Training the Trainers

There’s a popular quote from Benjamin Franklin that says, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  

Involvement is central to the way we approach all of our training courses, but specifically the (OS1) Trainer course that took place two weeks ago. Sure, there’s some classroom instruction, but as attendees to this class will tell you, they spend a lot of time in small groups or with partners, demonstrating techniques and applying principles of the training. 

Ben Walker kicks off the 2019 (OS1) Trainer Course.

You might be thinking, “We do hands-on training—our cleaning workers follow an experienced trainer around for a couple of days before starting on their own.”

This is not the same thing.

Trainers of cleaning workers need training that goes beyond the specifics of how to do the job. The same goes for cleaning workers—they not only need to understand how and what to clean, but WHY we clean. It’s one thing to spray disinfectant on a surface and move on, but it’s another thing to understand the principles of microbiology and why dwell time is everything when it comes to killing viruses. 

Qualified through Testing

Congratulations to the 15 individuals who successfully completed a one-hour exam with an 80 percent score or higher to earn the designation as (OS1) Trainer Certificate Holder. They will hold this designation from May 2019 – May 2020. 

Brandon Baswell, Michigan State University

Dominic Bratta, DNM Training and Consulting, LLC

Joseph Garcia demonstrates proper vac cord care.

William Carroll, Eurest Services

Chuck Crawley, Sandia National Labs

Rebecca Delap, Michigan State University

Joseph Garcia, Victor Valley College

Minda Gorsline, Michigan State University

Jeff Hawkins, Provo City School District

Lorenzo Meza, Mt. San Antonio College

Guido Piccarolo, Los Angeles Habilitation House

Judy Ramirez, Michigan State University

Joshua Sego, Michigan State University

Scott Spencer, Eurest Services

Anna Tobias, University of Michigan

Anna Atencio-Torres, Sandia National Labs

What Makes the (OS1) Trainer Course Unique

Specifically designed to support organizations implementing (OS1), our Trainer course reviews general principles around training professional cleaning workers, including the science of cleaning, eliminating resistance to training, how to get the most out of your training and more. 

A good example of the importance of hands-on training is seen when fitting for backpack vacuums. You can watch someone put on a backpack vacuum, but until you do it yourself, you won’t know what it feels like. A properly fitted backpack can reduce the opportunity for fatigue and ergonomic issues.

The purpose of the hands-on approach is two-fold: not only do our trainers get more out of the session, but they will model their training accordingly. This better engages cleaning workers in the training process. 

After two days of rigorous instruction and attendee-led demonstration, students have the option of taking an exam to earn their (OS1) Trainer Certificate Holder designation. Those who pass will be able to lead instruction of the (OS1) Boot Camp Class and Basic Training Certification Course. 

While the class is great for people who manage custodians in a (OS1) operation, it’s also a great options for those who have retired from careers in facility management and are looking to stay involved with training part-time. We have several new (OS1) organizations that will be coming online this year and regularly need trainers who can assist with educating new teams on what it means to clean with (OS1). 

Interested in learning more about (OS1)? Consider attending the annual Symposium from the Simon Institute happening this Oct. 7-9, 2019, where users will share best practices and discuss the successes they’ve achieved through the (OS1) System.

Why Cleaning Matters

A little over a year ago, we had a brainstorming session to name our monthly electronic newsletter. As you can imagine, it’s a rollercoaster of fun anytime Ben is at the whiteboard. A series of possible titles made their way to the board, ranging from the basic “ManageMen Minute” to the more audacious “Dirt Diaries.” 

In the end, we settled on “Cleaning Matters” because it succinctly sums up our goal of the newsletter—to provide valuable news and information that can be used by cleaning professionals as they work to grow and evolve their cleaning programs. It also illustrates our core ethos—that cleaning MATTERS. How you clean matters. Why you clean matters. When and how often you clean matters. Custodial work MATTERS.

But it’s easy to lose sight of this. It doesn’t matter where or what you clean, this is not an easy business. Between the three C’s (call-offs, complaints and cuts), we see cleaning professionals get waylaid in the day-to-day management issues. We call this “firefighter mode” because professionals are constantly going around and extinguishing issues that come up during the day. One manager recently shared that his job made him feel like a piñata. He felt like he just kept receiving hits before finally busting open (not really, but that’s how he felt).

