It was what most people consider the dead of night. The room was filled with with seasoned managers from a large cleaning operation. I had been brought in to this meeting to talk about a new cleaning program and help deflect any resistance that might come up. I was told beforehand that there would be opposition and resentment from the managers and that most of them were skeptical about the new program.

I thought it would be interesting to take a couple of polls before we got started. I asked this group two questions that I have never asked at any of my seminars or training programs. The first question I asked was, “Who taught you how to clean?”

Most people said they had learned to clean from watching their caregivers at a young age. The group came to the slow realization that, although they had learned from these figures, none of them had ever really taught them how to clean. One gentleman made the interesting point that he was responsible for more cleaning in one night than his mother did in 10 years.

The second question I asked the group was ,“I want you to describe what your first day was like as a cleaning worker.” Every single manager in the room very vividly recalled their first day – some with a shake of the head. All but one told of the first night on the job being one of confusion, getting lost and being abandoned by their managers. Most thought that the bosses had left them alone to fend for themselves.

Only one person said that she had actually received proper training. The trainer spent a few nights with this person, showing her the ropes and helping her learn to clean. Others spoke of neglect and chaos. They made mistakes, formed bad habits, damaged surfaces and received complaints. Collectively, this group realized that they had never been properly trained.

With that premise in mind, we began the basic training program. The group became very open to discussion and felt very comfortable asking questions. There was little resistance and skepticism was used mainly to deepen understanding. Once these managers realized that they had never been adequately trained, they wanted to make sure that didn’t get passed down to their crews. They started to take a very active part in the training program and wanted to figure out how to take the training back to their employees.

At the end of this program, I handed out certificates resembling college diplomas. I’m always astonished at how much this means to the groups. I had one gentleman who spoke very little English come up to me with moist eyes. As he took my arm and squeezed my hand, he said, “This is very important.” It really struck me what an important thing it is to train and recognize the people we work with. Frequently, we underestimate the importance of recognition. From managers right down to the front line workers, never underestimate how much recognition means to them.