Starting Over Forced to do more with less, one housekeeping executive goes back to the drawing board to increase efficiency
In these tough times, many organizations are learning to work around shrinking budgets. Smaller staffs, aging equipment and nonexistent pay raises are some challenges housekeeping departments face in their goals to keep facilities clean and customers satisfied.
We were required to reduce our budget substantially, says Larry Armstrong, director of general services for Carnegie Museums in Pittsburg, which has almost 650,000 square feet of in-house-cleaned space.
As a result, Armstrong began reorganizing the museums entire general services department about a year ago, including the custodial staff and procedures. He started by taking a look at the number of custodians on staff, the areas to be cleaned and the cleaning strategies used. What he found was that each custodian cleaned differently.
Someone might use paper towels while someone else might use rags for the same task, Armstrong says.
He wanted to come up with one general cleaning standard. A lot of questions needed answers what are the best methods for cleaning, how long should it take, what areas should be cleaned when, what products and equipment work best, what is the most efficient, and so on.
Armstrong contacts other museums and area universities to compare notes. He even took bids from contractors and asked them about their cleaning operations. What Armstrong found was that most other organizations cleaned at night, including the contractors, while his staff cleaned during the day. He realized visitors and museum staff would be disrupted less if custodians did more cleaning at night.
Having many long-term employees most have been on staff for 20-30 years he wanted to try working with the staff he had. Shuffling staff schedules, positions and job duties is not easy at any level, but Armstrong said he had few problems walking his custodians through the changes.
I talked to the staff and found out that a number of people actually wanted to work at night, he says.
Armstrong then took a look at some of the custodians daytime responsibilities such as landscaping, snow removal and restrooms to figure out how many custodians had to work during the day. He went through the seniority process to then come up with a schedule.
The custodial staff has slimmed down from 35 to 30 since the start of the reorganization process. Four of the five workers were lost through attrition and one was offered early retirement.
In a final step to do more with less, he recently hired a consultant to help him evaluate the organizations cleaning products and equipment, and its cleaning strategies, as well as start a formal training program.
Armstrong says some employees do not understand why he is changing things and it is going to take a while for them to adjust.
Improvements take time when youre working with people who have done things a certain way for 20-30 years, he says. We try to work with them, see their logic and often have discussions about [the changes].
For example, Armstrong says hell stop custodians in the hallway to talk with them and verify what theyre hearing about the changes. He assures them things will improve over time.
Its a constant working process," he says. "Weve made changes, and weve made major strides.
Housekeeping With a Smile Customer service training creates a more friendly environment and keeps hospital on top
When you think of customer service and customer relations, you dont immediately think of the housekeeping and janitorial staff.
That trend is changing, and on the forefront of that change is Baptist Hospital of Pensacola, Fla.. Baptist has nurtured a culture in their hospital that makes rudeness unacceptable at any level, from the housekeeping and janitorial staff up to department heads, nurses and doctors.
All employees are working on the same team with the goal to serve the organizations customers.
In the past, housekeepers and other janitorial staff were told to clean and be quiet; now we want them to interact with the customer as well as other staff to give the best service possible, says Betty Gerard, director of environmental services.
With that in mind, the hospitals department of environmental services put together an intensive training program to help develop their staffs customer service skills.
All new employees go through a series of training workshops that prepares them for their positions. In fact, each employee that finishes the environmental services training comes out a certified environmental technician.
At this point, training in most places would be finished, but not at Baptist Hospital. Instead Baptist employees are ready for customer service training, which includes such activities as scripting and role playing.
Scripting is what it sounds like: a script, or lines that employees practice and recite. These little phrases or questions are essential to Baptists customer service success.
The script that we use is, Hello, my name is (blank). I am going to (describe task). Is this a good time for you, or would you like me to come back later? After the job is finished, the staff member should ask if there is anything else they can do for the customer before they leave, Gerard says.
This scripting helps with the interaction between staff members and patients, and ensures that each customer feels the staff member cares.
Role playing is another tool that the hospital uses to improve the customer service skills of their employees.
Staff members act out different situations from both the staff and customer perspective. Some of these encounters are videotaped for review.
The new staff members get a chance to be on both sides and see each situation from customers points of view, says Gerard. They also see themselves on video, and that is a great teaching tool as well.
All of these aforementioned factors have contributed to Baptists success and a spot on Fortune magazines Best 100 places to work.
D.M. Maas is a free-lance writer based in Milwaukee, Wis.
Preparing for More on the Floor
For some, the thought of school starting up again is associated with the high-pitched squeaks of tennis shoes once again shuffling across a shiny, maple gymnasium floor. For custodians, back to school" means an annual screening and recoating of that gym floor.
"The floor should never be allowed to wear to the point where the game lines are being eliminated or bare wood starts to appear. [At that point,] the damage is almost always irreversible," says the Sports Flooring Group, a Monroe, N.C.-based subcontractor that installs, maintains and renovates sports arena floors. An annual screening and refinishing will help prevent wear and tear.
After cleaning the floor with an autoscrubber, use a propane buffer with a light, white or red pad to complete the top screening, which breaks up the top layers of the old finish, says Al Posadas, sales and marketing representative for the Sports Flooring Group. He then recommends applying a high-grade finish consisting of 50 percent solid V.O.C.-compliant finish, which allows you to apply only one coat rather than the normally recommended two. That way, he says, "the mounds of finish dont become compounded over the year, [which] saves on cost and man-hours."
Only experts in wood floor care with the right tools and equipment should attempt to screen and refinish gym floors. Posadas encountered an instance where, in an attempt to refinish the floor, a man cut a PVC pipe to about 5 feet in length and connected two mop heads to the end. Dipping this makeshift mop into a 32-gallon garbage can filled with finish, he simply mopped the finish right onto the floor.
"The man was supposedly a floor guy [who] had low-bidded the product," Posadas says.
Jenna Harris, contributing editor
Bringing Out the Best in Your Staff
More often than not, meetings and discussions tend to focus on problems: what went wrong and how to fix it. Add in some blame, at times.
New research and emerging theory show greater progress can be made by focusing on what already is going well and replicating these processes and practices.
Imagine beginning each meeting with Whats going well? or How did we exceed our projections? and What good news have we heard from customers this week? plus What made that job go smoothly?
Recent studies show that people far prefer to talk about good news than bad and will engage more often in work that focuses on successful practices. In fact, in the 1960s, organizational specialist Ronald Lippitt published his findings that when people talked about problems, they actually felt depressed.
Many people are accustomed to the problem-solving approach, and typically we use the fix-it mindset in strategic planning, process-improvement teams and in addressing cross-functional issues.
At first, talking about whats going well can seem awkward, yet people more readily will engage in discussions and in building on successes.
One logical question arises: How can we solve real problems if we dont talk about them?
Put whats going well first on the agenda. You may notice people will bring up shortcomings in the context of replicating successful methods, activities and practices.
Expect surprises: More success stories may surface of which managers and supervisors are not aware. New ideas often may quickly emerge and staff will begin building new ideas on existing, successful strategies.
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