Need inspiration to keep you going? Download this graphic and print it out for your office or save it to your desktop to remind you of the importance of your work!

What do you do to help prevent the daily stresses of custodial work from getting to you? In addition to establishing a regular practice that allows you to decompress, it’s important to remember why we do what we do. Your job is critical, and you can’t communicate its importance to your bosses and staff without realizing and believing it first yourself. 

So grab a cup of coffee or a glass of water and sit back to relax for a moment and reflect on why you do what you do. Here are four extremely important reasons why CLEANING MATTERS:

1. Cleaning improves the health of people in the building: Done correctly, cleaning removes unwanted dirt and bacteria from the indoors. Not the keyword “removes”—removing dirt is essential to effectively cleaning for health. Dust, bacteria and mold are just a few of the things that can accumulate indoors without proper cleaning and will have an impact on the health of building occupants. 

As Dr. Michael Berry, former EPA administrator, details in his groundbreaking work, Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health, “….every time carpets and fabrics are emptied of their pollution build-up through professional cleaning methods, there is a health benefit.” And this is only the beginning of how cleaning can impact health.

2. Cleaning helps preserve the built environment (and capital investments). The minute your customer walks in the door, they immediately begin forming a perception of your business based on what they see and experience. Too often, this first-impression is only considered when identifying finishes and furnishings for a business, but not when it comes to how those items will be cleaned and maintained for the longterm. What happens to that beautiful marble floor when someone uses an acid-based cleaner on it?

During the construction or remodel of a building, organizations spend a mind-blowing amount of money on furnishings like carpet, furniture and finishes. Without proper care through regular cleaning and maintenance, the lifespan of these materials will quickly diminish. 

3. Cleaning makes us more productive. The popular business magazine Inc. published an article titled “The Incredible Power of a Clean Workspace.” In it, the author argues that unkept and cluttered workplaces create unrecognized stress for workers. 

Dutch researchers recently evaluated the correlation between clean office environments and worker productivity in their study: “Impact of cleanliness on the productivity of employees.”

Researchers concluded: 

“It is found that a higher objective cleanliness correlates significantly with a higher perceived productivity of employees working in office environments of non-profit organizations in The Netherlands. A higher measured cleanliness also correlates significantly with a higher work satisfaction level of employees working in office environments.”

4. Cleaning makes a difference between lost and repeat customers. As we’ve noted in previous blog posts, people prefer to do business in clean places. QSR Magazine recently highlighted a study that found 93 percent of U.S. adults would not return to a store if they experienced maintenance issues, including odor and dirty restrooms. How the building is cleaned and maintained is a large driver to business success.

We realize your work is hard and often goes unappreciated, but never lose sight of its importance. Thank you.

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Keeping an Eye on Candida auris: How Cleaning Departments Can Prepare

Unless you’ve been on a break from the news and social media over the past week (which we highly recommend doing every once in awhile!), you’ve likely heard the news about a new fungus spreading through nursing homes and hospitals everywhere. Setting its target on people with compromised immune systems, Candida auris spreads rapidly. Cleaning professionals should monitor the situation as the fungus can live outside of the body for a long period of time—up to a month or longer, according to CDC expert Tom Chiller. 

What makes it so significant? Cadida auris is multi drug-resistant, meaning that it doesn’t respond to common anti fungal drugs. Further complicating the issue is that it’s difficult to diagnose and treat. 

Where is it? Because it targets people with weakened immune systems, it is known to spread in hospitals, nursing home and other healthcare environments. 

How does it spread? In addition to living on the skin of an infected patient, Candida auris lives on surfaces. It can spread from person to person, or from a contaminated surface to a person.

How will custodial teams be impacted? Environmental service departments will play a key role in preventing the spread of C. auris in a facility. The CDC recommends that patients with Candida auris be placed in a single room that may require frequent cleaning with a high-grade disinfectant (those effective against Clostridioides difficile) listed here. Infection control will work with EVS teams to ensure regular and thorough cleaning.

How can I prepare? As outlined in our Pandemic Planning playbook, here are a few steps custodial departments can take to prepare for an outbreak of C. Aureus in their facility:

  1. Conduct a survey, list and map locations of all direct and indirect contact fomites (hard and soft surfaces) in the building.
  2. Stockpile disinfectants, spray bottles, gloves, hand soap and germicidal wipes.
  3. Re-familiarize yourself with the CDC’s Disinfection and Sterilization Guide and provide updated training on the principles of cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces for cleaning workers.
  4. Provide “Protect Yourself” training for cleaning workers
  5. Regularly check the CDC Website to review the latest guidelines on managing C. aureus. 

