodial professionals on how to manage the products and equipment used in their business (10%) and the amount of training to help them manage the labor (90%).

There are several fantastic training programs offered by manufacturers and distributors around topics like disinfection and stain removal, but very few provide insights on how to create a career path for frontline cleaning workers to reduce turnover.

That’s where Janitor University (JU) comes in. JU is a professional development class designed for cleaning executives, facility directors, contractors and anyone else with relationship to a professional cleaning operation. The curriculum, developed by end-users, is updated on an ongoing basis and largely focuses on how to manage that 90 percent of your budget. It teaches attendees how to develop custodial operations that can be managed and tracked on a daily basis.

We’ve recently started to see more people attending JU who aren’t directly responsible for cleaning operations, but, for example, may be designing the rooms and picking the surfaces in a hospital or laboratory that will need to be cleaned and maintained. This tells us that more people are paying attention to cleaning and understanding its impact—a great thing! Last week, we hosted a JU Train the Trainer course that included representatives from one of the leading facilities management companies, industry manufacturers, product designers, professional trainers and an architect!

Our April Train the Trainer session brought together dozens of people, including facility management professionals, designers and architects.

When people come out to JU for the first time, they never know what quite to expect. While we do a lot of classroom style instruction during a JU session supported by real-life scenarios and data we’ve collected, there is also a lot of dialogue and sharing between participants. Attendees to JU will leave with several new contacts, an understanding of how to effectively manage that remaining 90 percent of their budget and have hopefully had some fun!

As anyone who is responsible for cleaning knows, custodial operations have a significant impact on the health of building occupants, the lifespan of a building and the overall cost of a facility’s budget (more than 30 percent!). So it’s exciting to see the different groups of people who want to learn more about what we do. When more people understand how to clean using a systematic and measurable approach, everyone wins.