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Management And Training

Letters To The Editor

May 04, 2012
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Each month, we welcome readers to opine on the noteworthy — or even the trivial — aspects of their lives as JanSan professionals.The following is some of the correspondence we have received in recent weeks.

PR Redefined: What Should It Mean For The Cleaning Industry?

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) — of which I am a member — recently devoted major organizational resources to establish consensus around and redefine the meaning of public relations (PR) for practitioners.

Here is the well-chosen verbiage PRSA selected to define how responsible manufacturers in the cleaning industry and elsewhere should engage in PR followed by my own cautionary comments and exhortations specific to the cleaning field: "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."

The operative words are "communication … that builds mutually beneficial relationships."

This is important because much of what you read in trade journals is generated by PR people — whether they define themselves as "industry writers" or not — representing manufacturer interests, and quite often, the "information" shared does not have the bona fide interests of readers at heart on an equal plane with those of the sponsoring manufacturer.

I speak specifically of the trend to use "studies" to validate product claims when that targeted and narrow band of research has been bought and paid for by the manufacturer to show the reader just what it wants them to see and no more.

There is plenty wrong with that.

Before continuing the rant, let me share what I wrote for the International Custodial Advisors Network (ICAN) back in 2004 in response to a reader question about marketing and PR.

"The purpose of PR writing is to establish and maintain a relationship with the desired public, hence the term ''public relations.'' Please underscore the word ''relationship.'' Good relationships are built on truth, trust, integrity and looking out for another''s interests. I doubt that your relationship with your wife, husband, mother, father, brother, sister, coworker or other associate would last long if your communications were dominated by misleading statements, empty assertions, self-interest and manipulation. Therefore, the purpose of PR writing — also known as marketing communications — is first to inform, second to sell. Its tone must be informational, not promotional. This means focusing on what the reader wants and needs to know to make an informed decision."

With this in mind, I implore — yes, beseech — companies who engage in PR to invest in objective research through independent and credible labs such as the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), found at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, to fairly validate the performance of products, and then use that research to develop even more credible peer-reviewed research to give readers the data they need "to make an informed decision" apart from any sales or marketing agenda.

Wouldn''t you trust a company that takes this higher path and shares information based on solid peer-reviewed data — what some call the truth?

This is vitally important when public health is at issue, such as with products that market using a "cleaning for health" type of slogan.

Let''s help move the cleaning industry closer to the true meaning of PR by encouraging companies making health-related claims to put their feet to the fire by getting peer-reviewed data that is shared and vetted with organizations such as the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) and publications such as Cleaning & Maintenance Management in an objective way that helps everyone. - Allen Rathey, president of InstructionLink/JanTrain Inc.

Help Wanted

There are numerous problems that we face in retaining cleaning staff.

I have worked for school districts in the Edmonton area for the past 30 years as a custodial manager and supervisor.

I have been directly responsible for hiring custodial staff.

Our city of almost one million people is called the "Gateway to the North," meaning that we service many different industries in the North — mines, oil, oil sands, forestry, etc.

Our economy over the last 30 years has been boom and bust.

We are now booming, which means there are more jobs than people to fill them.

During these times, an employer is at the mercy of the employee, and so long as you have a body on the job, you try to make the best of a bad situation.

If the organization hiring custodial staffs is paying them a fair salary, the likelihood of them remaining with the employer is better.

It is a well-known fact that contract cleaners do not pay custodians a fair salary or provide good benefits and, consequently, their turnover is that much higher.

Although our custodians are paid a fair salary and have excellent benefits, I continue to experience a higher turnover when the boom comes.

When the boom is over, employees know that they have nowhere to go, so they stay.

Working as a custodian has a certain negative stigma attached to it by the public, so it is not a favored profession for a lot of people.

This, in and of itself, reduces the number of applicants and the quality of the applicants.

Cleaning staffs are largely composed of various ethnic groups new to the country and deficient in the English language.

These individuals are excellent people but, in time, leave their jobs as cleaners for something they are more interested in.

The only way we can improve the image of the custodian in our society is to pay them more and staff the buildings with enough of them so the buildings are always clean.

Many of our hospitals and schools are dirty because of insufficient staffing.

Staff reductions in these institutions have forced workers to do more with less, and due to this, the cleanliness of the facilities has suffered.

When cleanliness of a facility suffers, staff morale is poor and maintenance costs rise.

A good custodial team reduces maintenance costs because the building occupants have a greater compulsion to take care of their clean, healthy and safe facility more so than one that is dingy. - Jack Salloum, custodial coordinator at Black Gold Regional Schools.

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