Posts

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.

Why Are Chemical Handling Accidents Still Happening?

During our recent Symposium, Flynt Belk of Workers’ Compensation Fund Insurance shared the haunting story of Stefan Golab, an immigrant from Poland who in 1983, died at his place of employment, Film Recovery Systems. A former steel construction worker in Poland, Golab had only worked at the factory outside of Chicago for a few months where his job was to reclaim silver from used photographic film. 

On the morning he died, Golab drank warm milk, hoping it would settle his stomach. He’d been experiencing headaches and vomiting. He couldn’t read English or Spanish and while it was likely he’d seen the skull and crossbones located on the barrels of cyanide, that meant “high voltage” back in Poland, so he wasn’t aware of the risks in his job. 

In a landmark court case, a judge found the top executives of Film Recovery Systems and its parent corporation responsible for Golab’s death. The verdict read that the company had exposed workers to “totally unsafe” working conditions with no training, warning or safeguards to protect them. 

This is the catalyst for OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) in place today and later the Right-to-Know act. Right-to-Know refers to workers’ rights to information about chemicals in their workplaces.

“This is not the case of someone taking a gun and placing it to the head of a victim and shooting him,” the judge explained at sentencing. “What we have here is the kind of case where you take a bomb and you put it in an airplane, and you turn around and runaway somewhere, and a time bomb is ticking off and ticking off, and . . . all of a sudden, on February 10, 1983, the time bomb went off, and Stefan Golab is dead.” 

More than two decades later, that bomb is still ticking. The EPA estimates that as many as 2.8 million people in the cleaning industry are exposed to dangerous cleaning chemicals each day.

Required training under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) includes understanding:

  • The health and physical hazards of cleaning chemicals
  • How to properly handle, use and store the products
  • What type of personal protective equipment to wear
  • How to use the hazard information, including labels and Safety Data Sheets
  • Procedures to follow in the event of a spill

This standard requires worker training before the use of any new chemicals, but no refresher training is required.

Wait… what? 

That means if a custodian may receive training on potential hazards associated with a chemical when they are initially hired, but if they stay at the same employer for several years, they are not legally required to demonstrate any understanding of how to properly handle, use and store chemicals after that point. 

Do you remember everything you learned in your first week on the job? In the flurry of new faces, paperwork and training, there’s a lot to remember. 

Sadly, incidents related to inappropriate use or storage of cleaning chemicals continue to happen all-too often. 

Earlier this year, five children were taken to the hospital after washing their hands with a cleaning chemical that was accidentally placed in the soap dispensers. In August, three workers in a cheese factory were treated at a local hospital after two cleaning solutions were accidentally mixed together. Just last week in Lexington, Ky., a janitor was burned while trying to clean chemicals with a towel. 

Fortunately, most employers take precautions to prevent deaths like Stefan Golab’s from happening. But we still have much work to do when it comes to training anyone with exposure to cleaning chemicals, as injuries are still happening. 

To help organizations comply with the ANSI/SI BSR SI-0001 American National Standard for Safe Use of Cleaning Chemicals which will go out for public review soon, we’re launching a new chemical handling workbook and online certificate program. Because accidents are still happening and every worker has the right to a safe workplace. 

Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a Cleaning Operation

In his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation” published in the 1943 issue of Psychological Review, Abraham Maslow revealed a pyramid in which various levels of human needs were defined (see Figure 1). Ultimately, the theory suggests that humans must cover their most basic needs (like food, shelter and safety) before they can think about higher level goals, like education or relationships. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy or Needs (Figure 1).

We can benefit from looking at a cleaning operation in a similar way. There are certain fundamental needs within a custodial operation that must be met in order for the program to be effective and meet certain higher-level goals. Too often, our conversation about cleaning is just through a specific lens rather than looking at the operation as a whole.

When was the last time someone asked you one of the following questions:

  • What are you doing to make your team more productive?
  • What are you doing to reduce the turnover in your operation?
  • How are you reducing injuries?
  • Can you stop the man on the third floor from complaining every time we clean his office?

Stepping back and looking at a custodial operation with Maslow’s framework in mind could be useful in answering these questions, and improving your overall operation. Because, if the baseline needs of your cleaning operation aren’t met, how can you make sure it, and all the intricate, moving pieces involved in it, operate at their fullest potential?

___________________________

The Hierarchy of Needs within a Custodial Operation

FOUNDATION: Tools and People

At the foundation of every custodial operation is the tools and labor to clean. In our industry, we spend the majority of our time talking about the tools rather than the labor, but that’s another blog post for another day. If you don’t have equipment, such as flat mops, buckets, auto scrubbers, vacuums, cloths, chemicals—you get where we’re going—then it’s going to be tough to do much cleaning. 

