Employee Engagement Involves More Than Buzzwords

Employee Engagement Involves More Than Buzzwords

As someone who works with ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) on almost a daily basis, it is my role to examine the practices cleaning organizations have in place and how they measure up against certification requirements. I often see deficiencies that need attention, but I also have worked with companies that easily meet, and sometimes exceed, CIMS best practices. One such organization is Relay Resources, a certified provider in Portland, OR, that recently went through the recertification process.

Relay is an Ability One provider, meaning it hires people with disabilities and other barriers to employment and trains them for the workforce. This doesn’t give the organization a pass on certification requirements. It excelled at meeting all the requirements, which is why it received in the past—as it did again—the CIMS and CIMS Green Building (GB) with Honors certifications. However, it was the company’s safety training program that I found of particular interest. This program not only achieved the goal of improving workplace safety, it also was a shining example of successful employee engagement—buzzwords many organizations throw around but rarely achieve.

Safety Matters

As Relay’s manager of janitorial services explained, its aggressive safety training program, which I was able to view firsthand, was designed inhouse. Safety is critical to the organization, and thus a lot of training time is spent on the subject. However, what makes this program even more effective is the way it is monitored and integrated into everything the organization does.

The company’s safety manager performs audits on site and also trains supervisors on the safety auditing system. Using a multiple point checklist, supervisors observe and rate employees’ progress in safe custodial operations. In addition to the proper personal protective equipment, supervisors also look for:

  • Chemical container labeling
  • Equipment condition
  • Safe lifting techniques.

One Step Further

The review doesn’t end with the evaluation. Any issues or discrepancies are immediately discussed with the employee, as Relay’s philosophy is that audits shouldn’t be just about finding and correcting problems. Auditors are instructed to spend time with employees, talking about safety and how it impacts them, their customers, and the facility they serve.

This is where the employee engagement comes into play. The process gives auditors/supervisors a chance to explain why certain safety techniques are important. Auditors also invite the employees to give feedback about job site roadblocks that might impede safety and to present their own ideas for improvement. This program conveys to employees that the company truly cares about their health and welfare and realizes the important role they play in customer satisfaction.

I’ve worked with other organizations that have recognized the importance of employee engagement, but have struggled to make it happen in a way that wasn’t overly intrusive or critical. The company’s approach uses safety training to connect with employees and to provide for the continuous improvement and growth of the employees and the company.

Engagement is Mission Critical

Both safety and employee engagement are critical to any organization’s success. Kudos to Relay Resources and its entire management team on having found a way to create a program that is among the best I’ve seen.

Posted On September 10, 2018

Lance Witschen

President of 1ClassConsulting

Lance Witschen, president of 1ClassConsulting and Scout Management Solutions, uses his years of experience to provide solutions for clients. Witschen is a co-author of Behind the Broom. For more information, visit or email

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Employee Engagement Involves More Than Buzzwords
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