Ultimately, the key is preparation, not panic. For additional resources, you may want to check out our Pandemic Planning Playbook. While the material outlines specific steps for (OS1) operations, it can be used as a template for all cleaning departments. A full review of microbiology basics is available in Microbiology for Cleaning Workers. This book offers a great guideline for worker training. 

The Good Fight

Note: Each month, Ben Walker shares his monthly musings for our e-Newsletter, Cleaning Matters. April’s column is located here. If you aren’t subscribed to Cleaning Matters, you can do so by clicking here.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to present during the Clean Buildings Expo, which is sponsored in part by Trade Press Media Group, the publishing company for FCD. No question it was a career highlight, as I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting so many of the people who have read my columns over the years. There were a few times when I had to pinch myself because I felt like a celebrity! People stood in long lines to have me sign copies of their Cleaning Times books and to say hello.

Ben Walker speaks to a packed house of facility and cleaning management professionals during the recent Clean Buildings Expo.

One of the people who stood in the line following my session asked if I would have time over the next few days to speak with her further. She owned a contract cleaning business and was looking to improve some of the processes in place. I told her I’d sit down with her the next morning for coffee and we’d talk. Just talk, no consulting fees, no selling—just talking through some of her issues ,sharing ideas to help her make her business more efficient. 

I don’t tell you this to pat myself on the back. I share it because the high from last week’s event was still fresh on my mind when I started digging through my email this morning and came across this expose just published by Variety magazine, a weekly entertainment guide: “How America’s Biggest Theater Chains are Exploiting Their Janitors.”

Please take the time to read through the article and share it with your peers. It’s important that we support publications that bring the labor issues that run so rampant in our industry to light. It’s a story we all know too well—when cleaning is treated as a commodity, cleaning workers ultimately lose.

The article shares details of children of janitor’s being brought to work, sleeping on the floor or theater seats. Janitors going unpaid or receiving $350-$400 a week after working eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I don’t know what Hell is like, but I think it would be like that,” one cleaner told the reporter. “Sometimes I was crying because my feet couldn’t take it anymore. My back couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know how I could finish the work I had to do.”

******

There are so many cleaning companies that play in this arena who exploit the people performing the work for their profit. However, there are also a lot of companies out there trying to doing the right thing, like the woman I met during the Clean Buildings Expo last week. 

As an industry, we have so much work to do. 

Professionalism. Integrity. Standards. 

By standing on these principles, we will continue driving the industry forward. 

When we don’t, we only hurt ourselves and the people around us. And we enable conditions like those described in this article to continue thriving. 

Thank you for joining us in this fight.

Ben.

How Cleaning—and Cleaners—Can Impact the Brand of a Business

It’s late at night and you’ve just touched down at the airport after flying into a new city. Collecting your bags off the carousel, you turn to find the exit for ride shares. The cleaner, who is dust mopping the marble floors, sees you and welcomes you to Dallas. He asks if he can help you find something. Relieved you don’t have to go find someone who likely won’t be standing at an obscure podium this late at night, you thank him and ask where the ride share stand is. He smiles and points to the south-facing door. 

The next morning, you wake up in your hotel room and start getting ready for the conference, which starts in a few hours. As you head out the door, a housekeeper greets you and says good morning. She asks how you slept and if you need anything to make your stay more comfortable. An extra pillow might be nice, you tell her, giving her your room number. She says she’ll make sure to leave another pillow for you, wishing you a good day.

****

This isn’t a dream. This is an opportunity. 

Successful branding can increase customer loyalty, improve your image, and create a relatable identity.

If you’re reading this blog post, you already know that a lot of businesses treat cleaning like a commodity. They want the task of cleaning to be done for the lowest cost. And you know why this happens—too many people don’t understand the value of cleaning. They don’t realize how cleaning affects the health and productivity of people who live, work and/or visit their buildings.

But what if we adjust the lens to show how cleaners impact not only the cleanliness of a building, but also a guests’ perception of the business—and ultimately, it’s brand?

