What Really Constitutes a Floor Maintenance Expert?
October 1, 2012
Often times I am introduced as an expert of floor maintenance and to this day I cringe every time I hear it. The reason is that it is so difficult to define what an expert of floor maintenance really is. What makes an expert in floor maintenance? Is it the number of years they have been doing it, the classes that the individual has attended, their success in business, their educational background? Is it the number of years they have been teaching the subject? Maybe just plain peer review? This is really a difficult question to answer because the floor maintenance industries are diverse and dynamic. In fact I’m not sure I am qualified to answer the question. So, we will begin with the simple definition of “expert” as it appears in the dictionaries.
• Mirriam-Webster: One with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.
• Cambridge: A person with a high level of knowledge or skill; a specialist.
• Your Dictionary: An expert is someone who has advanced knowledge or skill in a particular area.
• American Heritage: A person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject.
• Collins English: A person who has extensive skill or knowledge in a particular field.
• Macmillan: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject.
• Wictionary: A person with extensive knowledge or ability in a given subject.
• Webster’s Unabridged: An expert or experienced person; one instructed by experience; one who has skill, experience, or extensive knowledge in his calling or in any special branch of learning.
Based on the definitions above, anyone with special or high levels of knowledge and skill in a particular subject may be considered an expert. The definition of a floor is “the inside bottom surface of any room.” So if you are in a building, you are on a floor. The life cycle of the floor consists of conception, design, specification, manufacture, distribution, installation, maintenance, restoration/repair, demolition and recycling/disposal of the flooring material. Maintenance consists of initial, daily/routine, periodic or restorative service procedures combined in a program that protects the flooring, provides a clean and/or sanitized surface, enhances the appearance of the material and establishes a safer surface for foot traffic. In order to be an expert in floor maintenance, we must first look at the entire realm of flooring materials that we are charged to maintain.
Floor coverings or finish flooring is grouped in seven categories: dimension stone, concrete, ceramic/clay, wood, resilient, carpet and specialty. There are several classifications within each of the categories and some of these classifications have sub classifications (e.g. resilient flooring – vinyl – solid vinyl - sheet; inlaid, heterogeneous, or homogeneous). In addition to the classifications and sub classifications there will be types, styles, classes, textures and factory coatings that will require specific maintenance methods to maintain them. The floor maintenance expert will also have an understanding of the ways that the flooring material is attached to the subfloor/substrate and the environments they are best suited for. The ability to identify the finish flooring, the environmental conditions and the service procedures required is a critical aspect of being an expert.
Performing floor maintenance has three primary components that consist of chemicals, equipment (tools and materials) and technician skill level. The floor maintenance expert would be well-versed in each area. The realm of chemicals used in the process of performing floor maintenance is extensive: The expert would not only have to understand the basic principles of chemistry, but also understand the properties and characteristics of chemicals related to floor maintenance. Another component of floor maintenance performance is equipment selection. The expert should know what equipment would be best suited for the service procedures being performed and which equipment would provide the most efficient and effective results in a given environment. Although some floor maintenance is performed by an individual, more often than not it will be a team effort. The floor maintenance expert will not only have to demonstrate expert technician skills, but have the ability to put together a team of technicians and supervise them to complete larger tasks. Although the aforementioned skills and abilities address the operational aspect of floor maintenance, they do not speak to the strategic tactical planning involved.
The floor maintenance expert will be adept at developing full-blown programs for multiple environments taking into consideration the objective of the customer, the environment, the traffic conditions, congestion (physical, area and personnel) and time constraints. Combining all aspects of the floor maintenance program with the customer’s budgeted hours or dollars may also be the responsibility of the floor maintenance expert. In many situations, the expert will be a managing component (lead technician, supervisor or manager), which requires the expert to have good communications skills to ensure successful operations.
The key to being an expert is to have experience at whatever you are an expert in. Repetition is a primary part of expertise because if you do it over and over again, you will ultimately discover how to do it efficiently and effectively while gaining experience. However, just because you drive fast all the time does not make you an expert race car driver. Nor does drinking wine excessively make you a wine connoisseur. There has to be a basis of education and knowledge to understand the theory behind it. Electricians study and understand electricity before they go about splicing wires together. In most career paths you begin by learning theory long before you ever attempt to perform services.
As you can see, to be a floor maintenance expert would require a career full of experiences in every aspect of floor maintenance. It usually takes many steps to get there. You may start out as a detailing expert, becoming an equipment handling expert on to a finish application expert. You may be an expert of maintaining one classification of flooring material such as vinyl composition tile and expand your expertise into the entire category of resilient flooring. You may decide to increase your knowledge and skill levels to include other flooring categories and classifications. Ultimately with the right exposure, you may become a floor maintenance expert.
When introduced as a floor maintenance expert, I usually respond by saying, “It is my belief that an expert knows everything there is to know about a specific topic. Floor maintenance is a dynamic service that is always changing, I can never learn all there is to know about floor maintenance, so the best I can be is an actively growing professional.”
After all, it was Mahatma Gandhi that said: “The expert knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.”