Eric Herman: Cure For Complacency
Eric Herman meets regularly with his team to discuss changes that will better the cleaning practices.

Eric Herman, Public Services Manager
City of Austin — Building Services, Texas

Under Eric Herman’s direction, the City of Austin became the first municipality in the United States to achieve Green Seal certification — a fitting testament to his leadership. But when Herman was first hired as public services manager in the building services department, accomplishing this goal seemed like a pipedream.

“Our Green Seal certification had been languishing for several years because Eric’s predecessor lacked the initiative and tenacity required to complete the process,” says Jill Cogburn, building services manager. “Eric was able to break through barriers to complete the monumental task.”

Some of those barriers included apathetic staff, inadequate policies and procedures, and outdated cleaning equipment.

“The department needed to come out of the dark ages and step into the future,” Herman admits.

He began changing processes and equipment, introducing no-touch restroom cleaning systems, color-coded buckets and mops, and microfiber towels. He also implemented the 5S workplace organization method (sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain) in the city’s core buildings to maintain an orderly workspace and improve efficiency.

“We’ve done three projects on the public safety training campus and the difference is amazing,” says Herman. “In the janitor’s closet, everything was everywhere, and you tripped over stuff to get to anything. Now, if there’s a janitor’s cart missing, you know it’s out on the floor somewhere. So it takes the guesswork out of it for the custodians: Everything’s in its place, and they know where it is and where to put it back.”

Herman also introduced cleaning plans to help custodians stay on track.

“Before, they just got to it when they felt like it,” he says. “Now, the cleaning plan holds them accountable and gives them something to strive for.”

Additionally, he invested in a data management system to track inventory and aid with inspections — a boon for managers.

“We really needed to start collecting data,” says Herman. “Now we can place orders and do inventory transfers. We set up all our sites so we can do weekly inspections, and we can generate building performance reports.”

According to Peggy Lee Pleasant, business process consultant, Herman instills a sense of pride and purpose in his staff and garners their support when introducing new initiatives.

“Eric did an excellent job of rallying his supervisors and his staff to achieve Green Seal certification,” she says. “That speaks to how he’s been able to change the culture of our division. The Green Seal certification is a feather in the cap of building services, but our department has also been very enthusiastic about changing the workforce and emphasizing quality.” 

Thanks to Herman, complacency is no longer a concern. The staff has the policies, procedures and practices in place to get the job done, and they feel appreciated for the work they do.

“I don’t ever look down on my custodians,” says Herman. “They’re very important because they are the backbone of our operation. We instill performance excellence in every one of our employees, and we make sure that everyone’s on the same page. They see that enthusiasm in me and it rubs off on them, so everybody wants to provide exceptional service.”

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