To play the part, it is important for employees to look the part. For example, we have trained our custodians that as they do the monthly pest management inspection of their building, they should wear a certain ball cap that has been provided for all of our school custodians. The hat says “Pest Manager” on the brim, giving them an opportunity to look and feel more a part of the professional pest management team for that building.

Setting dress standards and providing professional-looking uniforms are crucial. Doing so nurtures a more professional work staff.

As an example of the importance of “looking the part,” a few years ago I received a phone call from an assistant principal at one of our high schools asking us to investigate a strange man who kept walking through the building at about the same time every afternoon. We soon discovered that the man was indeed one of our full-time custodians, but he dressed in such a way that he was not looked upon as a member of staff — and certainly not as a professional.

In today’s climate of heightened building security, being able to identify school staff members at a glance and having them look professional is crucial.

Providing your employees with the proper tools to do the job efficiently and ergonomically also will raise their level of professionalism. One example is snow removal.

Years ago, here in Salt Lake City (an area that receives quite a bit of snow in the winter), we used snow shovels or walk-behind snowblowers to remove snow. We have found over the years that if we equip our custodians with ride-on machines instead, they are able to clear the walkways more quickly and efficiently. As an added bonus, when the employee gets off the machine, they still are fresh and able to perform other tasks, unlike in the old days when they would be worn out from wrestling with slow and cumbersome equipment.

Whether it is coming directly from the employer through training, or by stimulating thought within the employees themselves, helping your staff master whatever craft they are engaged in will raise their level of professionalism. Training your employees and encouraging open and honest communication, helping them look the part and properly equipping your workforce with the right tools to do the job all contribute to the making of a true professional.

Mervin Brewer is an Assistant Custodial Manager who has worked in the Salt Lake City School District, Utah, for 38 years — the last 12 as a District Supervisor. He is in charge of research and development of new techniques and procuring new cleaning supplies and chemicals within a nationally recognized "Green Cleaning Program." He also assists in administering a nationally and internationally recognized integrated pest management program. Brewer is a founding member of Healthy Schools Campaign's Green Clean Schools Steering Committee and shares his expertise through presentations at state maintenance organization events, on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency webinars and on stage at industry conventions.

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