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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


Maintaining Staff

Image of KeysA great deal of time, energy, and money goes into hiring good employees and providing them with worthwhile staff training opportunities. Thus, it is an expensive proposition to replace good staff who leave prematurely. Moreover, when a position is unfilled, the work either doesn't get accomplished or morale is hurt when existing staff are expected to work harder or longer to pick up the slack. Therefore it should not be surprising that retaining good staff is an essential aspect of effective management.

The first step to retaining staff is to determine the current staff turnover rate. If it is high, does this reflect how personnel are treated, either because of policies (e.g., poor compensation or benefits) or organizational culture (e.g., do staff feel undervalued)? And how might these data inform organizational policies and practices? For starters, staff retention can be affected by changes in policies. If turnover is costing the organization too much money and affecting the amount of work that is getting done, it may be time to introduce financial incentives for staff who stay on the job. For example, a one-year anniversary bonus equal to 5 percent of a person's annual salary might be a very effective tool for retaining staff for a full 12 months.

Consider allowing staff to vote on award recipients-it shows that their opinions are valued and may help to eliminate controversial decisions on the part of management.

Staff retention efforts might also take the form of staff appreciation awards, parties, and gifts. After all, nothing says "we value your work" like an end-of-the-year picnic (paid for by the district) where the facilities manager and superintendent pass out performance awards to maintenance and custodial staff who might otherwise not receive very much recognition for their work.

Incentives ideas include:

  Graphic of Checkmark on-the-spot awards
  Graphic of Checkmark annual cash bonuses
  Graphic of Checkmark hats or shirts with the department logo
  Graphic of Checkmark plaques
  Graphic of Checkmark gift certificates (to restaurants, movies, etc.)
  Graphic of Checkmark tickets to sporting events or musical concerts
  Graphic of Checkmark employee-of-the-month announcements
  Graphic of Checkmark picnics or banquets
  Graphic of Checkmark tuition reimbursement
  Graphic of Checkmark special privileges (e.g., coffee and doughnut parties)

And the Award for "Best Attitude" Goes to...

It was Henry's favorite day of work each year-the facilities department picnic! Every May, he and his family would meet his co-workers (and their families) at the outdoor swimming pool for an afternoon of food and fun. The facilities department would roast a pig, fry fish, bake potatoes, boil corn, invite the ice cream vendor, and pick up the tab!

This year, when Mr. Davis stood up to recognize his staff, the day got even better for Henry, as he was recognized for having the best attendance rate in the department over the past 12 months. Henry was proud to shake Mr. Davis's hand at the podium, but even happier to receive a $50 gift certificate to a local seafood restaurant. His friend Samantha also received an award-a plaque that read "Most Conscientious Employee"-that everyone in the department had voted on.

It was a day of family fun and pride. Henry's kids enjoyed the day as much as he did (which was part of why he liked the picnic so much), and Henry knew that his department valued the job he did throughout the school year!

While there may be financial benefits to privatizing certain activities in a school system, the effects on an organization's work culture must also be considered.

Where on the organizational chart does one draw the line when privatizing maintenance responsibilities? The short answer is that at least the "manager" should be a school district employee.

Managing Contracted Staff and Privatized Activities

Some school districts hire outside agencies to handle certain maintenance and custodial tasks - that is, they use "privatized" or "contracted" services. Why would an organization want to pay a third party enough money to perform a service and make a profit? There are many reasons for outsourcing jobs. Perhaps in-house staff are constantly being bombarded with "special" projects and emergencies that take priority over their daily duties. Maybe a small school district may not be able to afford to keep specialized personnel on the staff. Or a large district may need to cut back on the number of permanent staff.

Image of KeysWhatever the reason, privatizing is not just a question of the school district writing a check to pay for services. School staff must still put considerable energy into managing privatized endeavors. For example, when contracted staff are hired, precise specifications must be drawn up for the procurement, including an objective standard for measuring performance. Moreover, depending on the complexity of the task, a member of the in-house staff may still need to serve as project manager. To be effective, the project manager should have expertise in maintenance and operations, a thorough understanding of the contractor's scope of work, the skills to evaluate the contractor's performance, and the authority to assign supplemental support tasks to in-house staff.