The same goes for people. You might have all the best equipment in the world, but without the people to use the equipment, apply the chemicals and remove the soil, you can’t clean.

LEVEL 1: Safety & Training

A cleaning program’s hierarchy of needs.

Once you have the equipment, people and cleaning supplies in place, the next level of any cleaning operation is making sure they have the right training and safety equipment to protect them from injury. Surprisingly, custodians continue to experience one of the highest injury rates of any occupation. Most injuries result from slips and falls, over-exertion and improperly mixing  of chemical. 

Teaching custodial workers not just what to clean, but HOW to clean is also critical. Help them understand the correct routes to follow, best techniques for lifting heavy equipment and how to prevent cross contamination. 

Equipping custodians with the right personal protective equipment is not only the law, it can also go a long way in making them feel more valued, reducing injuries and insurance costs. 

LEVEL 2: Recognition and Appreciation

Once the basic elements of the custodial operation are in place, the next level in a custodial operation’s hierarchy of needs is the sense of value. This is instilled by offering recognition to custodial workers and making them feel appreciated for what they do. A lot of housekeeping and environmental service operations use the month of September to recognize employees through events such as housekeepers week or environmental services week, typically the second full week of September. 

It’s important not for just custodial management to acknowledge and show appreciation for people who clean our buildings, but everyone within a building. A simple “thank you” helps a custodial worker feel valued for the important work they do.

LEVEL 3: Self Actualization

At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization, which is understanding one’s importance and achieving one’s full potential. When a custodial operation reaches this point, it is filled with a group of engaged team players who strive to work to the best of their abilities. They have been given the supplies and training to do their job effectively, they feel valued and appreciated for their work and do their best to fulfill their role. Because of their engagement, these employees may be well suited to take on new roles or responsibility within the organization and help mentor others.

Would you agree with this proposed hierarchy of needs? What systems do you have in place to create a group of engaged and committed custodians? We’d love to hear your thoughts — please share them on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/managemen.

How to Make Change in Your Custodial Department Easier Than Ever

When it opened in 2001, the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters was touted as the “greenest high rise in the nation.” Waterless urinals were installed, expected to save more than 1 million gallons of water each year. Looking exclusively at the environmental benefit, engineers who called for the new technology neglected to look at how the urinals would be used and maintained. After “hundreds” of complaints about foul odors and wet floors along with “high” maintenance costs, the units were removed six years later.

A similar situation happened at City Hall in Chicago. Waterless urinals installed to “promote water conversation” ultimately created a huge stink due to a plumbing issue. Chicago’s building code requires copper pipes in commercial buildings — a material that undiluted urine will corrode over time. Ultimately, the units were removed because they “didn’t perform as expected.”

Most cleaning professionals and facility managers understand that any change is difficult, but attempting to implement anything new—a new product, system or technology—will be more difficult without first getting input and buy-in from custodial workers.

In fact, some reports indicate that not getting enough buy-in from enough people can cause as much as 70 percent of organizational change efforts to fail.

Depending on how long they’ve been with an organization, a custodian will be able to tell you what has happened in the past when someone tried something similar. They can also give you good insight into issues you might experience. In the case of waterless urinals, experienced custodians would have been able to tell you that a waterless system would take a lot more to clean than traditional urinals. Another good example is air blade hand dryers — it’s often not until installation that anyone considers how the units will be cleaned and how they’ll impact the custodial department, its daily workload and its workers who will ultimately be responsible for its daily maintenance.

Does that mean you should abandon all efforts? Not at all, but involving custodians from the start can help avert future issues.

After transitioning hundreds of organizations to the (OS1) System, we can say with confidence that we know a thing or two about implementing change in a custodial department. If you’re considering a new product (like a cordless backpack) or any new technology, here’s a few steps to keep in mind to ensure a successful rollout:

  1. Communicate regularly. Talk to the custodial team about what you want to do and why you want to do it. When custodial workers have a good understanding of the full picture of what you want to achieve, they will be more likely to buy into the process. It can also be beneficial to have a distributor or manufacturers’ representative speak to staff about the product so it comes a person who knows the product or equipment and can field specific questions about it.
  2. Start small. A pilot test gives your team members an opportunity to test the solution and see how it works—or doesn’t work. Start in a single area or building to measure performance, give users a test-drive and identify any issues that could arise.
  3. Engage often. Speak with custodial workers about their experiences using the product. Find out what they liked and didn’t like about it. In addition to soliciting feedback in an open group, give people the opportunity to provide feedback on an easy-to-use rating form. Questions you could consider include:
    1. How well do you think this product worked?
    2. Do you think this product will improve the way you clean (creating cleaner buildings or making it easier for you to clean)?
    3. Do you anticipate any issues with this product? If so, what?
    4. Do you think this is something we should implement in other areas?

