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.
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.
“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
The University of Texas at Austin
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
If you don’t read the Harvard Business Review, you may want to check it out. While there’s only a limited number of articles you can read each month without a subscription, they always offer great insights and ideas to help you become a better manager.
“How to Mentor Someone Who Doesn’t Know What Their Career Goals Should Be” by authors Tania Luna and Jordan Cohen was featured on HBR.org earlier this week and it really resonated with us. So often, custodial managers tell us that they struggle to get staff excited about the work we do. Some people see a gig in custodial like the game “hot potato.” As soon as they get in the position, they want out. But a lot of times, these people don’t even know what they do next.
The fact that the U.S. is experiencing an increasingly tight labor market with tougher immigration policies doesn’t help either. While not widely addressed in our industry at this point, these conditions can lead to that labor shortages that will continue to plague cleaning departments everywhere. That’s why it’s important that we look at our teams and help them build useful skills that may not only transfer to other areas within our businesses, but also help them more clearly see the longer-term impact of their work in custodial.
Often, custodial is looked at as the “gateway” department for many reasons. Some people may take a job to get their foot in the door with a specific employer. Others may find a job in custodial because they are new to the U.S. and speak little English. Someone might take a job in a custodial department at a college or university to help get tuition reimbursement for a child or family member.
Add to this the fact that custodial work is extremely tough with little recognition, so job satisfaction is low. According to the HBR article, this condition isn’t isolated to the facility management industry. Authors cite a study that found 70 percent of employees across several industries reported are dissatisfied with the career opportunities available to them — a key driver for retention and engagement. Further, 75 percent of employers said they expect to face a shortage of qualifications and skills from employees.
Authors suggest that rather than looking at a “career path,” we need to change the way we look at a more growth-based framework.
“Consider the etymology of the word “career.” It comes from the 16th-century word for “road.” When we envision a career, we imagine a direct path with a final destination. And not long ago, this concept was useful. Career growth meant attaining incremental increases in prestige and compensation. You could look at the past and use it as a gauge of the future — taking the steps that others took to get to where they got. This vision of career growth no longer matches reality. We no longer need to be good at predicting the future; we now have to succeed when the future is unpredictable. We have to abandon the career myth and create a new framework for personal and professional growth.”
When mentoring an employee, the inevitable question we most often default to is “what are your career goals?” Rather than having a person focus on rungs on a ladder — for example, becoming a supervisor or assistant director—ask questions about the nature of the work, such as “what types of work do you want to do less of and more of?” And, “What strengths do you have that you can build on?” This helps employees thing more critically about their responsibilities and personal growth potential.
The article’s authors also suggest “focusing on transferable skills.” By empowering employees to “diversify their career capital” and think about a variety of transferable skills, such as communication, public speaking, management, etc., we help them find ways to grow personally and professionally. Within the (OS1) System, we have a language we call “OS1ian” that offers non-English speakers a fundamental set of vocabulary words they can use within the custodial operations, but also will be helpful for them in other areas of life.
In a mentorship dynamic, you might ask someone what type of skills they would like to build upon to become more effective in their current position or what skill gaps they feel are holding them back?
Authors suggest we “create milestones” to acknowledge growth and achievements, because titles no longer represent advancement.
“One way we’ve done this is to create badges that demarcate growth. For example, when managers receive training, they receive a certificate. To get their next badge, they must complete an advanced program. A badge system can demarcate skills, knowledge, and achievements — creating a portfolio of accomplishments rather than a traditional résumé.”
Training is such a critical part of what we do, so think about how your training program is structured to recognize achievement. Incentivize employees to accomplish a new set of milestones, such as a learning track in ergonomics or blood borne pathogens. This provides them with useful skills that empowers them, while also enabling them to grow professionally.
By the nature of the work, custodial departments will prevail as the “gateway” department for labor. But this uniquely positions custodial managers to help employees not only shape their futures, but form critical skills that will help them along the way — in custodial in beyond.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- How well do you think this product worked?
- Do you think this product will improve the way you clean (creating cleaner buildings or making it easier for you to clean)?
- Do you anticipate any issues with this product? If so, what?
- 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.
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.