Posts

School Janitors: So Much More than a Line Item in a Budget

You don’t need to walk far into your neighborhood store to see it’s back to school season. With end caps of glue sticks and aisles of pencils, paper and folders with everything from kittens to Avengers characters greeting you, it’s a time of year that brings excitement and new beginnings.

But in the town of Saugus, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, 21 school custodians will not return to school this year. The School Committee recently ruled to outsource services, igniting what the local paper called a “firestorm” of protests from local residents.

After the firing of 21 janitors, residents of Saugus, Mass., ask what will happen to the health and safety of students in their district.

More than 3,300 local residents signed a petition calling for reinstatement of the janitors. A high school student spoke, saying that the custodians are a “vital part of the school community who make students feel safe and supported.” 

Despite the protests, the Committee proceeded with the vote to outsource custodial services to a private cleaning company. According to the Superintendent, the move was part of a “reallocation of resources” estimated to save the district more than $1 million. 

This may sound familiar, as it happens far too often.  

We’ve gotta give it up for the people in this committee for understanding the importance of the custodial workers in their schools. If you’re reading this blog, you know how important cleaning is to a community. This letter to the editor from Saugus resident Erin McCabe sums it beautifully.

To the editor:

I feel the safety of our children is being overlooked. With limited custodians our children are placed at higher risk of health issues. 

These are just some of my concerns:

1. With limited custodial services, dust will most likely accumulate causing an increase risk of asthma attacks.

2. With limited custodial services, who will be cleaning up vomit and blood? Will there even be a custodian in each school to clean these pathogens, or will staff and students have to wait for someone who is trained in cleaning blood-borne pathogens? Thus exposing our children and their staff.

3. With limited custodial services, what will flu season look like for our children, when stomach bugs flood our school, will we see absences rise? Clearly not what we want for our students……..right?

4. With limited custodial services who will be maintaining our brand new high school/middle school. Will it remain in pristine shape for all future students? Probably not.

5. With limited custodial services, will we be able to host after school events, events on weekends? Such activities as our town basketball leagues etc … these activities are important and necessary for our community!

6. With limited custodial services, what will be put into place to maintain our children’s safety?

To read the full letter, please go to: https://saugus.wickedlocal.com/news/20190624/letter-to-editor-safety-of-our-children-is-being-overlooked

Thank you, Erin and the entire Saugus community, for recognizing the important work of a well staffed, trained and equipped custodial program. School custodians are so much more than a line item in a budget. They are key to ensuring healthy and safe environments for our children, as well as maximizing the investment in the buildings they clean. 

(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 Top 10 Complaints of Custodial Professionals

You’re in a tough business—we’ll just put that out there. The people who make it in this industry are problem solvers. Every day, they put together a new puzzle — figuring out which piece needs to go where to complete the puzzle of a clean building. Maybe one piece involves covering for a janitor who called off work and another is delayed supply delivery… each day presents a unique set of challenges. 

When we go into a new business to set them up on the (OS1) System, we often hear a common set of complaints. It doesn’t matter if it’s a laboratory on the east coast or a University in California. A very common set of issues exist for custodial professionals everywhere. So you know you’re not alone, we’ve pulled together a list of complaints and frustrations that we hear.

The top 10 frustrations experienced by custodial professionals include:

1. Not enough/broken/wrong equipment. People who don’t understand cleaning don’t realize that you need more than a vacuum and a microfiber mop to keep floor surfaces clean. In addition to cordless equipment, carpet extractors, burnishers, strippers and dryers are all necessary pieces of equipment to maintain and protect floor surfaces—at least if you don’t want to replace carpet or tile every few years. 

2. Chemical musical chairs. Too often, custodial professionals are at the whim of their purchasing department when it comes to buying cleaning chemicals. While the type of chemical might be the same, the brand might be different which can cause confusioTop n for custodial workers. Standardization is key in order to establish effective SDS programs and reduce injuries. 

3. Not enough mats/no matting at all. Keeping floors clean inside the building starts well before someone walks through the front door. A combination of scraper and entryway matting can help trap dirt before it tracks onto the floors. But adequate matting is only half of the puzzle—mats need to be regularly laundered so they can work as designed.

