Cleaning & Restoration Association News

Communication: The First Step to Understanding

December 14, 2000
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Communications between people can be very difficult. We’ve all experienced the frustration of trying to make a point to someone who just doesn’t understand what you’re saying or to try to understand someone who isn’t clear about what they’re saying. There is always two parts of communication, transmission and reception. If one and/or the other are not clear, miscommunication is the result. In hard floor maintenance management, this can end up in disaster that may ultimately cost in terms of time, money, damage or accident.

Communicating face-to-face is difficult enough between friends and family, but when you require communication between companies or in the workplace it can be even more difficult. When you ask managers, supervisors and co-workers to communicate face-to-face, you add levels of comfort and discomfort that create more tension and may cause transmission or reception to become hazy. Add to that a chain of command with managers communicating with subordinates that work alternating shifts and it becomes challenging and in some cases, near impossible.

Owners, Property and Facility Managers

The responsibility of communications often begins with the owners, property or facility managers in charge of ensuring cleaning services take place in their buildings. These positions request hard floor maintenance services and often set the specifications, frequencies and price for services. It’s important to communicate exactly what you expect from the contractor or housekeeping department to ensure they provide the end result that you are seeking. You will ultimately be responsible for the work performed, so it’s to your best interest to make sure that communication is clear from your end. If the contractor or housekeeping manager doesn’t understand, then try different means of communicating your requirements until you’re sure everyone understands.

Managers

Managers have the inside story; they communicate with the customer and they know the objectives that have been set. It’s the manager’s job to make sure the customer is clear on what they’re asking. They can then relay that information having either sold the job or being in a position of knowing what the maintenance requirements are. This will vary greatly depending on the size of the company, territory or facilities that the manager oversees. It’s the responsibility of the manager to convey a very clear picture of what is expected and the budgeted amount of time and/or money allocated for the task. This is generally estimated by establishing what service procedures will be done, the frequency they will be done at and the productivity ratio that is relevant to the particular procedures.

By authorizing service procedures to be performed, the manager is acknowledging that time and money will be applied to some service. It’s imperative that the service is assigned a name. This is known as terminology. Without correct terminology, the job has little chance for success. The term “clean and wax” may be understandable and very clear to the manager who assigns the task, but to the supervisor or technician who has the responsibility of performing the service, it’s too broad and will need additional clarification. If the true objective is to “strip and refinish” the floor then “clean and wax” will most likely end in catastrophe followed by additional loss of having to re-do the area again to meet the original request. Unless of course the terminology in your business or facility reflects that “clean and wax” equates into “strip and refinish.”

There are many different terminologies in today’s hard floor maintenance industry. This is because there are many different sources for hard floor maintenance education. However, major efforts are being made to set standards that will transcend these differences and create a single standard for the profession.

Operations Managers and Supervisors

Critical positions in any business, they are essentially positions that are generally occupied by someone who has had a great deal of experience in the field, who understands the terminology and is capable of overseeing and/or performing the tasks assigned. Although these positions are knowledgeable with the terminology and what it means, it’s up to them to make sure the property or facility manager (who may not have the expertise in the field) is in fact asking that the correct service procedure be performed.

This position schedules service procedures and assigns tasks to the appropriate technicians for completion. These individuals have the responsibility of communicating work instructions to the crews.

Crew Leaders and Technicians

These are the final links in the chain of command. These are the individuals who are actually performing the services. Crew leaders are usually responsible for receiving the instructions or work orders and working with the technicians to accomplish the goals set by the owner, property or facility managers. Technicians are required to take instructions, understand them and aid in fulfilling the task. The types of communication may change from position to position, but all should be working toward the same objectives.

Summary

There are several layers of management and labor between the person who requests the services and the person who actually performs the services. Be sure to comprehend the instructions, and take the responsibility of understanding communication. If you do not fully comprehend what’s being asked of you, then ask questions until you and whomever you are communicating with come to a mutual agreement.

Also, always request written instructions or write them down yourself. If you are having difficulty in communications, it never hurts to bring in a third party to mediate.

Communicating is not solely an owner or property/facility management responsibility nor is it left on the shoulders of operation managers, supervisors and technicians. It’s the responsibility of everyone on the team to communicate clearly.

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