This happens two ways:

Facility Cleanliness: More and more consumers expect a quality level of cleanliness. This is true from hotels to schools, restaurants to office buildings. According to hospitalitynet.org, “Studies have shown that among all problems experienced by guests, unclean rooms have the greatest negative impact on satisfaction.”

For businesses with more one than one location or building, ensuring a consistent level of clean across properties is critical to maintaining that brand standard. For example, if you go to a drugstore in one city, you’d expect a consistent level of cleanliness at the same type of store in another city. Target is a store that gets this—cleanliness is core to their brand. As this Forbes contributor notes, “When given the choice between Target and Wal-Mart, many people generally agree Target is a better experience. This is mostly due to the cleanliness of the stores and overall operations.”

As this Forbes contributor notes, “When given the choice between Target and Wal-Mart, many people generally agree Target is a better experience. This is mostly due to the cleanliness of the stores and overall operations.

Target is a store that gets this—cleanliness is core to their brand. As this Forbes contributor notes, “When given the choice between Target and Wal-Mart, many people generally agree Target is a better experience. This is mostly due to the cleanliness of the stores and overall operations.”

What’s more is that online reviews are playing an increasing role in what businesses people support. Some research shows that of every five people who walk through the front door for the first time, at least four of them will have read about the business first online. 

A dirty business can be a big deal—who cleans that store and how they clean will have a substantial impact on that visitor’s experience and perception of that brand.

Customer Service: We tend to focus on the job of cleaning, but in many facilities, cleaners are also one of the most customer-facing parts of a business. We’ve heard so many stories about the impact of an environmental service worker during a hospital stay. It’s not the doctors or nurses who leave an impression, but the person who comes in to clean the room every day.

Similarly, in a hotel, school, shopping mall, airport or retail store, a custodian may be the first person a guest sees when they need something or have a question. If that cleaner isn’t empowered with the right training and support to respond to that question, it is a missed opportunity. 

As businesses look to evolve and separate themselves from the competition, they will look to engage ALL customer-facing employees and operations in developing the experience for people visiting their businesses. Custodial departments can—and will— play a vital role in that effort. As a cleaning professional, the better you can communicate this, the more invaluable you become.

Spring Cleaning Your Custodial Closets: A Checklist

The Spring Equinox starts in just a few hours and depending on where you live, the daffodils might be starting to show off their pretty yellow heads. It’s been a pretty nasty winter around the country, so for many, the flowers and other signs of spring are a welcome sight!

In addition to adding a bit of color to our lives, the Vernal Equinox also marks the start of spring cleaning activities around the world. From homes to offices, people eagerly purge their homes of dirt and clutter that’s no longer of use (we’re looking at you, floppy discs!).

Where did the ritual of spring cleaning start? There’s no clear answer on this. Some say it dates back to the Jewish practice of thoroughly cleaning the home in advance of Passover. Others say that it traces back to the Persian New Year, or Nowruz (pronounced “no-rooz”), where Iranians clean everything from drapes to furniture before kicking off a 13-day celebration of dinners, family visits and reflections for the year ahead (sign us up!). 

For cleaning professionals, spring cleaning offers an opportunity to reset. We talked a little while ago about how the (OS1) System can help a professional cleaning operation “tidy up,” and Ben will be presenting next week at the Clean Buildings Expo on “How and Why Remediating Your Cleaning Program Works”, but even just a few simple steps can help you spring clean your department to make it safer and more productive. One of these steps is focusing on custodial closets.

Cleaning out the Closets

Aside from the challenges everyone talks about — labor, pressure to do more with less, etc. — storage for all the “stuff” associated with cleaning is a big issue for many people responsible for managing custodial operations. Cleaning workers should have storage areas on every floor, and possibly more depending on the footprint of the building. 

Safe chemical handling starts with safe chemical storage. Here are a few things you can do to “spring clean” your chemical storage areas.

But as we continue exploring dangers associated with poor chemical handling processes, where we store cleaning chemicals should be an important area of focus. This includes cleaning out these areas. 

Secured storage is critical, in order to limit access to building occupants and others who lack the knowledge and training to properly to handle chemicals. Held in one central bulk storage area, the chemicals should be kept clean, neat and sorted by hazard classification (e.g. don’t store flammable chemicals with oxidizers). 

