Ada BaldwinAda Baldwin, MA, M.R.E.S.E.
Director for University Housekeeping
North Carolina State University

Babette BeeneBabette Beene
Environmental Services Manager
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Doreen BassertDoreen Bessert, C.E.S.E.
Worksite Placement Coordinator, Custodial Supervisor & Central Purchasing Agent
Manitowoc County DPW

Sandra HarshmanSandra Harshman
Custodial Superintendent
Clark County Department of Aviation
McCarran International Airport

Michael JonesMichael Jones
Director of Custodial Services
Columbia Public Schools

Gene WoodardGene Woodard, R.E.S.E.
Director of Building Services
University of Washington

What are some of the biggest challenges cleaning managers face?

Baldwin — One of the biggest challenges is the negative view toward the cleaning industry and the people that work in it. I have found that involvement with industry associations has helped communicate the importance of our industry. For example, IEHA and APPA have both provided leadership modules to assist me in becoming a strong leader within this industry. The associations have also provided resources and tools to assist in developing my organization and my team. Finally, great mentors and leaders have empowered me to overcome the challenge throughout my career. ISSA has also been a valuable resource with innovative technology and supplies in providing a more ergonomic and sustainable working environment. Green Seal and Building Wellness Institute has assisted in providing guidelines and training material to educate our staff in cleaning for health and the environment.

Beene — Staffing is a big challenge. We have about 100 discharges daily, along with daily cleans in the morning and room refresh at night. We deal with a lot of turnover.

Harshman — Long- and short-term absences from work can be problematic for departments. We do not have an extra board, so when team members do not report for their assigned shift, it leaves a burden on their co-workers and supervisors. It can also impact the guest experience as tasks and frequencies have to be extended.

Jones — I have changed bosses three times in the past 14 months with each having different personalities and management philosophies. It’s challenging when management turns over. Building a personal and professional relationship was important for each of us to feel comfortable and develop a trust factor.

Woodard — We have a major challenge filing vacant custodian positions because there are so many jobs available in our local market, yet we have an aging workforce with many people at retirement age. In addition, for some newer people we hire, the custodian position is a pathway to other, higher-paying positions. We had well over 20 vacancies for two years and were hiring people consistently without really gaining ground. To compete with the rest of the market, we raised our starting salary and focused on promoting the total compensation package to current employees and those interviewing for positions. However, the biggest thing we did was to conduct a job fair where we were able to hire approximately 30 people in just a few months.

What techniques do you find to be the most successful in engaging staff and creating a team environment?

Baldwin — Communication: Listening is key, but also share and provide accurate communication to the team.
Empowerment: Proper delegation and providing professional development through on-the-job training and opportunity to attend conferences and workshops.
Inclusiveness and Diversity: This extends trust and creates synergy along with productivity.
Safety: Develop a culture of safety. Listen to staff's ideas for areas of improvement to limit the amount of accident/injuries. Implement ideas of improvements to achieve the goal of a safe working environment.

Beene — Be straightforward, honest and available for your team.

Bessert — Empowerment of staff really creates the team feeling. That and a lot of talking and reminding staff about using the customer service approach to folks, whether it’s the public or building occupants.

Jones — Employees need to be constantly reminded of the importance of their job. They also need to be told on a regular basis what a great job they do. Thank your employees often and always show empathy during difficult times.

Harshman — When looking at new products or cleaning systems, we create focus groups consisting of team members and supervisors who meet with vendors and evaluate their products. Once that is completed, the group makes a recommendation on which product best meets our operational needs.

Woodard — We started using Lean Process Improvement approximately seven years ago. We have over 30 teams and approximately 175 team members involved in the process. Each team develops their own goals, priorities, and use visual management to track their idea generation. Each team is expected to generate and implement new ideas, and leaders are expected to support the implemented of those ideas that help improve the work, help with customer service, improve safety, et cetera. They are developing metrics to measure progress and are maturing in the process. We are averaging over 1,000 ideas generated per year and approximately 800 of those ideas are being implemented annually. Custodians are receiving a lot of positive recognition, and the universities’ president and executive leaders have visited several teams huddles.

How do you keep staff motivated?

Beene — I’d recommend holding frequent team-building exercises and recognition ceremonies.

Jones — We hold staff training sessions throughout the year, promote from within unless you absolutely have to go outside of the organization, and provide competitive pay and benefits packages.

Woodard — Lean Process improvement, and annual recognition event, pizza parties for individual teams who accomplish goals and regular visits by leaders can be very effective. We also have a developmental training program we affectionately refer to as the “Stepping Stones for Success Program.” In four years, we have promoted five graduates of the program to supervisory positions.

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Management Advice For New And Veteran Cleaning Executives