4.  No training resources. Overcoming the common misconception that “everyone knows how to clean” is one of the biggest challenges faced by custodial professionals. An effective custodial operation will have an established classroom training program that includes training aids, videos, work-flow charts and tools to assist with comprehension. 

A training classroom equipped with training materials is key to developing a high-performing and engaged custodial team.

5. Supervisory void/exasperated supervision. Supervisors are in a tough spot—not only are they responsible for overseeing custodial workers, they are also often the point of contact for building occupants whenever there’s an issue. Custodial supervisors need to be well trained to do the job properly— and well compensated.

6. Unmotivated staff/skeptical staff. When dealing with so many nationalities, personality types and ages, it can be tough to get custodial workers to rally behind a greater goal or the vision for creating a clean indoor environment. Training, compensation and a structure for advancement can all help workers buy-in to your organizational goals. 

7. Lack of respect. Every now and then, you’ll see a news story about an elementary school that surprises a custodian with a generous act to show their appreciation, but the large majority of custodial workers feel invisible in the buildings where they work. Even if employees work at night, recognizing workers through appreciation events such as International Housekeepers Week or Custodial Workers Recognition day can help bolster morale and help workers feel that they are respected. 

8. Rotating door. For a lot of people, custodial work is a “filler” job. By that, we mean that it’s something people do to supplement their income for a period of time or maybe it’s something that helps get them by in their pursuit of another position. This often leads to high turnover rates. Providing opportunities for advancement, recognition and living wage compensation will help close this door. 

9. Injuries. Because of the strenuous nature of custodial work, a lot of custodial professionals experience injuries— in fact, double the number of injuries compared to other industries. By training workers and helping them warm up for their work day, we can help reduce these injuries.

10. Lack of input. How many times has your department been tasked with cleaning a new building that you’ve had no input in designing? Not giving custodial professionals a seat at the table of broader organizational decisions (like new building construction) can leave money on the table.

Have an issue we haven’t covered? Let us know, we’ll add it to our next list!

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!

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.

Sustainability Talk, Part I: Understanding Source Reduction

Waste. It’s something we think a lot about in the custodial department because, well, that’s a big part of our job. In recognition of Earth Month and Earth Day (April 22), we’ll be focusing on waste and ways that we can better eliminate waste through waste management strategies, such as source reduction. When fully implemented and with full employee engagement, an organization has the resources in place to become “zero waste.”

A waste management strategy typically includes two key parts: 1) Sustainable Purchasing, which focuses largely on the upstream decisions you make on sourcing and source reduction, and 2) Waste Management, which focuses on the downstream decisions you make related to waste disposal. Throughout each element of your waste management program, employees should be engaged. When employees are engaged, your program has better odds for success. For part one of this two-part series, we’ll focus on the sustainable purchasing or the “upstream” part of your waste management program. It’s something ManageMen has been committed to  since 1992. 

Similar to how we kick off any new (OS1) implementation, an audit is a great way to gain an understanding of your current waste stream. During an audit, you will look closely at the types of waste your building generates, and then see how much of each type of waste is recovered for recycling, or sent to a landfill. 

An audit will consist of four basic steps:

  • Planning: Identify what you want to achieve from the audit. Include key stakeholders throughout the organization to let them know what you’re doing and why. You’ll also want to gather the necessary materials for the audit, such as bins, protective equipment, etc.
  • Collection: Collect the waste and store it in the appropriate bins in a pre-determined location. Waste can be collected and sorted on the same day, or over a period of time, such as a week. 
  • Sorting: This is the messy part. Go through the waste and sort the materials into various waste receptacles. This might include recyclables, compostables and trash. Record your results by measuring the number of items or the weight of each receptacle. 
  • Analyzing: Analyze the data. What does it tell you about your current waste management program? What are the opportunities for improvement?

Contact your local solid waste administration for additional audit materials and resources. 

A Little More about Using Less

Source reduction through sustainable purchasing practices is an effective waste reduction strategy. Sustainable purchasing means buying products in a way that not only considers the cost of the product, but the environmental, social and health impacts. In the cleaning industry, there’s been a lot of focus on sustainable purchasing practices (e.g. looking for products with third party certifications, renewable resources and local sources). But when it comes to source reduction, we have a lot of room for improvement.

Source reduction, or waste prevention, means finding ways to accomplish the same amount of work while using less product and generating less waste.

