Lisa Ferrell: Maid To Mentor
Lisa Ferrell works very hard with her team to implement changes that improve processes and worker morale.

Lisa Ferrell, Housekeeping Manager for University Facilities Management
Kent State University, Ohio

Lisa Ferrell never suspected that her retirement would be the catalyst for a new career. But that’s exactly what happened when she retired from Delphi Automotive Systems and found that she had more time on her hands then she knew what to do with.

Ferrell soon traded autos for autoscrubbers when she landed a job as a custodian in the student center of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Before long she was promoted to a supervisor position and after a few years applied for a position in resident services where she — in her words — became a sponge.

“I had a great mentor and we worked very well together,” she recalls. “I was also selected to participate in our college’s Institute for Excellence, a year-long program sponsored by the Human Resources department that focuses on administration.”

After completing the program, Ferrell became housekeeping manager for university facilities management where she currently supervises 110 employees and oversees 70 buildings spanning 5 million sq. ft. of cleaning space.

With such a large staff, it can be challenging to get everyone on the same page. But Ferrell makes it happen: “When you have as many people and shifts as we do, oftentimes they don’t see each other as a team,” she says. “So when we do our training we bring everyone together so they all hear the same thing at the same time. They need to see that they’re all part of a larger group.”

At the same time, Ferrell ensures that each employee feels valued, and his or her voice is heard.

“Their feedback is, bar none, the most important thing,” she states. “Allowing them the opportunity to voice their opinions and empower them at those training sessions brings a true sense of accomplishment.”

According to Gregory Evans, custodial supervisor, Ferrell engages her staff at all times when implementing changes or introducing new cleaning equipment.

“She’s not just an office manager,” he says. “She’s very active in the buildings. She tries very hard to change things for the better, and if something does change that doesn’t work out, she’s willing to try something else or go back to the original way.”

During the summer, Ferrell secured a couple of golf carts for the department, allowing crew leaders to navigate the campus more easily and take on additional tasks, thereby freeing up supervisors to expand their duties.

She also provided her team with shorts to improve their comfort. “Getting us shorts sounds like a small thing, but it means a lot,” says Evans. “It gets very hot in the summer, and now everyone has shorts to wear as part of their uniform.”

While Ferrell has thrived in an academic environment, her most valuable lessons come from her staff.

“It’s amazing how much you can learn just by listening to people,” she says. “When I walk my buildings, I try to connect with people. I tell them what a great job they’re doing and listen to their feedback. As a leader, you definitely have to listen.”

Ferrells’ positive outlook and dedication have earned her several awards, including the university’s President’s Excellence Award. But what makes her most proud is the job that she and her team do for the university on a daily basis to provide a safe, comfortable and healthy learning environment.

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