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Training the Trainers

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

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

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

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

This is not the same thing.

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

Qualified through Testing

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

Brandon Baswell, Michigan State University

Dominic Bratta, DNM Training and Consulting, LLC

Joseph Garcia demonstrates proper vac cord care.

William Carroll, Eurest Services

Chuck Crawley, Sandia National Labs

Rebecca Delap, Michigan State University

Joseph Garcia, Victor Valley College

Minda Gorsline, Michigan State University

Jeff Hawkins, Provo City School District

Lorenzo Meza, Mt. San Antonio College

Guido Piccarolo, Los Angeles Habilitation House

Judy Ramirez, Michigan State University

Joshua Sego, Michigan State University

Scott Spencer, Eurest Services

Anna Tobias, University of Michigan

Anna Atencio-Torres, Sandia National Labs

What Makes the (OS1) Trainer Course Unique

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Symposium Recap

“Please raise your hand if this is your first Symposium,” Kristie McNealy, MD, Executive Director of the Simon Institute instructed the packed room. More than a dozen hands shot up in the air. “Welcome! We have a great lineup of presentations and activities planned,” she promised. Two days later at the conclusion of the conference, attendees agreed—the 17th Annual Symposium at the Westgate in Park City, Utah, delivered. 

Facility professionals from across the country gathered at the annual event where (OS1) users and other cleaning executives discuss best practices and learn about new tools and equipment to improve safety and productivity within their custodial operations. It’s different from other industry conferences in that a majority of the sessions highlight actual product trials—speakers offer candid reviews of how a product or system worked within a facility. 

Simon Institute is an ANSI-Accredited Standards Developer, and McNealy kicked off the event with an exciting update about the status of the Safe Use of Cleaning Chemicals- ANSI/SI BSR SI-0001—it will soon go out for public review and comment. 

The first day of sessions included several talks on improving safety for custodial workers. Guido Piccarolo, CEO, discussed how new tools from Unger Enterprises that made custodial work easier for workers with disabilities at Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH). Flint Belk from the Workers Compensation Fund discussed ongoing safety issues within the custodial industry in his presentation “Right to Understand: Preventing Accidents by Following OSHA/ANSI Standards for Chemical Safety.” 

Additional sessions covered topics including strategies for improving recycling diversion rates, understanding blockchain technology and future applications within the facility management industry and ways workers and cleaning organizations can leverage the gig economy.

During the evening, attendees donned in evening gowns and tuxedos enjoyed dinner before the annual Cleaning Industry Awards ceremony. Janitors from as far as Barbados were recognized for their performance, as Mark Unger from Unger Enterprises presented the Outstanding Cleaning Worker Awards. 

Additional award recipients include:

(OS1) Green Certified Programs of Merit

• The University of Texas at Austin – L. Theo Bellmont Hall

• The University of Texas at Austin – Engineering Education and Research

• Mt. San Antontio College – Business and Computer Technology Complex, Buildings 77, 78, 79

(OS1) Green Certified Programs of Excellence

• GMI Building Services – Torrey Plaza

• Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM

• The University of Texas at Austin – Sid Richardson Hall

Best (OS1) Audit

Sandia National Labs

Workloading Award 

The University of Texas at Austin

Safety Award

Sandia National Labs

Training Program Award

The University of Texas at Austin

Trainer of the Year Award

Jeff Hawkins – Provo City School District

Best Cleaning Team Award

GMI Building Services

Best Cleaning Program

The University of Texas at Austin

 

For the first year, Simon Institute also presented the following new awards: 

“Stay the Course” — The University of Michigan 

“Research and Development” — Michigan State University 

“Inspiration” — Los Angeles Habilitation House

Wednesday morning kicked off with an impressive presentation on the superior ergonomic performance of the custodial program at Sandia National Laboratories from Cynthia Rivera, CSP, SSH, CEAS I, a health and safety specialist. Additional presentations covered the performance improvements of ProTeam’s battery pack vacuums and an insightful commentary on the successful career of the 2018 Pinnacle Award Winner, John Lawter. John Walker concluded the event with his presentation, “Risky Business: The Legal Ramifications of Balancing Workloads, Locsei versus Mayfield School District, Ohio.”

Attendees to this year agreed, the breadth of information and relevant insights presented this year was unparalleled. 

“At the center of everything we do is the person who does the work. I thought that all of the sessions at this year’s Symposium focused on improving the dignity and safety of the worker.”

—Guido Piccarolo of Los Angeles Habilitation House

“I just took on a new training position and found a lot of great information and tools I will be able to integrate into our program. It’s great to network with other universities and hear what is working for them.”

— Josh Sego, Michigan State University

“This was my first time attending. I found the people to be very welcoming and it enabled me to better understand the big picture of the industry.”

— Judy Ramirez, Michigan State University

“I always learn at these events. The best way to learn is from the people who are performing the work so we can improve our products. The content this year was also really good and engaging.”

— Rich Steinberg, ProTeam

“This was my first Symposium. I found it provided a great opportunity to network and make connections with other manufacturers and OS1 organizations.”

