Custodians as a resource
Every business has or should have business meetings regularly to get things done and make improvements where they need to be implemented, even though employees can communicate to each other in various areas of the organization, business meetings have proven to be the most effective way to communicate the business objectives.
Who here wants to move their organization towards a higher state of performing?! All of your hands should be raised high…very high. In the fast-paced business environment of today, organizational development should be at the forefront of every business mind. That includes employees throughout all the different levels of an organizational hierarchy. In the ever-changing tides of corporate life, employees hold the key to your competitive edge. Your daily business processes should include ways to harness the ideas of employees and how to turn these ideas into intellectual capital, thus “sharpening” your business edge.
One of the most effective ways to harness human capital is through the interactions at your business meetings. Frontline managers, Executives, or team business meetings should have a dedicated period to innovation and design thinking. The more diversity that you have present in the meetings of the organization, the more ideas that will be generated. The keyword here being diversity. Are you ready to really start thinking outside the box? Okay! Let’s go! Have you ever thought about asking your custodial service members to sit in on one of your business meetings?
It is no secret that culture is truly what drives a business. Organizations are delicate systems that are incredibly complex in nature. To guide performance in the right direction, it is critical that leaders fully understand the internal dynamics of their business. Think back to a time where you walked out of a business meeting feeling disgruntled, unheard, or generally apathetic. What were your next steps? Did you seek out a co-worker to commiserate with? How about taking a quick trip to the bathroom just to be alone for a minute? Or did you feel it was an excellent time to “grab a cup” with a friend just so you could get out of the office for a bit? Regardless of the option you chose, the goal was to get to a place where you could honestly speak your mind. This is a perilous blind spot for most organizations. However, you have an unexpected ally in this journey—your custodian!
The reason why Custodians should be included in your business meetings is because Custodial services move throughout buildings inconspicuously and with relative ease. Most people yield to cleaning operations but barely pay any attention to the cleaning operation itself. It is one of the “routine” things that occur in the organization. Employees carry on with their daily tasks, phone calls, emails, and conversations without regard to who may be listening. Custodians are trained to be minimally invasive to the work center; however, no one said they had to turn their ears off in the process. Custodians have one of the most unique and objective views of your organization, and you didn’t even know it. Incredible!
Whole Systems Thinking
Recent breakthroughs in quantum physics, astrophysics, and neo-sciences have changed the game for organizational development practitioners. Personally, I have relinquished all forms of deficit-based problem-solving. I coach all my clients using positive, holistic methodologies, such as Appreciative Inquiry. What we have come to understand in recent years is that the world is a complex series of interconnected items where a single change in the system reverberates throughout the myriad of variables in the world. Take a look at all the recent studies about climate change, for example. Warmer global temperatures are not only having an effect on our environment, they are changing human patterns, our economic, and political systems also. We need to think about organizations in the same manner & this is why business meetings play an important rol.
Let’s pull back a minute. Imagine that you can look at your business from a very tall ladder, or if you’re really spatially adept the international space station. What type of activities do you see? As you watch your business conduct its daily operations, can you see how the internal dynamics of your organization shape everyday life? If so, then you can come to appreciate how a single decision can make a huge difference in your organizational growth. There are ways to map your corporate ecosystem using technology and software, but I’ll save that for another publication.
Last month, I set out on a journey to better understand this whole systems phenomenon. I wanted to get a real idea about what type of information custodians could actually give to the organizations which they serviced. Generating a fantastic qualitative framework for reference utilizing an Appreciative Inquiry lens, I contacted 20 janitorial services in the Denver-Metro area.
After a pervasive interview campaign, I uncovered some excellent insights into the organizations of today based on the viewpoint of what can be considered by some to be an “outsider” to their business. (Note: due to confidentiality contracts between companies and custodial services, all names have been changed to protect identities).
Interview Question 1:
Looking back on all your years of experience in the custodial industry and the interactions you have had with various organizations, what do you think the top three things are that leadership overlooks in today’s organizations? The most common answers were:
- As a company grows larger, the leadership becomes out of touch with employees.
- Communication is an issue. Misinterpretation of information leads to employee frustration.
- Cultures should be based on loyalty and trust.
Interview Question 2:
Let’s pretend a CEO of a large company has invited you to a meeting to talk about ways that he could improve his company. The CEO wants to know how to make his organization more vibrant, energetic, wholesome, and family-oriented. What would you say to him? The top three most insightful answers were:
- “Managers and executives should walk around and talk with people. Watch what they do. Understand their needs, especially their personal ones. If they need time off, give it to them!” – Jim H. (custodial worker) from Wheatridge.
- “A more modernized workspace is what people are really looking for nowadays. Provide snacks, a coffee, or espresso machine. Make the environment comfortable for all the employees.” – David G. (company owner) from Denver.
- “I would say that people need genuine praise from their superiors. People are not just a number on a paycheck. Nothing destroys performance like working for just a paycheck. The higher-ups should act as the voice for their employees, and the company should take priority in making sure that the employees have all the resources they need.” – David K. (custodial worker) from Westminster.
Interview Question 3:
When people are happy working at their place of business, what kind of stories, conversations, or attitudes have you seen?
- “Simple. People get treated like family. The loyalty is so strong that employees feel like their managers would die for them!”- Kyle A. (company owner) from Denver.
- “From what I have seen, people feel like they are a part of the organization, and they will take over other duties even when others are not there.” – David G. (company owner) from Denver.
- “Managers step up. Compensation is really big. Time restraints are lifted, and the business has proper staffing. Overall, fairness is present in the workplace.” Chelsea W. (employee) from Denver.
To conclude this section, I’d like to acknowledge that these people were so happy to talk about these organization issues. It was evident that custodial companies had never spoken about alternative ways to help their customers. Overall, it was an enlightening experience for everyone.
There we have it! Critical performance-enhancing information harvested through whole systems thinking and Appreciative Inquiry principles. Organizational development is an ongoing process that requires a dedicated team of professionals who are solely focused on maximizing capabilities of the entire system. Daily business operations tend to mimic motions of a hurricane, where everything seems to be an endless swirling occurrence of tasks, putting out fires, relationship building, and workflow sustainment. I do not believe that companies deliberately lose focus on their development. Instead, companies become so consumed with daily operations that the thought of adding more to their plate will become the straw that breaks the camel’s back. However, leadership cannot let the heart of the organization to fall by the wayside. We must be cognizant about our people, our values, and our learning at all times.
When asked about their willingness to participate in meetings with their client organizations, 80% of all custodial companies said they would consider attending a staff meeting if the client requested and provided proper compensation. Whole systems thinkers should consider incorporating as many people as possible in their decision-making processes. What could your organization gain by bringing your custodial team to the table?
For more information about whole systems thinking, Appreciative Inquiry, and change management, check out Sean’s Reading list at www.LifeElevatedConsulting.com.