The question hit me right between the eyes: "Why do you keep calling us professionals?"
Recently, I was training at a large federal facility and this was a question offered by one of the students toward the end of class.
I must admit, I gave a short pause before answering.
At first, I was in dismay over the question.
I have always felt that anyone who is paid for his or her service is considered a professional.
I also feel that anyone who goes through continual training is considered a professional.
The problem with this is that it is my thinking … not that of the technician.
In Their Shoes
I never gave a serious thought to someone not feeling like a professional, regardless of his or her compensation or training.
After the class ended, I approached the individual who asked the question as well as several of his colleagues.
I asked about their roles in the buildings in which they worked.
I was astounded to find they didn''t feel that they were treated as professionals and it had nothing to do with how much they were paid.
Their feelings were more involved with the lack of ability to help in the planning of their assignments.
Granted, I often write of management''s responsibility to accept the planning function as just one of the functions of management.
I''ve also written about labor''s reluctance to take on the planning responsibility.
However, it should be noted when you have high-level technicians, it could also send a negative message to not allow at least a cursory survey of technician ideas to allow people to have a level of control in their working lives.
Digging further into the aforementioned individuals'' perceptions, I also found that the lack of participation drove a wedge into the labor-management relationship that affected every interaction.
When people feel disrespected, they lash out in any way possible, regardless of whether the disrespect was intended or not.
They take every allotted minute to accomplish tasks regardless of the pressure put on the team to complete additional tasks, causing headaches for the management team in dealing with the customer.
Part of the responsibility associated with being listed as a professional is to understand that there are times when we need to step up the effort.
Many times, when disenchanted staff members feel disrespected — real or perceived — they will not elevate the effort when needed, causing frustration on the part of management and inviting more pressure by the customer.
This is a tail-chasing set of activities to say the least.
Since both management and labor are considered professionals, we should understand that we need to get together and talk, understanding each other''s perspectives and how they are sometimes at odds.
Perspective is a powerful ally when used properly and can help eliminate frustration.
In our group of trainees, it was explained that just the fact of bringing in outside training was a step in the right direction toward understanding.
Management understood that the internal training was no longer filling the high-level technicians'' needs and began to change the process in order to incorporate a training program that focused not only on the "how to" training, but also the "why" of the training process.
This "why" process bestows the notion that the high-level technician can be more in control over the decisions that affect his or her roles in the building.
This powerful focus has caused a three-fold increase in productivity from a fully charged, high-level technician staff in a building where budget cuts have caused management to ask more of each individual staff member.
But, after management started the process of treating the staff as professional colleagues, simply by upgrading the type of training processes, they were able to understand:
If you are looking for different ideas to foster these types of relationships with technicians, contact Dane Gregory, a business consultant and trainer specializing in working with companies in the professional cleaning industry. He currently trains technicians in the use of cleaning protocols for stone, tile and masonry surfaces for IICRC certification. He also presents a business opportunity for newcomers in the cleaning industry in the care of ceramic tile, stone and grout, with a full equipment and training package. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.