— Adrian Cook, 3M

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.

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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. 

Why You Need to Seriously Think About Attending Symposium This August

There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this blog post, you’ve heard us talk about Symposium. This annual gathering of facility management professionals has been happening for almost 20 years now, and each year, we welcome both new and familiar faces to the two-day event. 

But if you haven’t attended or even heard about Symposium, here’s a quick download: The Simon Institute Symposium (previously known as the (OS1) Users Symposium), is an annual gathering of professionals representing different areas of the cleaning industry who meet and discuss best practices for a custodial operation. If you go, you’ll hear presentations from professionals at some of the top organizations throughout the country, including the United States Postal Service, Sandia National Labs, University of Texas – Austin, and many more, about proven strategies that have improved at least one area of their custodial operation. In fact, you can check out several past presentations here.

In addition to the incredible knowledge and information sharing, attendees also benefit from networking with industry experts. You see, Symposium isn’t exclusively attended by facility management professionals, but also members of the Cleaning Industry Alliance and other representatives, such as researchers, safety experts and more. 

But what really sets Symposium apart from other industry events is that it’s formatted to facilitate an exchange of ideas. Those who have attended will tell you that sessions are extremely interactive and are designed to foster dialogue between everyone in the room. If you are serious about improving your custodial operations, the Simon Institute wants you to take home several actionable ideas to try.

Interested? Even a little bit? Here are five more reasons why you should consider attending.

  1. Explore Park City! The event starts on Monday, so think about arriving a little earlier to enjoy all that Park City, Utah, and the surrounding mountains have to offer. Take a drive through Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway; check out Olympic Park, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics; or hop around downtown and enjoy the great culinary treasurers of the city. Whatever your interest, you’ll find it in Park City.
  2. Enjoy a personalized experience. Symposium isn’t a huge event attended by thousands. In fact, the Simon Institute intentionally keeps the group small so people have the opportunity to truly connect and network with one another. Maybe you listened to a presentation from Flynt Belk from the Workers’ Compensation Fund about performing a risk analysis and have some follow-up questions for him. This format will enable you to easily connect with him during a networking break or dinner and address those questions.
  3. It’ll make you smarter. No really, Symposium speakers are leaders in their field. You’ll hear actual case studies of proven strategies that have worked to reduce costs, engage workers, improve safety or address other common issues experienced by facility management professionals. The goal of Symposium is to identify and discuss best practices to make your custodial operation better. 
  4. Enjoy the top awards program for the cleaning industry. Each year, the Simon Institute hands out several awards during our “Cleaning Industry Awards Banquet.” Billed as the top awards program in the cleaning industry, it recognizes the top leaders, innovators and achievers in the industry. Also special to the program is the industry’s only awards program for cleaning workers. Several organizations bring their top performing staff to be recognized during this special event. 
  5. You’ll leave inspired. Attendees to Symposium agree—there’s a special buzz you get when you attend Symposium. The quality of attendees, presentations and experience will leave you excited about new things you can try to make your custodial operation clean better, more safely and in the most efficient way possible. 

“[At the 2017 Simon Institute Symposium] I was joined by roughly 75 high-ranking facility executives determined to create best practices and better benchmarks for their departments and the industry as a whole,” said Corinne Zudonyi, Editor-in-Chief of Facility Cleaning Decisions and Cleanlink.com. “Sessions included the sharing of successes from some of the largest and most innovative cleaning programs across the country.”

If you’re thinking about joining us in August and would like to talk to a previous attendee about what you can expect, let us know. We’ll put you in touch with someone.  But don’t wait too long! Our early bird rate expires July 1st and the hotel block at the exclusive Westgate Park City expires July 7th and our group code is S/O 63-244. Click here to reserve your seat!

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Five Easy Ways to Attract More Millennials to the Cleaning Industry

Millennials seek engagement, so by giving them a voice and asking for their input, you can help increase their workplace satisfaction.

The “greying” of the cleaning industry is a hot button topic for a lot of people these days. Over the next few years, we’ll experience a mass exodus as baby boomers leave the cleaning industry to retire. According to a recent article in Contracting Profits, one third of janitors and one third of supervisors are age 55 and over. But this situation isn’t unique to end-user segment—we can also expect to see vacancies throughout the manufacturer and distributor side of the industry too.

Of additional concern is that very few organizations are planning for what happens after these workers leave. A recent reader survey from Facility Cleaning Decisions found that more than half of custodial managers (56 percent) do not have a succession plan in place for themselves and/or a manager on their staff.

The need for attracting younger talent to the industry is very real, as we risk losing a lot of tribal knowledge as retirees pack their bags. But when we talk about attracting millennials to our industry, we need to move past the technology conversation. Sure, most millennials were born with a cellphone in their hands, but that doesn’t necessarily exempt the cleaning industry from being appealing to a younger demographic. In fact, there are several things about it that could be appealing to younger workers — depending on how your department is structured. We’ve pulled together a list of simple things we can do to make any department—from jan/san sales to custodial operations—more appealing to millennials and beyond.

