When the pandemic started, everyone started cleaning but it became increasingly difficult to recruit and train cleaning workers. Josh Sego is an (OS1) Trainer and the 2019 (OS1) Trainer of the Year. He shares some of the updates he’s making to their training program along with advice for other custodial managers who are trying to evolve their training platforms in this new environment.
Tag Archive for: training cleaning workers
Approximately 70-75 percent of the custodial team at Provo City School District is comprised of students, so when schools closed in the spring, that left Jeff Hawkins and his team with a massive staffing shortage. With all hands on deck, staff from other departments pitched in to learn the (OS1) System and clean schools.
With so much of the current conversation focused around disinfection, Jeff talks about how the (OS1) System has prepared them for executing cleaning during a pandemic situation, so his team has the training, tools and program to keep students, teachers and staff safe.
Jeff Hawkins is the Director of Custodial Services with Provo City School District, which includes 18 schools — three high schools, two middle schools and 13 elementary. To clean the 2.5 million square feet in each of these buildings, the district employee 175 custodians. The majority of these custodians—or “sweepers” as they’re called locally—are high school students.
Yes, high school students.
Like most cleaning operations, turnover is also a major issue with this demographic. Jeff says that of the 175 custodial workers on his team, more than half stay for less than a year.
Many stay for just three to six months.
High turnover can be really costly for a business. But so can employee training. That said, many successful businesses, like McDonald’s, have been built using employees that leave in less than a year. Training is key to that success.
To maximize the amount of time students work for the department, Jeff works hard to target training to their interests. Basically, he finds creative ways to make custodial training more FUN.
“At the beginning of each school year, we kick things off with an event to get all of our staff excited for the job,” he says. “We create a party-like atmosphere that appeals to kids.”
That’s the key, says Hawkins.
There’s music. Pizza. Soda pop. Raffles. Games. Gift cards. We’d imagine that it feels more like spring break and less like work for most in attendance.
Hawkins has found a way to make work fun for the students. He also holds similar events throughout the year to keep them engaged. The result has been extremely positive, helping increase retention and building morale with workers.
Training Younger Workers: Jeff’s 5 R’s of Training Millennial Workers
Effective training is a key component of the (OS1) System. It’s why we make sure all (OS1) Trainers have passed rigorous testing to ensure their knowledge and capabilities. It’s why we provide workers with job cards to keep their responsibilities top of mind. It’s why we advocate for training that reaches all different learning types, like visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
With the demand for cleaning services on the rise and continued growth projected for cleaning workers, more organizations will need to focus their sites on training programs in the future.
Hawkins suggest that custodial professionals develop training programs around recognized motivators for younger generations.
These motivators might include achievement, recognition, emphasizing the value of the work, advancement and growth.
Something that would demotivate a younger worker might be heavy supervision.
As we look ahead, Hawkins offers the “5 R’s” of training younger employees, specifically, millennials:
- Research-based methods. Lectures are so yesterday! Group work and collaboration not only helps reinforce workers’ understanding and knowledge, it allows them to share with others. This approach is more appealing to Millennial mindsets. See how Jeff’s team collaborates with teachers on Earth Day below.
- Relevance: Use tools and technology that is relevant to what they are using, including mobile phone or tablet-based training tutorials.
- Rationale: Help workers understand why their work is so important. Provide studies and statistics that validate the impact of cleaning.
- Relax: Keep events warm and inviting. Make it inclusive for all ages and demographics.
- Rapport: Provide recognition and attention to workers. This not only builds relationships, but can also help them feel valued, which can reduce turnover.
Beyond the Party: Collaboration and Education
Each year, PSD teachers host Earth Day activities to highlight the importance of sustainability and protecting natural resources. To encourage collaboration, Jeff challenges head custodians to help teachers share the message of how (OS1) supports sustainability by limiting the amount of packaging, inventory and waste in a typical cleaning program.
Custodians participate in the Earth Day classroom activities, talking to children and encouraging them to touch and try on equipment used throughout the custodial operation. They share how chemicals are pre-portioned to prevent waste, Green Seal Certified to protect the environment, vacuums filter the air for cleaner breathing, the benefits of using microfiber flat mops, etc. This collaboration captivates students and custodial workers alike, allowing them to teach and learn in a different way.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.”
“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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Tom is an investment banker who doesn’t like his job. Every day, he gets dressed a suit and tie before heading into work and “spacing out” at his desk for at least an hour. Around mid-morning, he finally gets around to checking in on his client’s portfolios, and wonders why he ever got into this career. It sounded glamorous — the title of “investment banker” always sounded when he talked to family and friends, and the money was good—it just was never fulfilling for him. Tom checks all the boxes required in his job description and then checks out for the day.
