This attitude and the respect Franco has achieved from his team did not happen overnight. In fact, he can trace it all the way back to the age of 19 and his exposure to supervisors who served as his mentors.

A persons leadership style is often shaped by the coworkers and supervisors that surround them. Franco specifically credits his style to George Edwards, a former supervisor from the University of Houston.

“He wasn’t my boss — he was the ‘big’ boss,” recalls Franco. “He believed in people and he believed in training. He talked to me about my future and he opened my eyes to what this career could hold for me. I thought cleaning was just pushing a broom and a mop, but he showed me it was a lot more.”

The lessons Franco learned as a 19-year-old entry-level custodian remain with him to this day and shape his own management style. This leader, with more than 45 years in the business, believes in his people, the training they receive, and their future, as much as Edwards once believed in him.

“Mr. Franco is a people person. He is always thinking about the employee’s development,” says Fidel Gonzalez, a custodial manager on Franco’s staff. “He is a great mentor, a great coach and a super human being.”

Franco strives to give employees the same opportunities Edwards once afforded him when Edwards took him to IEHA meetings. Such opportunities push employees to always do their best and continually broaden their horizons, he says. In fact, there are now 14 members of Franco’s staff actively involved in IEHA.

Also helping the staff at Rice is a program Franco is passionate about called Step Up, which allows custodians to cross-train with other units in Facilities, Engineering and Planning. Participants learn new skills in carpentry, plumbing, clerical or receptionist work. Every year, five to eight custodians participate in this work experience program, and some eventually leave to take positions in other departments.

In a time when many custodial departments struggle to find quality workers, Franco believes in encouraging staff to consider career advancements, even if that means going outside his department.

“I would rather serve than be served,” he explains. “It’s all about helping people and helping them grow and learn.

“Some custodians are happy being custodians, and that’s absolutely fine,” he continues. “But others want to learn new skills to move into a supervisory position or into a new department. We have former employees who are now bus drivers, police dispatchers, carpenters, painters and receptionists. We are always trying to develop people. Custodial is a great job, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life if you don’t want it to be.”

Norma Elam is one of three custodial managers on Franco’s staff. She is also one of the many individuals who moved up through the ranks because of the Step Up program. The 25-year veteran employee of the department credits Franco for encouraging her to attend industry meetings and workshops, as well as further her education.

“He encouraged me to leave my comfort zone,” says Elam, who moved up from an entry-level custodian position to a lead custodian role, to the manager position she currently holds. “He tries to encourage everyone in this way and let’s them know of other opportunities.”

Know Thy Employees

It’s long been said that “Knowledge is power” and for Franco, knowledge comes from meeting with each employee individually to help hone a career path specific to them. These 30-minute meetings take him two months, sometimes three, to complete. But every November he starts the process anew because he views it as incredibly important.

“It’s all about listening and feedback,” he explains. “Feedback is the ‘breakfast of champions.’ I want to know their goals, what’s on their minds and what the issues are. I want to know how they feel about the performance of my managers, what’s working well and what’s not.”

He takes notes at these meetings and compiles the information to share with his managers. He then meets with the managers to discuss potential Step Up candidates. The group considers what these employees have expressed interest in and how they can facilitate their personal growth.

Though Franco admits the department loses some great employees this way, he also feels his philosophy helps in employee retention (many employees have been with the department for more than 20 years). He explains, if people are treated right, they tend to stay.

“I don’t lose custodians for other custodial jobs in Houston,” he says. “The loss is to other careers.”

He adds that custodial positions at Rice University are highly sought after because they pay $9 to $10 an hour and offer a full benefits package.

previous page of this article:
Eusebio Franco Has A Personalized Approach To Management
next page of this article:
Prioritizing Employee Training Programs