How Housekeeping Professionals Become Demoralized

After spending over 32 years in Southern Illinois Universities’ Building Services…I learned a few principles of the protecting of good morale and the proficiency of performing a good job, daily.

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Our department underwent virtually constant budget reductions from the early 1990’s until the present.

The fruit of Budget reductions is a diminishment in staff.

A reduction in staff causes the remaining staff to shoulder the work that was, prior to the Budget cuts, accomplished by people who occupied the open positions.

I experienced these daily frustrations until the end of 2010 when I retired.

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One of the first principles is that if you want to have your full time staff treated as professionals…you must not make artificial boundaries for their daily/nightly work product.

In the early years of the continual Budget slashing, the Superintendent, at that time, instituted a Skip Cleaning Program that was an abysmal failure.

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To instruct the technician that, performs the housekeeping work that is required on a daily/nightly basis, that they can no longer do what they know that they can…is a fool’s errand.

A second great folly…is for University Administration to reduce the budget so dramatically that the housekeeping staff can not physically perform the necessary custodial duties to ensure that SIU is clean and well maintained and daily prepared to illustrate the high level academic prowess of our School.

As I told former President Poshard, when there was to be a grand opening of a campus building and he told me to not worry about having the custodial perfect, that if he was touring with the Chair of the Board of Trustees and they walked up to a dirty area in the newly remodeled Arena…I was confident who he would call…and who would get the blame.

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So, you might ask…what is the answer…if Skip Cleaning is often an horrific failure and Budget reductions cause such a shrinking of housekeeping staff…that they can no longer perform their duties effectively?

The common sense answer is somewhere in the middle of the two scenarios.

Adept custodial management and supervision understand the intricacies of presenting a clean academic facility without going to the extremes of leaving entire areas dirty or insisting that they must have the ‘glory days’ of housekeeping staff that they possessed 20 years ago.

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In addressing the Universities present distress three changes need to occur.

  1. Some additional staffing is required.  At one time I had 160 full time staff and over 200 student staff.  It is my understanding that there are now 57 full time staff.
  2. The experts regarding custodial excellence are already among you.  The brilliance of  stellar and shinning Southern Illinois University Buildings is first primarily manifest at the crew level…of which there were over 30 at the end of my career.
  3. Modified Skip Cleaning is the answer and Complete Skip Cleaning is always a failure and a demoralizer and a customer service disaster.

Often, when I was a member of the Campus Community, administration would tell me how excellent and workmanlike and particular my staff were in their cleaning duties.  I had hundreds of complimentary letters attesting to our professionalism.

Yet, when one of the houses that Human Resources occupied…had a fire…we came out in force on the Sunday evening of the afternoon fire and worked non-stop for several days to restore the facility in order to enable it’s immediate use.

While we were working around the clock…the University Spokesperson announced, daily, that the University was looking into obtaining, ‘Cleaning Professionals’ to restore the facility.

Listen to your staff…they are the experts and the answer to SIU’s Housekeeping needs.

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So often, custodial staff is either thought to be thieves and not really skilled to perform responsible jobs…or they risk their lives to remove water from the, in progress remodeling of Morris Library…in the dark…on the roof…in order to protect the Library’s books from being ruined as the water cascaded through the roof on to the floors and drenching the shelves and destroying priceless books and periodicals.

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They are either…unclear as to how to perform their work or…as a Building Service Worker in Life Science II did…give mouth to mouth resuscitation to a baby who had stopped breathing…saving it’s life.

What am I saying?

I am saying that the University does not understand what dedication that they have in their Building Service Staff…or the value that they bring…to the Academic Mission of SIU.

 

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