The last two points managers should focus on when launching a green cleaning program.

You have done your research, you have done testing in small groups, and the time to change what the whole department is using has now come. Stay positive, stay focused on the goal, but don’t dig in thinking that there won’t still be negative feedback coming your way. You need to sell this change — be honest about what products will do, or it won’t work.
For example, honest assessments to staff would be: “This is a great liner if you don’t overfill it, and this is a great all-purpose cleaner, but it won’t handle X, Y, Z.” This sets the standards for the new product from the start.

Define what you are trying to do but keep the active listing skills on. You may hear great feedback on something that’s not working right.

Be ready to restate the goals of the program. You are changing what people have been using for years. They are going to want to go back to the tried and true method.

For example, right after I changed the chemicals to the self-generating platform, I got feedback that the new product wouldn’t take pencil marks off the table tops. As I started asking questions, I heard that they have to scrub the table two to three times to remove the marks, instead of only once with a melamine foam eraser.

I use that example to show how some will look for anything to avoid a change to their routine, and how active listening can help mitigate challenges. 

From research to full implementation, it took us approximately 16 months to implement green and get everyone up to speed. I don’t know if I went too slow or too fast, but I do know that if I had to do it over, I would have gone quicker and focused heavier on training.

I recommend putting together a training binder that spells out the benefits of the green cleaning practices at your site. This will get new hires on board right from the start. It will explain what you are about as a department and the practices that are in place in the green cleaning program. 

Proper Promotion

When I first started our green cleaning program, I didn’t want people second guessing my choices, so I stayed quiet. I lost out on a great public relations push that would have helped generate buy-in.

There is nothing to be shy about in wanting to change processes for the better. Stand up and speak up about what you are trying to accomplish. You may find all sorts of support that you didn’t think you would have, and you might even reduce the negative opinions of those that resist change. 

CHRISTOPHER RAINES is the Custodial Receiving Supervisor at Folsom Lake Community College, in Folsom, California. He has spent the last 19 years in custodial/facilities maintenance, 15 of those in a leadership role. Chris oversees 16 buildings covering over 500,000 square feet. In 2016, he launched a department-wide reorder of cleaning methods, with green cleaning as the main focus of the department. Folsom Lake College received honorable mention for best new program in 2017. Chris also serves as a member of Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Clean Schools Steering Committee.

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