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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.

___________________

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.

What We’re Lovin’: The FIT Start Program at The University of Texas at Austin

Few would argue that custodial work is tough business. Not only does it come without much prestige or recognition, it also requires a lot of physical exertion — more succinctly, “elbow grease.” In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts custodians near the top of the list of occupations with the highest rates of injury-causing days away from work in the U.S.

Most of these injuries are caused by overexertion, or pushing the body past its limit.

Someone who has overexerted themselves can experience a variety of issues, including swelling in the joints, pain, soreness, numbness, muscle weakness and repetitive injuries down the road. It can also lead to increased workers’ compensation claims and labor costs—which already amount for almost one-third of a total facilities’ budget.

But the thing is, the majority of injuries related overexertion are preventable. We’ve found that the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT Austin) Fit Start Program is one smart approach to helping prevent these injuries.

In 2010, the UT Austin custodial management team recognized the need to address the daily physical strains experienced by custodial staff, so they partnered with the Kinesiology Department’s Fitness Institute of Texas. The group studied the daily work and cleaning tasks of each custodial worker and developed a customized program aimed to reduce the risk of injury and prepare the custodial department for the demands of the day. After conducting a series of trials to see what worked and didn’t work for the team, the program was implemented with the goal of preparing employees for the day and reducing the risk of injury.

Every morning, the custodial team warms up before each shift. The routine consists of five simple movements that are not exercises or stretches, but activities specifically designed to accomplish the following:

  • Increase blood flow to the muscles that are needed to perform custodial work.
  • Increase the communication between an individual’s brain and muscles to help reduce the risk of injury.

Following the acronym detailed in the program’s name, the moves consist of the following:

S: Swing the Arms

T: Twist the Body

A: Alternate and Sink

R: Reach and Fold

T: Touch and Toss

While the thought of doing warm up exercises before each shift may seem silly or unnecessary, it can have several benefits if you do it the right way. In addition to reducing injuries, it can offer an opportunity to engage workers and have some fun. It also shows them that you care about them and their well-being—and what’s not to love about that?

We love the program so much that we’ve incorporated it into our (OS1) Program to improve the safety of cleaning professionals everywhere.

The Cleaning Gazette – January 2015

Now Available: (OS1) Career Map

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During Class 65 of Janitor University in Salt Lake City, the new (OS1) Career Map was introduced. The map details the educational odyssey for a cleaning worker. Specifically, this new visual aid details the road of becoming a cleaning professional.

It highlights career learning milestones such as: (OS1) Boot Camp, Certification, Floor/Carpet Certification, Janitor University, Workloading, Benchmarking, Awards and Recognition.

The Career Map is now available for purchase in the ManageMen online store.

(OS1) Expert Trainer Dates Announced

Ok, (OS1) Coaches and Trainers mark your calendars! We have determined the dates for the (OS1) Expert Trainer class in 2012. The class will take place at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Florida May 17-18, 2012. Registration is now open. Click on the following link for more details about the class:

More information about (OS1) Expert Trainer

 

Advanced Carpet Care & Intro to Drying Workshop Dates announced.

We are pleased to announce that dates have been established and registration is now open for the (OS1) Advanced Carpet Care & Intro to Drying Workshop. This event will take place June 29-30, 2011 at The Kellogg Convention Center in East Lansing, MI.

For workshop details and registration, please click here.