Tom’s good friend, Sara, started out in investment banking but eventually landed a job as the Director of Environmental Services at a large hospital. It wasn’t the job she initially envisioned for herself, but Sara loved the work. She loved the interaction she had with her team, nurses, doctors, patients and visitors to the hospital. Days went quickly and she didn’t dread coming to work each day. In addition to making sure the hospital remained clean, Sara also worked on community outreach and education programs.
Tom makes a lot of money and has a prestigious title, so why does he hate his job? What makes Sara love her job so much? For as many Toms you meet, there are just as many Saras, so what’s the difference between the two? Is it the person or the work?
A recent episode of NPR’s “Hidden Brain” show explores this topic, looking specifically a group of cleaning workers in a hospital. Psychologist Amy Wrzeniewski of Yale University says that it’s not as much about the job we are performing, but how we think about the job that results in greater fulfillment.
In her research, Wrzeniewski found two distinct differences between a group of custodial workers. Group A described custodial work as not very highly skilled where Group B said the exact opposite— that their work was extremely skilled and it would be difficult for someone to replace them.
As she looked further into these characterizations and how the groups engaged with their work, Amy’s team found that Group A only performed the tasks that were expected of them. Like Tom, they were box checkers and did not go beyond the basic job description.
When asked to discuss their responsibilities, Group B also talked about the specific cleaning tasks, but also talked about the interactions they had with medical staff, visitors and patients. For example, one cleaner worked on a long-term rehabilitation floor where several patients suffered from comas. Recognizing that patients were not necessarily aware of their environments, this worker regularly rearranged the artwork with the hope that a minor alteration in their environment might assist with the healing process.
Other cleaners talked about how they would try to view the room from the patient’s vantage—looking up at the ceiling from the bed—to make sure they had removed any cobwebs or other issues.
Wrzeniewski calls this “job crafting” — or creating jobs that go beyond the standard description. People who “job craft” identify tasks and responsibilities within the scope of their position that engage them in other ways.
As a custodial professional who likely is responsible for managing a team of custodial workers, think about this not only in terms of your own personal development, but how you can help custodial workers on your team craft the scope of their work to find more fulfillment.
What are practical steps to job craft and find more meaning in your work? Amy suggests asking yourself (or your employees) the following:
1. What types of things do you enjoy and what tasks make you feel good? For example, if you enjoy interacting with patients and their families, can you find ways to better connect with them while you work? Are there tasks you can add to your job description that could relate to that interest?
2. What interpersonal relationships bring you the most enjoyment during your work day? From co-workers to building occupants, the relationships and interpersonal dynamics within the workplace can both be our greatest enjoyment and stress when it comes to our work. What are some ways we can enhance those relationships?
3. How does your organization benefit from your involvement? When researchers asked the custodians about their title, some gave their official title of a custodian or environmental services worker, but others said they were “healers.” Re-defining your role within the position can change your perspective while performing the work.
While this is just a quick summary of Amy’s research, definitely consider listening to the full episode. It takes less than 30 minutes— check it out here: https://www.npr.org/2018/07/30/634047154/you-2-0-dream-jobs
You can also check out one of Amy’s articles in the Harvard Business Review here: https://hbr.org/2010/06/managing-yourself-turn-the-job-you-have-into-the-job-you-want.
We’d love to hear more about how you find fulfillment in your job—chime in on Facebook!
Language. It’s one of the most beautiful yet challenging aspects of training custodial workers. Because many cleaners have either recently immigrated to the U.S. or are first-generation citizens, our trainers and auditors encounter a variety of languages in the field—Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Burmese, French and Polish, just to name a few. Within those languages, we encounter even more sub-languages; for example, Cubans in Florida speak a different dialect of Spanish than Guatemalans. The French spoken by Haitians is different than French spoken in Montreal. You can imagine the challenge this presents during training or when we create training materials for custodial workers.
One might think that because many immigrants tend to live in close-knit communities with others from their same region, that they may not want or need to learn English when they come to the U.S.; however, research points to the opposite. In the book “Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society,” researchers found that 99 percent of immigrant students studied felt that English was important for them to learn. Many immigrants want to learn English not only to assist with social interactions, but because they feel it’s critical for success—another study reveals that 85 percent of immigrants say that it is hard to get a good job or do well in the U.S. without learning English.
So how do we communicate with workers while also providing them with tools to educate and empower them? We do it with the language of (OS1ian). If you’ve ever spent any time in a hospital listening to doctors and nurses converse, you know that they have their own set of terms which can make it sound like they are speaking gibberish to anyone not in the medical profession. Similarly, lawyers communicate using “legalese”—technical jargon that fill legal documents. So, we asked, why not develop a professional language for the cleaning industry?
(OS1)ian — a universal language for the cleaning industry— was developed based on specialist duties and identifyed key terms associated with each position. Each position has approximately 45 basic words and 10 to 15 terms that a specialist must be able to use in their day-to-day operations. For example, the vocabulary of a vacuum specialist includes vac station, paddle tool and inspect plug. A light-duty specialist will learn terms like wastebasket, barrel and fill line.
