Posts

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.

Think “Janitor” Is a Dirty Word? No, and Here’s Why.

Janitor University is a three-day, instructor-led class that introduces cleaning organization executives to introductory principles of the (OS1) Cleaning Management Program. When we teach the class, we’ll periodically receive feedback regarding the name of the course. People think that because facility directors, CEOs of large building service contractors and other leaders responsible for cleaning that it shouldn’t be called “Janitor University.” Moreover, they feel that the title of “janitor” is an outdated and even derogatory term for people responsible for performing cleaning responsibilities. They suggest alternative titles like “custodian” or “cleaner.”

While we have no issue with those terms, we encourage any professional cleaner to proudly wear their “janitor” badge.

You see, if you trace the etymology of the word “janitor,” it doesn’t take much research to find that the term is tied to deity. “Janus” from which “janitor” is derived, was a Roman god of beginnings and ends; metaphorically he represented doors and passages. In images, he’s often depicted with two faces that allow him to look to the future and the past.

In the English language, first signs of the word “janitor” date back to the 1500s and originally signified an “usher in a school.” In the 1600s, the word evolved to denote a “doorkeeper” and eventually referenced the caretaker of a building. Modern use of the word denotes someone who handles general maintenance and cleaning responsibilities in a building.

For some people, the term “janitor” is derogatory because it indicates a low-skilled, low-paying position. This is a context that our culture has assigned to the position over time, and not one that is truly reflective of the job description.

Many Americans don’t understand that the job not only requires extensive knowledge of chemicals and proper handling protocol, but that it also is essential for protecting public health.  They don’t know that in Germany, janitors are required to attend cleaning school and serve an apprenticeship for three years before becoming a janitor. Switzerland requires four years of schooling before one is able to seek employment as a professional cleaner. In London, there’s a membership organization for environmental cleaners that is a livery company, meaning that it descended from the medieval trade guilds and is supported by the Lord Mayor and Alderman of the city.

Considering that Janus looked both to the past and the future, it seems only appropriate we recognize the origins of the title of janitor and give those who clean our buildings the respect they deserve as we look to the future.

For more information on Janitor University or to attend our upcoming class Oct. 25-27, please go to https://managemen.com/training/janitor-university/.