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Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities
Chapter 1
  Introduction to School Facilities Maintenance Planning
Chapter 2
    Planning for School Facilities Maintenance
Chapter 3
    Facility Audits: Knowing What You Have
Chapter 4
    Providing a Safe Environment for Learning
Chapter 5
    Maintaining School Facilities and Grounds
Chapter 6
    Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors
Chapter 7
    Evaluating Facilities Maintenance Efforts
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Chapter 6
Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors


  Image of Checkmark To communicate the necessity of good human resources practices as a pre-condition for effective facilities maintenance management
  Image of Checkmark To describe best practice strategies for effectively managing staff


Training 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:

  Graphic of Checkmark 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.
  Graphic of Checkmark 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).
  Graphic of Checkmark 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).
  Graphic of Checkmark 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).
  Graphic of Checkmark 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).
  Graphic of Checkmark 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.

The purpose of staff training may be to:

  Graphic of Checkmark ensure that your staff stay safe (e.g., OSHA training)
  Graphic of Checkmark teach staff how to deal with changing needs (e.g., caring for newly installed floors)
  Graphic of Checkmark provide a stimulating experience to people who perform repetitive tasks (thereby improving staff morale and retention rates)
  Graphic of Checkmark prepare staff for future promotions

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 Development

Image of KeysSkills 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 include:

All staff training sessions should be documented. Videotaped sessions can be used in future training activities.
  Graphic of Checkmark 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).
  Graphic of Checkmark Hiring expert staff or consultants to provide on-site supervision during which they actively help staff improve their skills while still on-the-job.
  Graphic of Checkmark 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.
  Graphic of Checkmark Offering tuition reimbursement programs which provide educational opportunities to staff who might not otherwise be motivated to improve their knowledge and skills.
  Graphic of Checkmark 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.

"Staff training" refers to learning opportunities designed specifically to help an employee do his or her job better. "Professional Development" has a broader meaning, which includes expanding participants' knowledge and awareness to areas outside their specific job duties, yet still related to the overall well-being
of the organization. Such topics might include:

  Graphic of Checkmark asbestos awareness
  Graphic of Checkmark energy systems
  Graphic of Checkmark building knowledge
  Graphic of Checkmark first aid
  Graphic of Checkmark emergency response
  Graphic of Checkmark biohazard disposal
  Graphic of Checkmark technology use
  Graphic of Checkmark universal precautions
  Graphic of Checkmark Right-to-Know

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 development meeting:

On Thursday nights...

Below Standard Standard to Be Met Opportunity to Exceed
Image of 'x' mark Outside doors locked

Image of 'x' mark Room door locked

Image of 'x' mark Meeting area unprepared

Graphic of Checkmark Outside doors unlocked

Graphic of Checkmark Room door unlocked

Graphic of Checkmark Meeting area prepared

Graphic of CheckmarkGraphic of CheckmarkExterior and lobby lights turned on; Scouts greeted as they arrive

Graphic of CheckmarkGraphic of CheckmarkRoom lights turned on; signs pointing to the meeting room

Graphic of CheckmarkGraphic of CheckmarkClosest bathroom unlocked, lit, (e.g., temperature checked, cleaned, and supplied; introduce room straightened) self to troop leader; tell troop leader to call if they need any other help; reappear at end of meeting to escort the troop out of the building and lock the doors behind them

How did the "Moment of Truth" chart inform Steve's actions?

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).

Evaluating Staff

Image of KeysManaging 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.

Guidelines for Developing Performance Standards

Management must:

  Graphic of Checkmark Establish goals
  Graphic of Checkmark Create an evaluation instrument (e.g., a checklist)
  Graphic of Checkmark Be as detailed and specific as possible
  Graphic of Checkmark Define the performance scale (e.g., 0 = poor to 5 = excellent)
  Graphic of Checkmark Be flexible (i.e., acknowledge extraordinary circumstances when they arise)
  Graphic of Checkmark Convey expectations to affected staff people
  Graphic of Checkmark Review the performance standards on a regular basis (e.g., annually)

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 to:

  Graphic of Checkmark Be objective and not allow personalities to influence the assessment
  Graphic of Checkmark Document evidence that supports the assessment
  Graphic of Checkmark 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!

What Keeps Good People on the Job?

Graphic of Checkmarkgood pay Graphic of Checkmarkgood benefits Graphic of Checkmarka sense that they are respected
Graphic of Checkmarka feeling that their work is valued Graphic of Checkmarkopportunity for advancement