- Overlooked Strategies of Successful Custodial Training Programs
How to Boost Retention Through Custodial Training
Once all the appropriate components of a training program are accounted for, facility cleaning managers can pivot from training to prevent liability into using training as a resource for retaining top talent on the frontline team. Among the pandemic’s silver linings has been a growing appreciation for cleaning among those outside of the industry, which is a great tool facility managers can utilize when conducting training sessions. Similar to the idea of reinforcing protocol details, stressing that the role of cleaning is critical can enhance an employee’s sense of pride and provide motivation to dive into the training in front of them.
Every new batch of trainees is bound to have varying levels of future dedication to the job. A great way to determine the potential all-stars is through a department’s training program. Among the several ways this can be done is to reevaluate what training is deemed “mandatory,” notes Ricky Martinez, assistant director of facility service for Salt Lake City School District, Salt Lake City, Utah.
While some aspects of training need to be mandatory strictly from a safety and liability standpoint, making other sessions optional can speak volumes about which employees can truly be depended on to stay and grow with the team.
“Making certain training optional is how you find out who’s engaged and who really wants to move up — look at who actually wants to be there,” says Martinez. “It can’t always be avoided, but what I don’t like about mandatory training is we’re bringing in people that don’t really want to be there. Their presence is often toxic to the other employees because they are messing around.”
Whether training is mandatory or optional for frontline workers, experts agree that altering the size of the group can make for a better learning environment. With larger rooms of upwards of 100 employees, it’s almost impossible to gauge who is actually paying attention to the content. An environment like this can be a disservice to trainees making an active effort. Similar to a lecture hall, people in larger settings can more easily convince themselves that a question isn’t worth asking and can wait until later — when in reality it could have covered a critical detail.
Something as small as a group size when training might seem inconsequential, but in fact, it could have a big impact on employee retention.
“If you're not training your employees properly at the very beginning, they will quit on you,” stresses Martinez.
Instructing supervisors to show consistent appreciation as part of their training is an equally important retention tool for up-and-coming employees. This can be done both through verbal reinforcement and by highlighting opportunities for growth when repeated dedication is shown during sessions. Griffin notes that many employees — even those with the best intentions — may not see their job as a custodian as a long-term plan, but rather a stopgap for a different career.
“While we don’t have graduate degrees or PhDs in the cleaning industry, there’s still countless management-related growth opportunities within a facility or department,” stresses Griffin. “If employees aren’t routinely reminded of that, or don’t feel as if there’s a clear avenue, then whatever effective training they’ve received can go by the wayside at any moment for another career.”
Successful training programs will reinforce expectations as well as showcase opportunities, but they will also provide consistent training for all levels of personnel. This is essential because as staff grow within the department, their responsibilities will grow and change with them. For example, in a scenario where an employee receives an internal promotion, they will require training that clearly defines their new responsibilities, as well as techniques they can use to tackle challenges they encounter along the way.
Among the most common occurrences for newly promoted managers is work-dynamic culture shock, Martinez notes. When a custodian who was previously a regular member of a frontline crew is now supervising those same teammates, the dynamic changes and the adjustment can be difficult.
“The upside to promoting from within is that new supervisor will know the systems, policies, people and all that type of stuff. But they might also get judged or criticized because the employees they now oversee knew who they were before. The team will test them,” says Martinez. “It’s a challenge because, until recently, these guys didn’t know how to supervise their peers, because we don't provide that training. Now we’re starting to.”
The cleaning industry continues to evolve and grow, and facility cleaning managers need to expand their training philosophy along with it. By understanding some of the most overlooked components of successful programs and finding ways to keep employees engaged while learning, cleaning departments can not only hit the mark on cleaning tasks but keep employees around long enough to make it all worthwhile.
James DeGraff is an associate editor with almost five years of industry experience. He creates and oversees content for Sanitary Maintenance, Facility Cleaning Decisions and Contracting Profits magazines, as well as CleanLink.com.
Overlooked Strategies of Successful Custodial Training Programs