To assist with literacy, specialists complete an (OS1)ian worksheet in Boot Camp with the key terms provided in greyscale. The intent isn’t to test or trick workers, but to help them develop both written and oral proficiency of the terms. As the cleaner adopts new responsibilities, their vocabulary will expand to include as many as 250 phrases, helping them develop a working English vocabulary.
Before rolling (OS1ian) out, we tested it with a third-shift crew at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who spoke Chinese, Russian and Romanian. It was met with an overwhelming reception—finally, we were all able to speak the same language. In years since, we’ve found that using a standardized vocabulary benefits workers with dyslexia, functional illiteracy and cognitive perception disorders.
When everyone speaks the same language, cleaning processes and systems are safer and more efficient —there are fewer misunderstandings and mistakes. But the benefits extend well beyond the workplace—learning (OS1ian) empowers workers personally as well. It provides them with common set of English terms to set them on a path of career success as they create a new life in the U.S.
❝The limits of my language are the limits of my world.❞
April is Earth month and Arbor Day is next Friday, April 28, so many people are talking sustainability. How can we help protect the Earth so it’s here for future generations? What can we do to reduce our environmental impact?
A large misconception we find in the cleaning industry is that people often use green cleaning products and think that this makes their operations “sustainable.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth—using green products is just a part of it. As an industry, we have a long way to go when it comes to reducing our environmental impact. There’s a lot of “waste” in our operations that goes well beyond the pollutants we’re working to remove.
First, a few facts. Commercial and institutional buildings in the U.S. annually consume:
- 6.2 billion pounds of chemicals
- 4.5 billion pounds of sanitary paper (about 30 million trees)
- 1 billion pounds of janitorial equipment
- 70 percent of the country’s electricity use, most of which is generated by coal-fired power plants.
The issue comes down to how we approach cleaning. Oftentimes, cleaning professionals are forced to be reactive when it comes to managing their inventory, equipment and other aspects of their operations.
Reports like, “We’re out of floor finish!” or, “This backpack vacuum is broken!” often drive new purchases—and understandably.
Supply shortages lead to downtime, which can lead to complaints, which NO ONE wants. Or they generate mistakes and service lapses when a cleaning worker substitutes products. So we place an order and the problem goes away…
But that floor finish? You weren’t really out. And that backpack vacuum just needed a new filter or carbon brush. When the new product arrives, the old stuff gets stashed into a closet somewhere. That’s the kind of waste that we’re talking about.
A truly “sustainable” cleaning operation will operate on a lean inventory, making the best use out of the products, equipment and people in the operation.
To help you identify potential areas of waste in your operation, we’ve identified a few common problem areas along with a list of questions you can ask to see if your department could be more efficient:
1. INVENTORY: What inventory controls do I have in place? Can cleaners use as much cleaning chemical as they want or are they kitted with the exact amount of product they need to complete the designated area? When they are done cleaning, what happens to the unused chemical? How do I track the amount of chemical used? How do I handle overstock (e.g. is there a system in place to sell or donate unused material?)?
A sustainable cleaning operation not only uses Green Seal certified products, but also outfits workers with the precise amount of chemical they need to clean for the day. Excessive chemical use (often resulting from the “more is better” philosophy) is one of the most common issues in the industry and not only costs you money, but also has an environmental impact, even when the products are green.
2. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE: How is the cleaning equipment maintained? Is the equipment visibly clean? Are carts free of personal items or unrelated/unwanted materials? Do I have an equipment maintenance program in place that ensures all equipment receives regular checks and replacements?
A sustainable cleaning operation has a preventative maintenance program in place to make sure that equipment is always clean and operational. When equipment reaches the end of its usable life, it is safely and properly disposed of, not tucked away in a cabinet somewhere.
3. LOGISTICS: Are the logistics of the inventory cabinet and waste disposal points optimized with the worker in mind? If they run out of a product, do workers have to go to another floor or area in order to restock?
A sustainable cleaning operation will take into consideration the routes of the cleaning workers and utilize drop points to limit the opportunity for stockpiling or hoarding product. Analyzing the logistical setup of cleaning workers’ paths can also help reduce worker injuries from issues like overexertion.
4. TRAINING: Have cleaning workers been thoroughly trained and possess a clear understanding of their responsibilities? Do they have an understanding of the risks associated with the job, such as improper chemical mixing or lifting the wrong way? Are cleaners recognized for their efforts and made to feel like valued contributors to the team?
A sustainable cleaning operation recognizes the critical component that its workers play and provides ongoing recognition. When workers are empowered and understand the importance of their job, they will be more likely to clean properly and effectively.
Albert Einstein is quoted with saying, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
By taking a hard look at your cleaning program and simplifying some of your processes through standardization, you can break things down to it’s easiest—and most simple—form, which will ultimately improve your sustainability.