According to the EPA, source reduction means “purchasing durable, long-lasting goods and seeking products and packaging that are as free of toxics as possible. It can be as complex as redesigning a product to use less raw material in production, have a longer life, or be used again after its original use is completed. Because source reduction actually prevents the generation of waste in the first place, it is the most preferable method of waste management and goes a long way to protecting the environment.” 

What does this mean for you? A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Buy nice, or buy twice. Oftentimes, when you purchase cleaning equipment and supplies based on price, there’s a good chance that you will end up having to replace the product sooner than you would have to if you would have purchased a better quality product the first time around. 
  2. Consider the packaging and system. We like the PortionPac system because it eliminates redundant supplies, allowing cleaning departments to reduce their cleaning product assortment by as much as 40 percent. It does this with pre-dispensed chemical that users simply pour into their containers. 
  3. Simplify through standardization. When an engineered approach to cleaning is deployed, you are better able to streamline products and procedures, ultimately reducing waste.
  4. Engage employees. Encourage employees to identify ways they can help reduce waste or reuse items throughout the facility. This will improve the overall success of your effort.
  5. Avoid purchasing hazardous materials when possible. Enough said.

The theme for Earth Day this year is “End Plastic Pollution.” Of the 9.1 billion tons of plastic produced in the world, an estimated 6.9 billion tons is waste. As we kick-off Earth Month, let’s look at source reduction strategies we can use to reduce the amount of plastic used in our operations. 

Three Things You Need for Your Custodial Operation to be Successful

When I started my job as a housekeeper at the only hotel in my small town, I was shown my cart, a vacuum and how to make a bed. The “trainer,” or the woman I was supposed to follow for the day, had called off work, so I was on my own.

“If you have any questions, just dial number one on the phone,” said the housekeeping manager. And off I went.

I was 17 at the time, and my mom will be the first to tell you that I didn’t know a thing about cleaning my own room, let alone 10 rooms in a hotel. I lasted about two weeks. I am process driven and there wasn’t a single procedure in place in that department (at least, no procedures that were shared with me). I also love science, and I had no idea that a lot of what I was doing had a scientific application. When I completed my assigned rooms, I clocked out and told my boss I’d see her tomorrow. That was it.

___________________

Too often, people treat cleaning like it’s something that anyone knows how to do, but there’s a big problem with that approach. It gives the unspoken message to custodians and housekeepers that they are replaceable. If they don’t show up, anyone can come in and do their job. When there’s little to no training, it tells them that the job isn’t skilled. It doesn’t show them that they can actually make a career—a good, well-paying career—in the cleaning industry. Ultimately, treating cleaning like it’s something that anyone knows how to do reduces the value of both the work and the people performing the work.

Is there any wonder why custodial operations have problems with turnover and attracting younger people to the industry?

At ManageMen, when we look at cleaning, we see it as a profession grounded in three disciplines. We refer to these disciplines as the “three-legged stool” of cleaning. When you don’t ground your custodial operations with these elements as your foundation, you’ll be more prone to common issues such as outsourcing, high turnover and low employee morale. There’s also a good chance you’re actually polluting the indoor environment rather than cleaning it.

The three core elements of a successful cleaning operation include:

Engineering: The standardization, simplification, best practices and ongoing benchmarking of a cleaning program amongst top organizations that establishes as a best-in-class operation.

Science: The studies and research that validate the engineering elements of the cleaning operation, methods to improve safety and compliance with workplace safety laws, pollution reduction and development of workplace topophilia (or the love of the indoor environment).

Professionalism: Systems that enhance value of and appreciation for cleaning workers in the overall building operations, through education, skills validation, career path and recognition programs.

We all know by now that the cleanliness of our buildings has a huge impact on the health and  productivity of building occupants, while also playing a key role in an organization’s brand. It can also be a differentiator when trying to attract new customers or employees — who wants to work in a dirty building?

Rather than treating custodial like Cinderella — pushing her to the background while other areas get more attention and budget — we need to start grounding our custodial operations in engineering, science and professionalism.

Custodial work is not a job that just anyone can do. It’s a profession that requires skilled training and respect. When we treat it as such, we’ll not only improve the levels of cleanliness in our buildings, but perhaps we’ll give new workers to our industry a better appreciation for the work and how they can build a successful career in this industry.

