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What does it take to build a training program?

You know it is important and will have a dramatic effect on your cleaning organization. You have seen the numbers and know that it will improve employee morale and reduce turnover. We are talking about training. We all know how important training is in our industry. Yet, setting up a training program is not as simple as just requiring a manager or supervisor to provide training.

To be effective, training must be appropriate, well organized, and consistent. Many large scale cleaning services, both in-house and contracted service, have worked hard to develop this kind of training program. At U.C. Davis, in Davis, CA, they have done just that.

I took time to sit down and talk to Finis Jones, the Director of Custodial Services at U.C. Davis to learn about how he went about creating a training position and his vision for a training program. Finis took on the position of Director of Custodial Services five years ago, after working as a custodial manager at a large school district in California and as a manager for custodial services in a healthcare environment. When he began his role as director he spent time getting to know the department and evaluating their needs. One of things he learned quickly was that they were struggling with onboarding their new custodians. The standards were inconsistent amongst the supervisors and managers, mainly due to the needs of the different shifts. They were also struggling with improving the knowledge base of their current custodians specifically about proper disinfecting procedures and floor care.

Here are some highlights of my conversation with Finis. I hope it will help you to see what goes into creating a training program.

Finis, you began by creating a training coordinator position. What went into that?

The position was developed based on similar type positions in the private sector and in the safety department at U.C. Davis. The position would need to be completely customized to meet the needs of the custodial services unit. The position also had to get approval from human resources, compensation, the associate vice chancellor of facilities and the vice chancellor of finance, operations, and administration.

Would the training coordinator do all of the training?

The training coordinator would conduct the majority of the primary training, but would also be responsible for organizing the custodial training program. Ongoing day-to-day training would remain the responsibility of the supervisors and managers within the department. Because of the 24-hour nature of the custodial services, the training coordinator would need to be flexible and have a presence on all shifts (Day, Swing and Overnight).

What did you envision the training program would look like?

Training must be a combination of hands-on training, review of written procedures and training videos.

Who would be included in the training?

New Custodians, Current Custodians, Senior Custodians, Lead Custodians, Assistant Supervisors, and Principal Supervisors.

How and when would training take place?

It would vary throughout the year and depending on the position. All new custodians would work the training coordinator in their first week. Hands-on training would require scheduling during the slower periods on campus (i.e. winter, spring and summer breaks).

What other challenges would they face?

Buy in from staff, supervisors and managers. The department has many differing opinions on how to perform custodial work. Gaining a consensus from the leadership is definitely a challenge.

What will an effective training look like in the future?

An effective training program will be up-to-date with trends in the cleaning industry, provide consistent training to all members of custodial services unit, and evaluate performance fairly and equitably.

How will certifications and standards play a role in the training program?

Certifications and standards will ensure that we are providing a structured training program that is substantive and robust. Having a third party certify our program will also keep us up to date with new trends in the cleaning industry. Lastly, a certified training program will serve as a recruiting tool to lure quality candidates and assure them that they are receiving the best possible training.

In 2020, U.C. Davis approved on an interim basis a custodial training position. This position became a permanent position later in 2021. In 2022, I took on the role of training coordinator. While the program is still in the early stages, we have made several accomplishments. Early on, we updated our custodial training manual to align with the ISSA CMI Custodial Technician training program. We added a new element similar to safety tailgates where we send out a bi-weekly custodial newsletter called the “Cleaning POST” designed to provide ongoing training for staff and supervisors. We refined the hands-on training for new-hires to be consistent for all shifts and began an on-going training of all the supervisors utilizing the ISSA CMI Supervisor Training book.

On December 28, 2022, ISSA recognized U.C. Davis – Facilities Maintenance – Custodial Services as meeting the Cleaning Industry Management Standards (CIMS) including the Green Building certification with honors. To maintain our focus on our goals and to review the progress of our program, Finis and I meet on a bi-weekly basis. This gives us the opportunity to discuss challenges and review progress. On a weekly basis, our management team also meets to discuss departmental issues and the training program. Creating a training program takes the commitment of the entire custodial team. At U.C. Davis, we are making that vision become a reality.

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