Opportunities for in-house staff to work alongside outside contractors should never be ignored if schedules allow for such interaction. This type of cooperation can provide valuable (albeit informal) training for the district's maintenance and operations staff. At the same time, outside contractors can pick up valuable information about the practical applications of their work. Including in-house staff in all aspects of the maintenance program may have the added bonus of building support for the privatization program from within the organization.

Commonly Asked Questions

How does "training" apply to maintenance and custodial staff?
Image of Eagle with HammerCaring for a school facility requires considerable expertise. While the organization may prefer to hire maintenance and custodial staff who possess this expertise, this is not always possible. Sometimes "hiring" experts is just too expensive. In other cases, existing staff need training to meet changing facility needs. No matter the circumstances, developing staff expertise is a necessary and cost-effective component of getting the job done-and "developing" expertise is simply another way of saying "training." Staff training provides employees with the knowledge, skills, and experience (through practice) to accomplish their jobs effectively.

How does one justify professional development versus time-on-task?
Staff do not get hired to be students-they are hired to accomplish a job. Nonetheless, effective managers understand that helping employees improve their knowledge and skills also helps them to become better employees. Professional development can also be an effective tool for boosting or maintaining staff morale. After all, nothing conveys that an organization values and respects its workers like its willingness to invest in them.

What types of reward and incentive programs are effective?
Reward and incentive programs should be tailored to the needs and wants of the staff and the best interests of the organization. Staff might appreciate creativity when conceiving incentive programs, but planners should ensure that the incentives are things that the staff (and not the planners) would want. Examples include: on-the-spot awards, annual cash bonuses, gift certificates (e.g., to restaurants, movies, and stores), tickets to sporting events or musical concerts, hats or shirts with the department logo, plaques, employee-of-the-month announcements in the newspaper, picnics and banquets, tuition reimbursement, and special privileges (e.g., bonus time for coffee breaks or free doughnuts during breaks).

Additional Resources

Image of School BusEvery effort has been made to verify the accuracy of all URLs listed in this Guide at the time of publication. If a URL is no longer working, try using the root directory to search for a page that may have moved. For example, if the link to is not working, try and search for "IAQ."

Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers (APPA)
An international association that maintains, protects, and promotes the quality of educational facilities. APPA serves and assists facilities officers and physical plant administrators, conducts research and educational programs, produces publications, and develops guidelines.

Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
The online home of Cleaning & Maintenance Management Magazine, which features articles, buyers guides, key topics, and a calendar.

Custodial Staffing Guidelines for Educational Facilities
A guide about custodial staffing in educational facilities that addresses custodial evaluation, special considerations, staff development tools, and case studies. Appendices include information about custodial requirements, space classification, standard space category matrices, standard activity lists, and audit forms. APPA (1998) The Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers, Alexandria, VA, 266pp.

Custodial Standards
Guidelines that detail cleaning requirements for each area of a school, including classrooms, restrooms, cafeterias, gymnasiums, locker rooms, and corridors. Samples of assessment forms include emergency lighting, fire extinguisher inspection, air conditioner maintenance/service log sheets, and monthly custodial preventive maintenance forms. Office of Plant Operations and Maintenance (1998) Brevard Public Schools, Rockledge, FL, 44pp.

A commercial web site for facilities professionals sponsored by Trade Press Publishing Corporation and developed by the editors of Building Operating Management and Maintenance Solutions magazines. It includes a chat room on educational facilities.

Facility Management
The online home of American School and Hospital Maintenance Magazine. This site is intended to help facility managers stay informed about current issues and the latest products.

International Facility Management Association (IFMA)
The web site of a group that is dedicated to promoting excellence in the management of facilities. IFMA identifies trends, conducts research, provides educational programs, and assists corporate and organizational facility managers in developing strategies to manage human, facility, and real estate resources.

National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF)
A web site that includes reviews of and links to cutting-edge education facilities news; a calendar of conferences, workshops, and other facilities management-related events; a gallery of photos showing off innovative and provocative building design and construction from real schools across the nation; categorized and abstracted resource lists with links to full length, online, publications; and pointers to other organizations that provide online and off-line resources about education facilities management. NCEF can also be reached toll free at 888-552-0624.