A few good things to items to add to your spring cleaning checklist include:

  • Remove any cleaning chemicals from upper shelves or high areas where they might be  difficult to reach
  • Make sure all products are tightly sealed
  • Never store dry products atop wet products
  • Make sure any liquid acid and liquid chlorine products are stored away from one another
  • Conduct an audit of keys so you know exactly who has access to storage areas
  • Make sure your list of cleaning chemicals is up-to-date
  • Safely dispose of any expired chemicals
  • Audit what chemicals are in use and dispose of any chemicals that are not in use
  • Make sure all of your Safety Data Sheets are up-to-date and organized—which you can easily do with our SDS “Beyond Compliance” Wall Mounted Station!

Happy Spring, and Spring cleaning!

A Sneak Peek at Janitor University 2019

We kicked off our first Janitor University (JU) of 2019 yesterday with a sold-out group! Held at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City, this event is a professional development course for cleaning executives, including facility directors, managers, CEOs of BSCs. In this class, we are excited to host several new faces from prominent academic institutions!

Ben Walker shares the benefits of a systematic approach to cleaning with attendees to the March 2019 Janitor University.

In the first day of JU, much of our focus is on data—or rather, the lack of data with many conversations that happen in the professional cleaning industry.

Ben Walker, instructor, discusses the importance of using data in any cleaning operation.

After a series of exercises, attendees to JU quickly learn the importance of data, and that it’s tough to argue with numbers!


Want to Reduce Turnover and Improve Productivity? Start by Listening.

We’ve been talking to a lot of (OS1) users recently, gathering input on what they experience on a day-to-day basis so we can improve our training. At Symposium, we speak with leaders of organizations like Sandia National Labs, University of Texas at Austin, Los Angeles Habilitation House, Michigan State University and others to identify best practices, but what about the people actually doing the cleaning? What ideas do the janitor—(OS1) specialists—have for improvement?

A common concern we’ve heard is regarding the general absence of meaningful communication between custodial workers and their department leaders. This is an issue in organizations everywhere—not just (OS1) organizations, cleaning organizations, big corporations or small start-ups. 

As business leaders, we tend to get so caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t take the time to engage our teams. Meaning, we’re the ones doing most of the talking and don’t take much time to listen. Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People said, “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Fun fact: The average person has an eight-second attention span. Listening is a learned skill that takes practice, but when done well, can create more productive teams.

But listening isn’t something that comes easily to many of us. We spend years learning how to write and speak, but listening isn’t often (ever?) taught in school. It’s an adapted skill that we learn and refine (or not!) over the course of time. Have you ever taken a listening class? If you’re like us, there’s a good chance that answer is “no.” 

A leading consulting firm found that organizations that communicate regularly with their staff — and do a good job of listening — are likely to have lower turnover. This isn’t surprising, because communication helps eliminate the opportunities for misunderstanding so that everyone is on the same page. But the average human has an eight-second attention span, so we could all probably use some room for improvement.

So how can you become a become a better listener? Here are a few ideas: 

  1. Just listen. A lot of listening is just that—truly listening. When someone takes the time to speak, focus your mind on what that person is saying rather than that list of “to-do” items sitting on your desk. Don’t interrupt or attempt to offer solutions as the person is talking, just listen. 
  2. Put the phone away. Let the employee know that they are your immediate priority when you are speaking to them. Your phone might buzz or ring, but by disregarding the impulse to pick it up, you’re showing the employee that they have your full attention and are truly listening to what they are saying. 
  3. Check your preconceived notions at the door. If you think you know what the other person is going to say before you go into a conversation with them, you’re already halfway down the path of not listening. Clear your mind so you are truly open to what they have to say.
  4. Consider timing. It’s hard to be a good listener if the other person isn’t willing to talk. If this is the case, try catching members of your team while they are working. Custodial workers spend a lot of time with their thoughts because they often work alone, so by making it a priority to check in with your team when they are working, you may catch them in their comfort zone and get a better understanding of what’s on their mind.
  5. Ask more questions. A lot of times, we want to help offer solutions or solve problems for people on our team. Rather than responding with an answer right away, ask more questions. This can help create a safer space for the employee and encourage them to speak more. 
  6. Summarize what was said. Active listening is a common communication tool people use to let the other person know that they heard what was said. In addition to validating that you are listening, repeating a summary of someone’s statements back to them helps clear up any miscommunication that may have occurred. 
  7. Silence your inner interrupter. When we think we know what the other person is saying, we can have a tendency to jump into the conversation and respond before the person is done speaking. This can be detrimental to the conversation, not only causing the person to shut down, but also possibly shifting the speaker’s intent in another direction. It can be extremely difficult in some situations, but it’s a best practice to always wait until the other person is finished speaking.

