Running a mission-driven company is a cornerstone of good business practice. You would be hard-pressed to find a cleaning company, or even a division within a company, that wasn’t mission driven.
Leadership teams often spend long retreats digging through their values to find the perfect guiding principles from which they can run their daily operations. They can spend an endless amount of time debating the properties of the word “integrity” until they’ve created the perfect sentence that captures their company’s inner resolve.
Mission-Driven Decision Making
There’s a very good reason for any cleaning team, maintenance department, or organization to create a tight mission statement. At any given moment, an operational opportunity can cross the desk of decision makers and a quick choice will have to be made. It doesn’t make sense for a large organization to make decisions by committee for each opportunity. A clear and well-understood mission allows employees to filter a change or opportunity using the company’s principles to make sure they stay on course toward the successes their organization is aiming to achieve. A good mission empowers leaders by encouraging them to keep moving to their desired outcomes without having to check in at every fork in the decision-making road.
Create Mission-Based Goals
Because a useful mission enables leaders to stay on track, they can create goals to determine if they are driving toward their mission. Leaders may then set objectives to make sure they are working toward their goals. The importance of good direction with a properly created mission cannot be understated because of the guidance and autonomy that is often the result.
Cultivate Employee Buy-In
Even with good direction, problems arise when leadership and management set the mission for themselves and then expect front-line workers to comply and support the mission, simply because it’s their job to do so. These leaders expect employees to jump on board with the mission without considering what it takes to empower their workers to adopt the same beliefs. This oversight of cleaning workers’ beliefs and values creates a disconnect in the mission-shaping process.
“Success in any change venture will involve a period of hardship and adjustment. Employees involved in shaping the mission will push through the hardship to ensure that their shared vision is realized,” says Sean Fox-Elster of Process Driven Strategies. “In the end, employee engagement is about instilling ownership of the mission in the employees [who are] charged with the success of the change. … Nothing inspires people like having their experiences and values included in the change process.”
Jim Alty, president of Facilities First, has spent much of his career as a director of facilities services in academia. He agrees that employee engagement leads to empowerment. “Empowered and proactive employees are a tremendous asset to a company’s productivity and efficiency,” Alty says. “When a custodian, team leader, supervisor, and manager truly understand the mission of their organization, and how their efforts contribute to that mission, their individual sense of value, accomplishment, and pride are greatly increased.”
When employees are included in their organization’s strategy development, it improves their effectiveness in several ways. For instance, it empowers employees to suggest service improvements to their management team. To create that sense empowerment, though, custodial managers also must invest significant effort in educating their team on the company’s mission and in recognizing employees who demonstrate accomplishment to that mission. Equally important, management must be open to listening and engaging with employees who demonstrate that empowerment in a positive fashion.
The Power of Engagement
Disempowered employees are more likely to hide performance issues from their leadership, causing financial and human resources problems. Custodial companies hamper their own productivity when they treat employees as if they only need to do as they’re told. This management style is common in the cleaning industry.
One example of how empowerment can change the lives of employees and their organizations can be demonstrated through a custodian named Jewel. Jewel was an unnoticed custodian at a large university. Her daily duties were tedious and unrewarding. At that time, the custodial department where she worked was managed in a very autocratic fashion that resulted in poor performance.
To improve performance, facilities management decided to implement a team cleaning program. The program included an empowerment component that involved educating custodians on how their service improved the educational process for students and faculty.
Jewel immediately volunteered to be a member of the pilot cleaning team. She offered many suggestions on how to improve performance to her team leader and custodial management. Within six months, Jewel was promoted to lead her own team, and within two years, she was promoted to the training department. Jewel credits her career to the culture change that made custodians aware of their contributions to the overall mission.
Any retooling of your organizational mission should include input from all levels of employees. Ask them what they believe is possible to accomplish to capture their valuable insight. Once your team members are empowered and embrace your mission, you will be amazed at what they can achieve.