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Engaging employees

October 28, 2022

New program supports development of frontline custodial workers

Custodial Services workers talk at a conference table
E&G Custodial Services frontline staff, from left, Lois Crenshaw, Sadia Mohamed, Jamyang Choedon, Charlotte Kidd and Swaintain Reaves, participate in the Central Zone Frontline Engagement Session in September.

Earlier this year, E&G Custodial Services launched a new program to engage its frontline custodial workers and emphasize their vital roles at UVA.

The Frontline Engagement Sessions launched in early August and include meaningful, inspiring conversations between frontline employees and leadership staff.

“I envisioned the benefits of bringing training and collaboration to the frontline by holding small group conversations in the field,” said E&G Custodial Services Associate Director Vibha Buckingham. “My primary goal was to remind, reinforce, and demystify programs that also tie into their annual performance goals and at the same time being inspirational and fun.”

To date, 77 frontline team members have participated, according to Quality Assurance & Staff Development Manager Sandra Smith.

“We used a different spin to build on the frontline team's existing knowledge and understanding of APPA, its cleaning level definitions and the inside workings of E&G's Quality Assurance program, all to help reduce stress and to broaden their view of programs that influence their work,” Smith said.

Part of the sessions were devoted to soft skills, such as leadership, flexibility, and the importance of trust in workplace relationships. However, one of the most engaging parts of the program was an opportunity for the frontline to “stand in the shoes” of an official Quality Assurance Inspector (QA) while performing formal electronic QA inspections. The focus of this exercise isn't on cleaning -- instead it is to perform a post-cleaning inspection using APPA standards and ratings as customized by E&G's inspection criteria.

“Every single participant was fully engaged in this exercise which gave them clarity on the standards used to measure their work,” according to Buckingham. “One of the most important points was that the numerical scores of inspections that impact final results are not selected by a QA inspector; it is automated and calculated electronically. This fact alone helped de-personalize the process and results for the custodial team, helping them trust and accept results. One of the biggest benefits of this effort was a decrease in stress levels of the frontline attendees.”

There was also a surprise bonus for Custodial leadership at the end of the sessions: all 77 staff members asked to continue these exercises moving forward, indicating an even greater success than expected.

The department plans to continue the program in 2023 with fresh topics like sustainability, GS-42 certifications, green cleaning principles and a focus on the core competency of self-awareness. There is also an effort underway to utilize interpreters to deliver the exercises to the non-English speaking employees.

“For many reasons, it was a privilege to be part of this initiative,” said Smith. “What impressed me the most was that without exception, each saw themselves as a leader in their role and had no question that their work was valued by E&G management and the University.”

About the author

Jane Centofante
Communications senior generalist
UVA Facilities Management
(434) 982-5846