(OS1): What a Professional Cleaning Operation Uses to “Tidy Up”

There’s a pretty good chance that over the past month, you’ve heard the name “Marie Kondo” or even watched one of her shows. Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” Japan’s queen of decluttering has found her way into millions of U.S. home by sharing her way of cleaning or, “tidying up,” those items that do not “spark joy” in their lives. From her two best-selling books to her recent Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” she provides organizational guidance to help people create order using her patented “konmarie method.” 

In her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Kondo discusses how tidying up— much like cleaning — is a self-taught exercise. 

Image from Kondo’s website: https://konmari.com.

“The general assumption, in Japan at least, is that tidying up doesn’t need to be taught but rather is picked up naturally,” she says. “Cooking skills and recipes are passed down as family traditions…yet no one hears of anyone passing on the family secrets of tidying, even within the same household.” 

“Instruction in tidying is neglected not only in the home but also at school,” she continues. “When we think back to our home economics classes, most of us remember making hamburgers or learning how to use a sewing machine to make an apron…surprisingly little time is devoted to the subject of tidying.” 

It doesn’t take much looking to see the parallels between our industry, the professional cleaning and hygiene industry, and how Kondo has built her empire. She’s found a way for people to find order and develop a system for “maintaining” their home, just as a cleaning operation is designed to do within a commercial building, such as a school, hospital or office.

Similar to the “tidying up” movement, a lot of people in the professional cleaning industry are self-taught because we also operate on the notion that cleaning is a skill that is picked up naturally or through experience. 

Like Kondo, our founder, John Walker, recognized the issue with this approach. Because people lacked the proper training, they were not often able to truly clean in a way that led to cleaner, safer and healthier facilities. That’s why he developed (OS1), a scientifically engineered approach to cleaning. This system helps provide a system for cleaning and maintaining a building.

Let’s look at the similarities between Marie Kondo’s approach to tidying up and the (OS1) approach to cleaning:

Marie Kondo’s Approach  (OS1) Approach
Visit a home and consult with the customer about their goals and objectives. Meet with the client to discuss current program and objectives for implementing a new custodial system
Conduct an audit/inventory of the home’s material possessions Conduct a baseline audit of the custodial program. This includes:  inventory of custodial supplies & equipment; observations of cleaning processes; detailed cost analysis of labor/product usage; training and education program; scheduled cleaning services; and HAZCOM risk assessment.
Teach the KonMarie method Teach the (OS1) process through events like Janitor University, Train the Trainer, (OS1) Boot Camp and (OS1) specialist certifications.
Help clients understand that tidying up is not a chore but a mindset. Help custodial operations understand the importance of janitors and that they be treated as first-class citizens. 
Work with homeowners to implement the KonMarie method and begin purging the home of unnecessary material itemsSet up a pilot building within the facility to begin rolling out the (OS1) system.
Roll out the Konmarie method over the next monthContinue tactically rolling out the (OS1) system based upon a successful pilot. Create repeatable outcomes and over the next several months/years scale to additional buildings within the operation.
Follow-up with clientOngoing benchmarking of best practices with other (OS1) users through an annual symposium. Participate in annual progress audits to document milestones, troubleshoot issues.

Take a look at your custodial closet. Is it filled bottles of cleaning chemicals made by companies that aren’t even in business anymore? Do you have pieces of broken equipment collecting dust in the corner? Do you know what tasks are being performed every single day? Do you spend your day handling complaints and putting out fires? Is your staff’s morale perpetually low?

If so, it could mean your custodial department is ready for a little tidying up too.

The Rise of Cleanwashing: Part II

When people are first introduced to Six Sigma, a program used by businesses for continuous improvement, one of the first things they’re asked to do is to draw a happy pig. Without any instruction, you can imagine the different types of drawings people create! After everyone shows each other their work and the variation in the drawings becomes apparent, they are then provided a set of instructions and asked to draw the pig again. This time, they find that the drawings look remarkably similar. The point of the exercise is to demonstrate how when a group of people have instruction, most will produce a consistent result. 