National School Plant Management Association (NSPMA)
A membership organization that facilitates the exchange of information about school plant management, maintenance and care.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
The web site of OSHA, which has as its core mission to save lives, prevent injuries, and protect the health of America's workers. To accomplish this, federal and state governments work in partnership with the more than 100 million working men and women and their 6.5 million employers who are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

Plant Operations Support Program
A self-sustaining consortium comprised of facility managers from Washington state agencies, educational facilities, municipalities, and port districts. This web site includes a library of practices, policies, research studies, and other references on subjects including emergency preparedness, energy savings, maintenance management, IAQ, and accessibility.

A site that connects school facility professionals with each other to solve problems, share best practices, and improve learning environments. This includes tools for work management, information, and resources, as well as online procurement for equipment and school supplies. Some sections are accessible only to fee-paying members.
A professional support network for school facility administrators and support personnel that provides school-related news, products, resources, and facility management tools.

SchoolHouse Plant Operation & Maintenance Resource Center: School House Library
An online library containing reports dealing with various aspects of plant operation and maintenance that relate to the operation of school buildings.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The web site of the EEOC, which is charged with enforcing numerous employment-related federal statutes.

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
The web site of the INS, which is responsible for enforcing the laws regulating the admission of foreign-born persons (i.e., aliens) to the United States and for administering various immigration benefits, including the naturalization of qualified applicants for U.S. citizenship.

Managing Staff and Contractors Checklist

More information about accomplishing these checkpoints can be found on the pages listed in the right-hand column.

Accomplished Checkpoints
Yes No
    Have job descriptions been developed for all maintenance and operations positions?
    Do job descriptions describe "duties and responsibilities" accurately and in detail?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe working conditions?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe the physical requirements of the position?
    Have manufacturer supplied user manuals been examined for guidance on preventive maintenance strategies for each targeted piece of equipment?
    Do job descriptions comply with equal opportunity laws?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe the educational requirements of the position?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe the credential and licensure requirements of the position?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe equipment used in the position?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe at-will versus unionized requirements of the position?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe channels of authority for the position?
    Do job descriptions accurately describe evaluation mechanisms for the position?
    Do job descriptions include the phrase "and other duties as assigned"?
    Before interviewing candidates, have the characteristics of the "ideal" candidate been identified?
    After selecting the preferred candidate, but before extending an offer of employment, have the applicant's references been contacted?
    After selecting the preferred candidate, but before extending an offer of employment, has a criminal background check been performed on the applicant?
    After selecting the preferred candidate, but before extending an offer of employment, has the applicant provided evidence of employment eligibility?
    After extending an offer of employment, has the applicant provided all information needed to complete a personnel record?
    After extending an offer of employment, has the applicant provided all information needed to satisfy payroll needs?
    After selecting the preferred candidate, but before extending an offer of employment, has the applicant provided required medical and health records?
    Do all newly hired employees undergo staff training upon initially joining the organization?
    Does training for new staff include an orientation to key district sites (e.g., emergency locations) and all sites at which the individual will work?
    Does training for new staff include an introduction to all equipment the individual will be expected to use?
    Does training for new staff include instructions about how to best perform the individual's work tasks?
    Does training for new staff include a clear description of precisely what the individual must accomplish in order to meet the expectations of the job?
    Does training for new staff include an explanation of all criteria on which the individual will be evaluated?
    Is ongoing training provided to existing staff?
    Is professional development offered to all staff on an ongoing basis?
    Are all training and professional development activities documented on videotape so that they can be showed to other staff and at later times?
    Have cost-sharing and cost-minimizing methods for training programs and facilities been considered by management?
    Have staff been trained to create and use a "Moment of Truth" chart?
    Have performance standards and evaluation criteria been established for all staff positions?
    Have performance standards and evaluation criteria been adequately explained to all staff?
    Have managers been trained on how to perform fair, objective, accurate, and well-documented evaluations?
    Have staff turnover rates been determined and analyzed?
    Have the organization's personnel policies been adjusted to increase staff retention rates?
    Have rewards and incentives been introduced to improve staff morale and retention?
    Do privatization procurements include precise specifications for measuring performance?
    Has an in-house staff member been assigned the duties of "project manager" for each privatization contract?