From the Internet of Things (IoT) to self-cleaning surfaces, online training to disinfectants with shorter dwell times, the cleaning industry has several new products and technologies that promise to improve the way buildings are cleaned and maintained. But before we buy into the marketing claims and place a big order, it can pay dividends in the long-run to engage the people who are likely to be the most impacted — the custodians.

Simon Institute joins ANSI, initiates SDO process

ANSIThe education facilities industry is on track to manage about one-third of the total cost of ownership of its facilities with the entry of one of its major supplier advocates into the American national standards process. The Simon Institute (SI) — the non-profit choice for the custodial, janitorial and housekeeping

industry in the US — recently became a member of the American National Standards Institute during World Standards Week in Washington D.C. October 22-23, 2013.

World Standards Week is an annual gathering of US standards developers from all business sectors of the US economy to develop policy and strategy for adapting to the changing world economies by hastening innovation through technical standards development. From this process a national standard for custodial services in
the education industry will emerge from a consensus process that will make a leading practice document suitable for adoption into public law. The word “consensus” is important since it represents a common viewpoint of those parties concerned with its provisions, namely producers, users, consumers and general interest groups

On November 1st SI initiated the process to become a registered standards developing organization (SDO). SDO’s provide the following benefits for any industry, in any country:

  1. SDOs provide a forum for collective decision-making and an alternative to standardization through market competition or government regulation.
  2. SDOs identify promising solutions and play an important role in promoting their adoption and diffusion.
  3. SDOs support lower prices offered by producers who are able to realize economies of scale in a global market.
  4. SDOs provide the technical means by which political trade agreements are put in place when divergent national or regional standards create technical barriers to trade.
  5. SDO’s level the playing field for building industry suppliers and service providers so that resources are available from multiple sources.
  6. SDO’s provide public safety benchmarks for front line enforcement authorities.

The entry of the Simon Institute into the ANSI process follows the trajectory of a 16-year University of Michigan-led national strategy to manage infrastructure costs of the $300 billion US education facilities industry through the American national standards process. Of this $300 billion — which includes large university-affiliated hospitals — about $75 billion is spent on cleaning — 90 percent of that cost; labor.

The objective of this is to put in place a permanent and enduring structure for continual leading practice development that will net TCO by $3 billion to $6 billion per year in an environment of rising risk,

complexity and regulatory conformity cost. In the long run, this process always results in more effective use of money, management of worker risk, and a hygienically safer built environment.

There is a subtle reciprocity between innovation and standardization. Standards stimulate the innovation of products, services and systems just as innovation drives the need for standardization. In some cases, a standard fosters innovation by establishing a baseline for design and performance that will satisfy user requirements.

The Simon Institute is the continuation of an organization founded in 2002 by The Boeing Company to identify, benchmark and incorporate best practices in facility custodial operations. The driving force of the original meeting was The Boeing Company’s initiative to qualify for the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award. Several world class organizations, all users of ManageMen’s Operating System One (OS1), were invited to meet with Boeing at the largest building in the world, the Everett Washington Boeing plant, to share or debate best practices in janitorial operations. At the conclusion of the symposium the group decided to continue meeting annually in a joint project to develop improved industry standards.

A well-conceived standard provides flexibility that suppliers or manufacturers can vary features, function, or price to establish their own niche in the marketplace. These variances can help to elevate user expectations of a product or service, thus raising the bar for future editions of the applicable standard. In other markets and technologies, innovation comes first. A single set of performance or design criteria are agreed upon and serve as the baseline for ongoing improvements.

A standard becomes the physical documentation of an agreed-upon solution that has already been time-tested and proven.

The next steps are as follows:
1. Public announcement of Simon Institute ANSI membership (this announcement)
2. Development of By-Laws and Consensus procedure
3. Establish technical committees
4. Write the standard
5. Release for first public review
6. Revise in response to public comments and re-post for 2nd public review
7. Revise in response to public comments in 2nd public review
8. Formally adopt the standard and announce its release in the ANSI Standards Action publication that is made available weekly to the public.
9. Promote adoption and support with conformity and accreditation programs.

Depending upon the process preferred by the Simon Institute, the foregoing process may be modified.

The most surprising standard of all may not ever be written but may always lie in the public eye. Our industry is engaged in policy initiatives that require us to confront the cost of value-delivery that is very expensive relative to available resources. All levels of government are under pressure to use intergovernmental collaboration to spread the cost of managing educational facilities across wider tax bases; capitalizing economies of scale or economies of skill inherent in some services. Our industry must hasten its effort to write its own rules, or we will have them written for us.