Everyone Does Custodial Cleanup

First impressions are valuable assets to recreation facilities. Appearance and upkeep of buildings--both inside and out--matter! From the landscaping around the front drive to the drinking fountains in the gymnasium, basic cleanliness and maintenance should be a priory.

This vital part of customer service should involve everyone--all levels of staff.

Pitch In

Start by hiring staff members who embrace the idea of teamwork and understand the value of maintaining a clean and tidy environment for patrons. If there’s trash on the floor, pick it up. If a door is broken, do what you can to fix it.

Employees will be more willing to cooperate with this expectation if it is followed by management as well. Directors and managers must also show that when they see something that needs to be addressed, he or she is not above handling the issue. The philosophy is simple: “Leave it better than you found it, and everyone does custodial!”

Identify Problems

Next, purposeful rounds are a key component to ensuring that maintenance and cleaning issues are not neglected during the day. Create a checklist and have staff members initial or sign that he or she indeed did make rounds and have identified any potential problem areas. A sense of accountability has to govern the process, or you will not have consistent and thorough assessments of all areas.

Further, the process must be audited to ensure that employees are not just signing the forms without actually checking each item. Have supervisors complete the walk-through with staff members to ensure accuracy. This also provides an additional check of the areas.

Schedule rounds appropriately. While some tasks should be done hourly, others may be reviewed daily, weekly or monthly. Create a master schedule or calendar so tasks aren’t forgotten.

Cleanliness or maintenance concerns must be addressed as soon as possible. The longer a sign hangs to indicate an area is closed or out of order, the longer guests are frustrated. (I’ve had members ask for pro-rated refunds because fitness equipment was broken.)

In addition, scheduled daily checks can reduce costs and minimize maintenance. A simple cleanliness inspection will find a clogged toilet instead of a much larger mess like damaged pipes or walls.

Follow Through

Many facilities go to great lengths to inspect and find issues, but the follow-up is missing.

This is common, especially in larger organizations where it can be complicated to know which department fixes which issue. Maintenance crews are often spread out among a network of facilities, having to triage work requests.

Plus, some issues don’t seem to fit into any specific category, so it can be challenging to fix them. For example, we had an area where the wallpaper needed to be replaced. Replacing wallpaper seems easy enough, unless the type is no longer made, as it was in this case. Custom wallpaper was too expensive, and no similar types were approved to work with the current design scheme.

Therefore, we had to decide what to do to match the décor. In the end, we saved a significant amount of money by painting the wall. The long-term goal will be to replace all of the wallpaper in this area, as it requires less-frequent maintenance, but in the meantime, this proved a quick and effective fix. Many of these issues can be done each day with a little creativity.

Devise A Plan

Finally, detailed and comprehensive maintenance plans are a must.

Oftentimes, there are areas in the facility that are “clean”; however, their age and appearance may reflect cleanliness concerns to guests. This misconception can be a significant challenge to overcome. Therefore, it is imperative to study the facility closely and ready staff for quick fixes as well as long-term solutions.

Further, the plan should include action steps and possible solutions to potential problems. This plan can save significant time, money and, most importantly, an inconvenience to guests. In many cases, cost estimates may have already been budgeted, so a quick response is ready and will definitely be appreciated by your guests.

Nate Thorne is the deputy director for the Plainfield Parks and Recreation Department in Indiana. He can be reached via e-mail at nthorne@town.plainfield.in.us.