Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors
||To communicate the necessity of good human resources
practices as a pre-condition for effective facilities maintenance
|| To describe best practice strategies
for effectively managing staff
Newly Hired Employees
A Note about Training New Staff Members
It might be 10 or 20 years since
you've ridden a bike-still, you likely remember how to do so. But
do you recall how many times you fell off of your first bike while
trying to master the skill? It is much the same for staff members
who have to learn new skills for their jobs, except that they have
the added burden of knowing that their paycheck depends upon their
performance! So be patient and supportive when training new staff.
Mastering a new task takes time and practice, especially if you
are worried about making a good impression on your new boss.
People who are new to an organization have special training needs. They
need to know how to complete a time sheet, the procedure for lodging a
complaint and, for that matter, where to find the bathroom-and that doesn't
even take into consideration what they need to know to accomplish the
task they have been hired to perform. Consequently, newly hired personnel
should receive the following types of training as soon as possible after
joining the organization:
|| Orientation (or tour) of the organization's
facilities - including the payroll division (where timecards are
punched and submitted), emergency locations (such as the nurse's office),
the cafeteria, and the supervisor's office.
|| Orientation (or tour) of the person's work
area - including the primary location where he or she reports
to work and all areas where he or she might be expected to perform
job-related tasks (e.g., a plumber should be shown the organization's
plumbing headquarters and all campuses he or she will be servicing).
|| Equipment instructions - including an introduction
to all tools, machinery, and vehicles the individual will be expected
to use (e.g., industrial floor sweepers, lawn cutting equipment, power
tools, and district trucks).
|| Task-oriented lessons - including instructions
on how to best perform the individual's work tasks (e.g., how to clean
a carpet, repair a roof, or service a school bus).
|| Expectations - including a clear description
of precisely what the individual must do to meet the requirements
of the job (what, where, when, and to what extent).
|| Evaluation information - including an explanation
of all criteria on which the individual will be evaluated, such as
the tasks that will be evaluated, all relevant performance standards
and expectations, who will do the evaluating, what mechanisms will
be used to perform the evaluations (e.g., random checks or daily assessments),
and the potential ramifications of the evaluations.
School districts can't treat their employees like full-time students;
nonetheless, preparing staff to get their work done properly, efficiently,
and safely is cost-effective in the long run-and managers need to have the
wisdom to balance the competing concerns.
Ongoing Training and Professional
tend to get rusty unless they are used on a regular basis (who among us
can jump rope like we did when we were kids?). The fact that a person has
been taught how to perform a specialized task doesn't mean that he or she
will be able to perform the task in the future, especially if the task is
not a regular part of his or her routine.
Admittedly, there is a trade-off between the benefits of staff training
and the costs of lost work time during training. School districts can't
simply treat their employees like full-time students; nonetheless, preparing
staff to get their work done properly, efficiently, and safely is cost-effective
in the long run-and managers need to have the wisdom to balance the competing
concerns. Planners should also be open to considering the benefits of
developing "general" skills in their staff. For example, should a custodian
be able to spend one hour per month learning about computer use with other
staff? This professional development activity may seem unrelated to a
custodian's job, but custodial work may someday (soon) require e-mail
skills for communicating with centralized supervisors. Moreover, in light
of their overall mission, school districts may be uniquely motivated to
provide educational opportunities to their personnel.
Managers must think creatively about how to provide high-quality training
opportunities in the face of time and budget constraints. Proven methods
All staff training sessions should be documented. Videotaped sessions
can be used in future training activities.
|| Sharing training costs with other organizations
on a collaborative basis (e.g., training may be sponsored by several
neighboring school districts or jointly by the school facilities department
and the public works department in the same community).
|| Hiring expert staff or consultants to provide
on-site supervision during which they actively help staff improve
their skills while still on-the-job.
|| Developing training facilities, such as a custodial
training room in which equipment (e.g., vacuums) and techniques (e.g.,
mopping) can be demonstrated and practiced. Providing this type of
training will pay for itself in more efficient and better work from
the trainee. Larger school districts, which are more likely to find
such specialized facilities to be worth the investment, can do a good
deed (and generate goodwill) by hosting training events for smaller
districts in the area.
|| Offering tuition reimbursement programs which
provide educational opportunities to staff who might not otherwise
be motivated to improve their knowledge and skills.
|| Building training into contracts so that vendors
are obligated to provide training at either an on-site or off-site
training center as a condition of the purchase of their products.
The "Moment of Truth" Chart
Training staff to not just do their jobs, but to do them well, can be a
difficult task. One proven method for accomplishing this challenging task
is the "Moment of Truth" chart. To begin, a trainer asks the employees to
think of a task that is a routine part of their work. They are then asked
to think of the minimum standards that must be met to accomplish this task.
Finally, they are asked to consider what would be required of them to exceed
that minimally acceptable performance. The results should be recorded in
a tabular format, as shown in the accompanying chart.
"Moment of Truth" Chart
A Girl Scout troop meets every Thursday
night at James Elementary School, where Steve is the custodian.
Following is the "Moment of Truth" chart Steve created at a staff
On Thursday nights...
How did the "Moment of Truth" chart inform
Because Steve knew that the Girl Scouts would be arriving at 7 p.m.,
he planned his work schedule so that he would be in the lobby area
to welcome them. He opened the door and greeted Mrs. Jones, the troop
leader, two parents, and the scouts as they entered the building.
Steve told them that he had checked their room, and that the lights
were on, the temperature was comfortable, and the bathrooms on that
corridor were open and supplied. He also mentioned that he would be
working down the hall in the cafeteria in case they needed him for
anything. When the meeting was over, Steve walked the guests out of
the building and locked up behind them.