  1. Give younger workers a voice. Rarely do managers tap new employees for input. Understandably, we spend a lot of time talking—talking as we train on policies and procedures. Talking as we introduce them to other coworkers and staff. But we also should spend time listening to these new workers. By engaging them and asking them for their impressions on a regular basis, we help give them a voice—something that is important to a generation that seeks closer relationships with their bosses and more engagement. 
  2. Talk about the importance of cleaning. Millennial workers want work that has more meaning—they aren’t as happy making widgets for company XYZ as their parents were 20 years ago. They want to know that their work makes a difference and helps others. As such, we should help them understand the importance of cleaning—how cleaning not only plays a big role in the health of building occupants, but also in their productivity. Use it as a talking point during the interview process and in ongoing meetings.
  3. Create more opportunities for women. The cleaning industry has long been known as a male-dominated industry, but there are many women who have created successful careers for themselves in the cleaning industry. Initiatives such as mentorship programs to workplace inclusion policies can help increase the number of opportunities to women and create diversity in our workplaces. 
  4. Give back to the community. Cleaning is a service-based industry, and a service that can be easily used when it comes to giving back to the surrounding community. Organizing events where your department can help clean-up a local non-profit, provide products to a shelter or even work with a local organization to provide job training will not only benefit the community, but can be attractive to socially-minded millennials. 
  5. Make [more] learning opportunities available. Growing up with the internet has its benefits, and an increased hunger for education and learning is one. The high school graduation is the highest in more than two decades (72 percent) and of those graduates, 68 percent have enrolled in college. Because these workers are constantly consuming information through digital devices, workplaces should make sure workers also have access to the information and opportunities they need to perform their jobs to peak performance. Even if your workplace doesn’t provide reimbursement programs, work with employees who demonstrate an interest in ongoing education to create time for them to attend events. 

Low unemployment rates are making the fight for quality employees tougher than ever and professionals everywhere are starting to see that we can’t just do things the way we’ve always done them if we want to attract and retain young professionals to our workplaces. Keeping these strategies in mind will help make sure your organization is prepared for future success.

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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.

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.

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.

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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

Four Things Every Custodial Job Description Should Include

Job descriptions. These generic and ambiguous paragraphs are often inherited from predecessors, borrowed from colleagues or downloaded from an industry website. Because it’s such a painstaking activity, we rarely tackle the daunting task of crafting a job description from scratch.

Over the years, we have found that job descriptions are one of the most overlooked and underutilized aspects of managing a custodial department; yet, they are are critical to reducing liability, arbitrating union grievances, hiring, bidding projects, training and managing custodial workers. They are a fundamental building block upon which you can build the rest of your cleaning operation, so they should be written in a way that is not only reflective of the job and work being performed, but in a way that provides the individual performing the task with a clear understanding of HOW to perform the work.

But sadly, that rarely happens. Assigned to workers throughout our custodial departments, the descriptions capture highlights of responsibilities associated with a certain position, but do not include specifics, like the nuances specific to a facility. For example, I once was at a school where the janitor was responsible for “vacuuming floors” even though there wasn’t any carpet or soft flooring in the building.

So what are a few essential components of a quality job description and how can you use job descriptions as a building block for training custodial workers?

  1. FUNCTIONS: The functions outline all of the essential responsibilities of the job. This includes specific cleaning assignments based on the function. For example, within the (OS1) System, functions of a Utility Specialist include responsibilities such as cleaning glass, hauling trash to the dumpster and cleaning first impression areas.
  2. SPECIFICS/ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: With the general functions covered, the additional information section provides supplementary information to the key functions. For example, this might include safety information (e.g. lift equipment and trash bags safely using legs) or general reminders (e.g. keep the necessary keys for your area on you at all times throughout your shift).
  3. NOTES: The notes section offers a place where either additional responsibilities that become part of the job can be captured. For example, if a new table is placed in a conference area, you should list this in the notes to be added to the functions at a later time.

While these are three key elements to a quality job description, what separates a good job description from a great one is a flow chart. The flow chart provides a visual representation of the steps the custodial worker should take to complete their responsibilities. Following a top to bottom approach, it also identifies each task that needs to be completed and the order in which it should be completed, reducing opportunities for redundancies or overlooked areas. A flow chart shows where you start, where you finish and every step in between.

A flow chart offers specific instructions on what to clean in what order and is included in a Scouting Report for each employee. This reduces confusion and inconsistencies in cleaning.

A modern version of the traditional job description should be a living, breathing part of your operation that is continually changing and evolving. It’s something that has taken us more than 20 years to develop with some of the most advanced facility management programs out there. We use Scouting Reports in the (OS1) System and these three to four page booklets are utilized by custodial workers in ISO-9000 organizations across the U.S.

A quality job description is something every custodial worker deserves. It’s the foundation of a quality cleaning operation.

Looking for comprehensive job descriptions for your custodial operation? Check our the ManageMen Store for a set of common custodial positions: https://managemenstore.com/trainers/scouting-reports.html.