Supporting Staff Through Interaction And Positive Feedback

One recent, 34-degree “spring” weekend, I was watching my son compete in a mountain bike race. Parents and spectators were all lined up at various points along the 3.3-mile course with their cheering instrument of choice (at least in my part of the world), a cow bell. There was one guy blowing away on a vuvuzela, the 2-foot-long plastic horn commonly used internationally during soccer games, but he was an exception.

My spot was around the final curve on the way to the finish line. Large portions of the course were inaccessible to spectators, so for most of the 3.3 miles, the riders were alone or only with other riders. By the time they reached where I was parked, they were tired at the end of a lap and starting an uphill climb.

As each rider came into view, the crowds along the fence began ringing their cow bells (or blowing their vuvuzela) and cheering. Almost universally, the riders would smile, stand up on their pedals and finish strong. But what struck me was how much the cheering during that last quarter mile of the course had a visible impact on the riders.

In a facility, your staff probably follows a loop every day when they clean. For most of that loop, depending on the time of day and building, they might never bump into another occupant or coworker. But if you or your supervisory staff make it a habit to walk rounds, you have the opportunity to “ring the cow bell” in the form of positive feedback when you see staff during a small portion of their loop. (For the record, I do not advise using actual cow bells during rounds unless you have removed the clapper.)

We all like to feel appreciated and hear that our work is a meaningful contribution to a larger effort, such as maintaining clean and healthy facilities. Since labor represents the majority of the cost of cleaning relative to supplies, communicating appreciation to your staff on a daily basis can make an impact. And just like the mountain bikers, the positive reinforcement can provide at least a short-term emotional and productivity boost.

It’s not too much of a stretch to see how each day your staff might have to navigate the cleaning equivalents of changing to the correct gear for the terrain, riding over roots and rocks, becoming covered in mud, or getting back up after the occasional crash.

Certainly keep offering the more scheduled and structured staff appreciation lunches, employee of the month parking, and other perks and recognitions. But don’t forget to express appreciation daily when staff are meeting — and especially when exceeding — your expectations. 

MARK PETRUZZI is Green Seal’s former Senior Vice President of Outreach and Strategic Relations. He can be reached at