Forward thinking businessman concept

Contributed by Mike Sawchuk

Summer is anything but a break for cleaning teams working inside schools. While teachers and students look forward to vacations, school facility cleaning leaders consider all they need to accomplish while their hallowed halls are emptier: What tenders need updating, floors require recoating, carpets must be shampooed, and special projects — think deep cleaning stairwells and tackling windows — demand attention?

Indeed, these immediate, short-term needs must be considered. Too often, however, the thinking stops there, leaving school facility departments doing the same thing year after year with no longer-term plans in place to foster continuous improvement. Unfortunately, many facility cleaning leaders are too busy running operations instead of managing them.

What these leaders fail to ask is how their results in providing clean, healthy and safe facilities compare to the best-in-class operations. How do they know where they stand now and what may need to be changed to achieve improved results?

Discovering these answers can start with benchmarking data, but it should not stop there. The truth relies on conducting a comprehensive and integrated assessment of the facility’s cleaning operations — not just products, procedures, protocols and policies, but also people and leadership.

Assessment Value

Some people believe assessments and benchmarking are the same, but they are not. By formal definition: 

· Benchmarking: Evaluating or checking (something) by comparison with a standard

· Assessment: Evaluating or estimating the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something

Benchmarking is an excellent first step. It typically provides the data necessary to create a plan, such as how many square feet should be cleaned per hour or how much cleaning costs per square foot. Benchmarking can provide starting points, depicting areas needing improvement to meet the standard being used for comparison.

Good sources for benchmarking information include workloading software, industry consultants, and other entities that gather data and statistics. However, benchmarking does not specify who, what, why, where, and how changes should be made.

That’s where assessments come into play. Assessments provide more comprehensive, valuable and relevant details.

Whether leaders are assessing security, safety, people, equipment, or the overall cleaning operation, assessments provide the who, where, what, how, and why necessary to develop a plan for continuously improving results, lowering costs, and decreasing risks — including the risk of negligence.

Assessments are vital for improving cleaning operations and ensuring their long-term success. If managers are not sure whether their operations need assessing, they should ask themselves: 

· What type of data is currently being collected, and when is it gathered?

· Does this data provide evidence-based information on the cleaning operation and how does it compare to a best-in-class cleaning operation?

· Are the cleaning operations excellent or good enough that a manager is prepared to stake their reputation on it in this environment of heightened awareness and concern about clean, healthy and safe facilities?

· What is their level of confidence that the operation is running at optimal effectiveness and efficiency, eliminating any possibility of being outsourced?

Cleaning managers should not let complacency, a lack of time, or any other short-term issue deter them. Their role is to drive continuous improvement. How does a facility cleaning manager really know if their facility operations are operating at maximum excellence? A thorough assessment will provide the answers — and proof — that stakeholders need.

Evaluate The Four P’s

A valuable cleaning operations assessment must be comprehensive and integrated. It must include the four P’s — a review of products, procedures, protocols and policies.

It must also incorporate an in-depth evaluation of everyone on the team. This requires examining hiring practices and what departments are hiring for — attitudes and traits, or skills. The evaluation should examine employee onboarding, ongoing education, and training, development and retention practices. Most importantly, it requires examining the leadership, individual attitudes, skill sets, management style, and the culture they have created and/or encourage, deliberately or otherwise.

This final point, a culture analysis, should cover everything from employee attitude, engagement and satisfaction to empowerment, motivation and trust.

Having the right people and leadership is increasingly crucial in today’s labor market and far more important than the four P’s. It can differentiate one cleaning operation from the competition; it can attract more of the right people and provide them with growth opportunities while increasing efficiencies. The right people in the correct positions creating a healthy, all-inclusive culture can reduce turnover and the costs of attracting and training talent over and over.

Academic facility cleaning departments that ensure their leaders and teams are aligned with one another, and the institution’s goals will reign over those that can’t or won’t adapt to create these circumstances and reap the advantages.

Key Assessment Ingredients

There are several options facility cleaning managers can consider when assessing operations. Managers can hire a cleaning industry consultant that specializes in assessments for academic facility cleaning departments, or they can conduct their own assessment.

There are advantages to each of these options. For example, there are more than 140 points of assessment that must be considered during the evaluation process. Hiring an outside consultant could save time as they’ll be aware of each point and will remain objective in their evaluation. Those managers who choose to go their own way must ensure that whoever is leading the charge is knowledgeable in these same items and can be trusted to remain unbiased.

Many managers choose a hybrid option, engaging in a reputable online program that can provide the necessary information, tools and coaching to guide departments and/or the assessment leaders through the process.

Whichever avenue managers choose, the assessment should: 

· Provide comprehensive and integrated knowledge regarding the complete cleaning operation, including data documenting the starting point (benchmarking).

· Be specific to the facility site(s) and operations.

· Explain in detail who, why, where, what, and how the best-in-class run their operation(s).

· Allow leaders to review, apply, and evaluate the operation(s) compared with best-in-class in the 140-plus considerations that include the 4 P’s, people and leadership.

· Develop and implement a sustainable long-term improvement plan based on the assessment findings.

· Include ongoing monitoring and documentation to share results with relevant stakeholders.

This summer, facility cleaning managers should ensure short-term cleaning duties are completed, but also take time to look farther down the road. Conduct a comprehensive assessment that examines the who, what, where, why, and how of all the moving parts. This can ensure the facility cleaning team consistently delivers the highest levels of clean, healthy, and safe at the lowest overall cost to satisfy all stakeholders.

Mike Sawchuk of Sawchuk Consulting is a leading education cleaning operations consultant and coach who assists facility cleaning departments in the educational sector in improving their outcomes with insightful, pragmatic solutions and comprehensive, integrated assessments. He can be reached at