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June 2013 Lets Talk Shop

Give The New Person And Yourself A Chance To Succeed

In the changing world of cleaning, collaboration between veterans and newcomers is the key to success.

June 17, 2013
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Change is a daily mantra in today’s world, and the cleaning industry is no exception.

The new professionalism that has come to define the industry over the last few years requires different skill sets and has attracted new faces.

More opportunities mean more executives crossing over from other industries, an increase in women at senior levels and a more diversified workforce in general.

New faces mean new perspectives and a need for collaboration to produce the best results.

To illustrate this, let’s take the case of Dion.

Dion started as summer help on a college campus when he was 18.

By age 44, he’d worked his way up to supervisor of one of the campus quadrants.

He was surprised, and a little annoyed, when his Operations Director hired a new supervisor, Sharon, who had no experience working at a college and couldn’t tell the difference between a buffer and a burnisher.

Dion was even more annoyed when the Operations Director insisted that he take the time to show Sharon around the campus and teach her the ropes.

“She’s got a lot to learn, but she’s also got some good ideas and can teach us a thing or two.”

Sharon proved to be an enthusiastic learner and asked a lot of questions, but Dion still wasn’t sure how it came to be his job to teach this new supervisor about cleaning.

When they got back to the office, Sharon told Dion that she had a few things to show him as well.

She logged into her computer, and Dion watched as she started pulling up reports on capital outlay, production rates and daily productive minutes (DPM).

“The Operations Director wants all the supervisors to know every aspect of the cleaning operations. He figures we can make better decisions that way. I’m a numbers person. I’ll teach you the numbers stuff. You teach me the cleaning stuff.”

Dion felt a little hurt at first and wondered why the old way of doing things wasn’t good enough anymore, but with time, as Sharon sought out his ideas and opinions while showing him how her reports could improve efficiency, they both came to value the collaboration.

More important, Dion began to see himself not just as a cleaning supervisor but as a cleaning professional.

Success In A Changing Environment

To succeed in today’s constantly evolving cleaning industry, keep these important points in mind:

Every Person Brings a Skill Set. If you respect the skills others bring to the table, then together you will create a much better service.

Cooperation Is Key. As the industry becomes more complex, no one person can be an expert at everything. Cooperation and partnering fills the gaps in each individual’s skills.

Be a Life-long Learner. Systems continue to evolve and change. Don’t bog yourself down with expertise in a system that is no longer being used.

Expect Change. Life is not a straight line. Expect continual change in your career and work expectations. Don’t get stuck in the idea that life is not fair just because you are expected to change the way you do things.

Play Nice. First impressions are powerful. Be careful how you treat people when you first meet them. If you appear arrogant or like you know it all, others will see no reason to share their valuable knowledge with you.

At some point all of us were new on the job.

Personally, I would never have stayed so long in this industry without insights and guidance from “old timers.”

Now that I’ve been in the industry for awhile, I find that the new folks have something to teach me, too.

From both perspectives, working together in a unified, collaborative manner is the only way to succeed in the new world of cleaning.

Judy Gillies is the founder and president of The Surge Group Inc., a cleaning consulting company located in Toronto that helps facilities managers improve their cleaning operations. She is one of the authors of “Behind the Broom, A Manager’s Guide to a Professional Cleaning Operation.” For more information about Gillies or to get your own copy, visit

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