I am proud to work in an industry where the American Dream of success through hard work and talent still applies. For proof, look no further than Guy Mingo, CEO of Marsden Services, the parent company of CleanPower.
Guy started working as a part-time janitor for Marsden Bldg Maintenance at the age of 17, was promoted to district manager within two years and was named president by age 24. Guy continued to work his way up the ladder, landing his current position in 2002. With a storied history like this, it is little wonder our company values internal promotions and views them as a sound business strategy.

Many janitorial firms have informal promotion opportunities, but to truly develop the next generation of your company’s leaders a formal “Career Path” program should be implemented. The program serves as a roadmap for employees with the ability and desire to accept more responsibility, including how they can move from cleaner to executive.

The first step is to create job descriptions for every level, and to set criteria to identify the necessary skills to succeed. For example, to move from cleaner to supervisor, skills such as delegation and follow-up are needed, as well as technical knowledge of cleaning. Proficiency should be demonstrated at each level before an employee can move up. Tools such as job-shadowing, classroom training and situational role-playing exercises can help prepare employees for expanded roles. Assigning a mentor, who has moved up through the ranks, to each candidate can provide guidance and advice.

Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to be on the management track will have the skill-set needed to succeed. Defining objective qualifications required for promotions removes emotion from the decision-making process and can help alleviate hurt feelings. Giving employees who are not ready to make the move to management alternative lead or training roles, with increasing responsibility, can demonstrate they still have an important place in the organization.

In order for the Career Path program to work it has to be an integral part of the company’s culture, and employees must have a clear picture of how they can advance within the organization. A good way to do this is to clearly outline the program during the interviewing and training processes. Another way is to highlight inspirational stories about managers who started out as cleaners in employee newsletters or website profiles. Giving opportunities to hard-working team members who have made the business successful will increase employee retention and improve overall morale.

Developing a management team with both internally promoted employees and seasoned managers hired externally produces a healthy mix of in-the-field experience and new ideas from outside the industry. Both are needed for the proper balance that will allow a firm to prosper and grow. A final benefit to internal development and promotion is the satisfaction of seeing the committed and resourceful people achieve goals they may not have believed were possible. 

Barbara Whitstone is the senior vice president of business operations for Milwaukee-based CleanPower, a Marsden Services Company. She has been with the company for more than 22 years, holding several positions in both operations and sales.

She is RBSM certified, a graduate of Ripon College and has been instrumental in CleanPower’s move to more sustainable cleaning processes. In December of 2010 she led the project to earn the Cleaning Institute Management Standard, Green Building (CIMS - GB) Certification for CleanPower, a designation which the company renewed last year.