The next day Steve got summoned to the main office where the principal
asked him what in the world he had done to Mrs. Jones! The troop
leader had called the principal that morning for the sole purpose
of recognizing Steve's hospitality and efficiency the previous evening.
The principal was pleased to pass along the thanks to Steve, adding
that she was proud of him for leaving such a positive impression
on the school's guests.
And what were things like before Steve constructed
his "Moment of Truth" chart?
Steve was cleaning the gymnasium floor when he heard pounding on the
windows down the corridor. He opened the front doors and found Mrs.
Jones and the girls standing in the dark and the cold. Mrs. Jones
explained that two parents had walked around to the back of the building
to look for an open door. Steve went to look for them. When he returned,
he found Mrs. Jones and the troop waiting outside the locked meeting
room. When he opened the door and turned on the lights, he found the
room in a state of disarray. Mrs. Jones grimaced and said that the
girls would straighten it if Steve could get some heat into the room.
Forty minutes later, he heard someone calling through the dark halls
for "Mr. Janitor." He was asked not only to open the bathroom, but
also to bring a mop since one of the young girls had not been able
to wait. The next day Steve got called to the office by the principal,
who had just received an angry phone call from the troop leader.
Would you rather work in a school district that hears praises or complaints
about the custodial staff? Most people would rather be helpful when
possible-and one of the keys to good leadership is helping staff to
see that doing a good job is not only possible, but preferable. The
Moment of Truth Chart is a technique for accomplishing this objective.
It shows that doing an exceptional job doesn't require that much more
work, just that the work be done more efficiently. In the example
above, Steve had to open the doors, turn on the lights, heat the rooms,
and supply the bathrooms anyway. The Moment of Truth Chart just reminded
him that he should plan to reorganize his schedule on Thursday nights
so that he performed these tasks before the guests arrived!
Training: Focusing Good Intentions into Productive Activities
Hal couldn't figure out why the school's
ventilator fan kept turning off overnight. He'd verified that it
was running before he left the office at 6 p.m. the evening before,
but it was off again by 8 a.m. the next morning. He spent the day
checking fuses and switches, but everything appeared to be working
fine. He was about to go home very perplexed when the night shift
custodian arrived. "Linda," he asked, "did you see anyone in the
ventilator room last night?" "No," she answered, "why?" "Well,"
Hal explained, "the ventilator keeps switching off at night and
I can't figure out why." "Oh," Linda said openly, "I started turning
it off during my rounds." Hal looked incredulous. "Why would you
do that, Linda?" "Because you told me to make sure that all lights,
fans, and computers get turned off every night so that we stop wasting
so much energy around here," she replied. "Well, yeah, I did say
that, but I didn't mean..." Linda interrupted him again. "My job
isn't to guess what you mean, Hal. I get paid to do what you tell
me." She had a point, and Hal knew it. He had to do a better job
of communicating what he wanted Linda to do (and not do).
The goal of staff evaluations is the ongoing positive growth of staff
members. Although shortcomings in performance must be addressed, evaluations
should not be viewed as disciplinary events and should never be the venue
for unexpected criticism. Employees who are under-performing should be told
so as soon as it is recognized (not just during their formal evaluations).
a school district effectively requires that two vital tasks be navigated
successfully. First, district leadership must institute policies that
direct the organization's efforts toward desired goals and objectives.
Second, the organization's employees must act on those policies on a daily
basis so as to meet the goals and objectives the organization has set.
Thus, if policies lead the organization in the wrong direction, "good"
workers will only take it there more efficiently. On the other hand, good
policies aren't worth the paper on which they are written if staff aren't
getting their jobs done properly. To ensure that staff are doing their
part to meet an organization's goals and objectives, employee performance
must be evaluated on a regular basis.
To assess staff productivity, the organization (through its managers
and supervisors) must establish performance standards and evaluation criteria.
For example, a custodian's performance might be measured by the amount
of floor space or number of rooms serviced, the cleanliness of those facilities,
and his or her attendance history. The custodian's work likely will be
assessed by his or her immediate supervisor and the principal of the school.
Self-evaluations can also be useful personnel management tools-i.e., ask
the staff member to rate his or her own work and then discuss the outcomes
relative to the supervisor's opinion.
A "desk audit" is a good place to begin establishing performance standards:
ask employees to write down how they spend each day (i.e., what are their
current duties and responsibilities?).
Does it seem like an employee is consistently absent on Fridays and Mondays?
If so, personnel records should verify this before the issue is brought
up as a concern during a staff evaluation.
Determining performance standards may be best accomplished as a joint
endeavor between the individual and his or her supervisor. Although some
supervisors may be reluctant to share this authority, joint decision-making
with the staff member has two very positive features: 1) the staff member
can communicate atypical features of his or her working conditions that
warrant modification of "normal" performance standards (e.g., the vinyl
tile floor in the work area requires additional time to clean properly);
and 2) the supervisor will know that the staff member is fully aware of
the jointly developed expectations.
Assessing how an employee measures up to performance standards is an
uncomfortable task for many supervisors. To avoid unpleasantness, the
supervisor must maintain his or her composure, objectivity, and professionalism-otherwise
one risks inciting staff morale issues and, perhaps, personnel complaints
or even legal issues. To avoid these problems, evaluators must be careful
|| Be objective and not allow personalities to influence
|| Document evidence that supports the assessment
|| Encourage improvement rather than fixate on shortcomings
An evaluation system that fails to discriminate between performance
levels is failing the organization. For example, a system is flawed
when every staff member is rated "above average" in every facet
of his or her performance. After all, by definition, "above average"
means better than half of one's peers!