The McDonald’s empire was built on around consistency; consistency that was structured around the pillars of “quality, service, cleanliness and value.” Ray Kroc knew that when you’re looking for a consistent product, you need to standardize the products and the systems in place. In fact, he’s quoted as saying, “If I had a brick for every time I’ve repeated the phrase Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value, I think I’d probably be able to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with them.” 

Standardized systems and products are what make a Big Mac in Des Moines, IA, taste the same as a Big Mac served in Kroc’s first restaurant in Des Plaines, IL.

Standardization is the hallmark of efficiency—just think about the ISO 9000 quality management and quality assurance standards. But for some reason, standards are lost when it comes to custodial departments. Organizations implement standardized processes throughout their customer service, warehouse, purchasing and human resource departments… but they neglect to think about how the custodial department could benefit from standardized processes.

How the Absence of Standards Can Result in Cleanwashing

In the first part of this series, we discussed the rise of “greenwashing” and how when the demand for sustainable products grew, suppliers marketed their products as good for the environment when they really weren’t. 

Similarly, there are a lot of cleaning companies out there that make claims that they know how to clean, but they often lack the knowledge, processes and systems to ensure a consistent level of cleanliness. They think that anyone can pick up a mop and clean. But when was the last time they changed the water and solution in the mop bucket? Are they using the same mop to clean the restrooms, hallways and kitchen areas? Do they put up the proper signage in public areas to reduce the chance of slips and falls?

This is an example of “cleanwashing.” 

We’ve found that cleanwashing happens more often then you’d think because so many people believe that anyone can clean. But another part of the issue is that people don’t think or ask how something is cleaned, just that it looks clean. And that’s a dangerous oversight. As anyone in this industry knows, there are a lot of things that can go undetected to the visible eye. Just ask any cleaner who has worked on a cruise ship and had to deal with Norovirus or a custodian who has had to deep clean a school during a flu outbreak.

Let’s think back to the happy pig picture. What happens when you hand someone a flat mop with little to no instruction? Just because the floor has been mopped, has it been cleaned? The individual might work from left to right, he or she might walk in circles around the floor, walk around areas that have already been mopped—there’s really no limit to the way one might approach mopping a floor. They could be moving soil around, not removing the soil.

More organizations are focusing on standardization to help them streamline practices and help improve processes moving forward.

How Does Standardization Help Improve Organizational Excellence?

When we think of standardizing processes, you may think that it would only be beneficial to franchise operations or by businesses that repeat work throughout more than one location. For example, a contract cleaner would benefit from standardizing job duties and processes so someone can pick up a job in Building A and repeat it in Building D or F—wherever they are needed, delivering the same exact quality of work.

But occupational theorists have found that the benefits of a standardizing processes go beyond delivering a consistent product. It can also be a tool to empower and retain employees. Standardization takes the guesswork from the task and means that employees have an established, time-tested process to use. Organizations use standardized processes to boost productivity and improve employee morale, because employees can take pride in knowing that they have mastered a given task. Fast Company says that organizational standardization can fuel innovation. And there’s a good chance we’ll only see more standardization in the future. The prestigious Wharton School of Business says companies are increasingly moving toward standardization.

When it comes to cleanwashing, standardization gives anyone who is either directly or indirectly responsible for the cleaning and maintenance in their building with a set of guidelines. It also allows for the development of metrics. In an ideal scenario, all custodial positions are workloaded, and workers are kitted with the exact tools and supplies they need for the day. They follow a specific set of instructions detailed on a card so areas are cleaned the exact same way, each time, delivering a standard result and a consistent level of clean throughout every building. 

How Can We Combat Cleanwashing?

Too often, custodial work is commoditized, meaning that people don’t understand the value of the service and shop it out to the lowest-priced provider. While this trend is starting to change, it’s up to the people who provide custodial services that are built upon standardized processes and procedures to educate stakeholders about what they bring to the table. A few important talking points to cover might include:

— Removing soil versus moving soil around.

— Worker training and safety.

— The impact of cleaning on health. 

— The cost versus the price of clean.

— How standardization impacts the overall quality of clean.

As we illustrated in the first part of this series, there is an increasing demand for clean facilities. People spend money in buildings that are clean. But it’s important for the people who live, work and visit those facilities to understand that just because something LOOKS clean, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily IS clean. When there’s a standardized process in place, you have the peace of mind in knowing that the outcome is consistent — every time.