Ada BaldwinAda Baldwin
Director for University Housekeeping
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina


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


Michael JonesMichael Jones
Director of Custodial Services
Columbia Public Schools
Columbia, Missouri


Karie KingKarie King
Manager Environmental Services
Aurora BayCare Medical Center
Green Bay, Wisconsin


Gene WoodardGene Woodard
Director of Building Services
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington


Compiling appropriate data can support most requests and initiatives, but many managers struggle with where to start. Say managers are advocating for increased staffing and/or budgets, what and how much data would you recommend they collect in advance of submitting the requests?

Baldwin — APPA provides great resources to address this issue. FTE calculations are crucial for staffing and budgeting in an institutional setting.

Beene — I generally give about three months of data on how many patients are being seen in the area and what the service that is being requested from our department.

Jones — Most administration does not realize what you pay for out of your budget. Highlight the high dollar items and they will quickly realize that you use close to 80 percent or more of your operating budget for paper products, trash bags, ice melt, cleaning products and other tools and equipment. It's sometimes tough to get through the year on what's left.

If you want an increase to your budget, do an analysis of your prior fiscal year by budget line item and present that to your boss. Take into account any increase in building square footage, number of students/occupants, building activities or programs that have changed.

King — Keep records to outline your workload. For example, every month hospitals should calculate the amount of discharges so managers can document an increase. This provides the information executives need in a way that is easy to review. Provide graphs that illustrate the increase in the workload. Make note if you open positions so documentation reflects the change in staffing against the workload. If you have open positions routinely, see if you can keep an open position posted and over-hire by one person. This person will fill an opening, but they will also be available to supply hours for staff that is on medical leave or taking vacation time.

Woodard — I actually just made a request for additional funding. I started off by saying what I was asking for — additional funding. I also provided historical data that showed our decreasing funding trends over the last five years in conjunction with increasing square footage with new buildings coming on line, and how we have met these challenges with fewer custodians. I correlated that with what service levels we are able to achieve with current staffing and what we could expect to achieve with more funding. I highlighted benchmarked data comparing our productivity to other universities and confirmed our high quality of service despite being underfunded. Finally, I shared customer feedback, which confirmed how frontline staff works very hard but emphasized that there are just not enough of them.

It is the combination of the story and letting data complete the story for you. My presentation gained support from my departmental administration and will be advanced to the UW executive leadership team. I will report later if we were successful.

Most cleaning tasks are routine, but there are always special situations that will pop up on any given day. How do you workload/staff/plan for these situations?

Beene — In Houston, we tend to have floods. We have a ride out/recovery team in place for these disaster situations. We have 100 employees — including housekeepers, floor techs and supervisors — who are each assigned specific areas in the event of a disaster situation.

Jones — We have a contract with a company for major fires which really helps. However, most fires are small, but important to the building. It really comes down to organizing staff and using teamwork to combat the situation. Everyone has those employees that are interested in working extra hours and can be counted on to get the work done. Custodians are proud of their buildings and will work extra to resolve issues. Also, it's goo to involve yourself and/or supervisors when extra work comes up. It sends a positive message that you are part of the team.

King — We try to build in an hour of time for response into some of our key roles. This allows for the time to either help others with their workload or put out "fires" that arise each day.

Woodard — Emergencies will usually require our having staff forgo some of their routine tasks to handle these special situations. Some of our staff, such as laundry personnel and even window washers, understand that they may be pulled off assignment to work on something they haven't anticipated. What is crucial, however, is that all staff be trained to handle unusual assignments, such as floods or collecting hazardous waste, such as syringes, and be provided with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) to perform the work they are called on to do.

"Building occupant/customer expectations" top the list of challenges managers face. How do you handle critique/criticism from building occupants?

Beene — We focus on how we can improve our service to keep the customer satisfied. We all attend service excellence classes, from our frontline employee to our senior leadership. We just try to be as honest as we can while being respectful.

Jones — Feedback, good or bad, is great because it tells you how you are doing. I always tell our principals that they are in the building all day and I may not see what is occurring in all 40 district buildings. If any staff member has an issue, I can only fix it if I'm aware of it. If a complaint occurs, always visit/respond in person, not just email. You can have dialogue in person and you're able to discuss all sides of the coin. Our staff appreciates personal communication.

King — We are very open with surveys, concerns and complaints. We feel it is critical for the team to know the perception of the job we are doing. We use feedback as an opportunity to provide better service and have a safer environment for our patients and visitors. If a team member is personally named in a comment, we will share the information with that person specifically. We will not use specific names in any departmental communications.

Woodard — We attempt to have a definitive list of routine services versus premium services or those tasks we do upon request (either at a charge or not). We also try to have a list of expected frequencies for cleaning tasks. Our managers are frequently checking in with the building coordinators who serve as a liaison between the departments occupying a building and facilities services. The UW Facilities Customer Care Team host quarterly meetings with this group and my team is often on the agenda to answer any question about their expectations.

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Recommendations For Staffing And Recruiting Custodians