 

Custodial Training for Different Learning Styles

In few occupations will you find a more diverse group of workers than the commercial cleaning industry. And while it’s one of the most labor intensive industries in the world, it’s one that is often recognized for its lack of professionalism, inefficiencies and low morale.

We want to change that.

Who is cleaning? Everyone, basically.

Every building needs cleaned and often doesn’t require workers to speak English, so it’s an easy point of entry for individuals looking to begin their lives in the U.S. Custodial work can also be great for people with physical or mental disabilities. Organizations like Goodwill and our friends at the Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH) offer programs to provide career opportunities in cleaning to individuals with disabilities.

Custodial workers also represent a variety of age ranges. From a young person who gets their start in the industry as their first job, to an older person who either has been a custodian for several decades (or maybe started cleaning to escape the monotony of retirement), most custodial departments have workers representing several different age groups and generations.

All of these differences can make training a challenge. Fortunately, even though teams are very different, there are similarities to the way people learn. And when you develop a consistent approach to training, you improve the consistency of the cleanliness being performed. Win!

Types of learning styles

Depending on who you ask, there can be as many as eight to 10 different learning styles. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to the VARK model, introduced by Neil Fleming in the late 80s.

According to the VARK model, people best learn according to one of the following four types:

  • Visual (pictures, diagrams)
  • Auditory (lectures, discussion)
  • Reading/writing (text books, note-taking)
  • Kinesthetic (experiments and hands-on activities)

When training custodial workers, it can be helpful to have these types of learning styles in mind to make sure workers are learning—and retaining—as much information as possible.

What’s happening at LAHH

LAHH has built its business on training, believing that only through effective training and education can the organization fulfill its commitment to helping its team members and employees realize their full potential in the building services field. It has a comprehensive training system that ensures workers receive information in a variety of different ways, to accommodate different learning styles and their specific disabilities.

A custodial worker at LAHH takes an online course through ManageMen.

When a worker first joins LAHH, they receive extensive training called Boot Camp, which is provided in a classroom setting using ManageMen’s certification courses. This format enables the (OS1) trainer to see the unique strengths of each employee and tailor sessions and materials to their specific need. It also allows them to move through the (OS1) process using the (OS1) Boot Camp Playbook, at a speed that is appropriate to each student’s learning ability.

Materials presented in the Boot Camp material are very visually heavy, accommodating visual learners and readers who prefer to read through the text. Presenting the material in a classroom format helps auditory learners and systems are then tested to accommodate kinesthetic learners.

How online learning simplifies learning and allows workers to move at their own pace

We’ve been piloting a new online learning system that enables custodial workers to move at their own pace, utilizing a variety of materials presented in different forms to improve the cleaning knowledge workers retain. Covering everything from the basics of microbiology to specific steps for cleaning, the online program offers greater flexibility because it can take place anywhere, at any time.

A new class of graduates have successfully completed their certification.

Seeing the value online training would provide to its workers, LAHH was one of the first to test the online educational platform. LAHH employees were provided with a computer and were shown how to log onto the online Janitor University portal. Through easily navigable prompts, each user was guided through the training curriculum specific to their assignment. The curriculum is presented in the form of videos and slides. LAHH also holds a bi-weekly classroom training to supplement the online modules, but the online system made it easy for team members to guide themselves through the coursework at their own pace. Some users still required the assistance of a mentor/coach or family member, but most employees have been able to navigate the system on their own.

“We’ve found the video and all the educational material, such as the Playbook, scouting report and (OS1)ian language offered in the online system to be very effective for training our employees,” said Guido Piccarolo, CEO. “Our team can access the video and the material from their own devices and it has been very effective in helping them learn and retain the information.”

Looking for a consistent level of clean? Training matters. 

When it comes to training custodial workers, you want to provide a consistent curriculum so you know that everyone receives the same information. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just throw a mop into someone’s hands and expect them to know what to do. You can’t also depend on whomever is on duty to just “show them” what to do.

If you want to improve the levels of cleanliness in your buildings, a good first step is to look at the way your training custodial workers. Make sure they are all being trained in the same manner, using a variety of different methods to appeal to different learning styles.

“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.” Queen Elizabeth II

Our Top Seven Posts from 2017

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

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

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

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

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