Using Technology to Deliver on your Facility Safety Program

Amanda Darcey /

Last year, my colleague at Lighthouse.io created this infographic about the costs of a Slip and Fall at your property. The bottom line? A small spill can lead to a BIG cost.

In that same infographic, we pointed to 2 key priorities to protect your people, your customers and your business:

  1. Create a Safe Environment
  2. Monitor and Record Activity

If you work in janitorial or facilities services, you are most likely familiar with those priorities. In fact, in my years of working with service providers, I am yet to meet one that didn’t have at least a basic safety program in place. In many cases, your safety program is a cornerstone of the business. The ongoing challenge lies in executing and monitoring that program across hundreds of locations which usually experience high employee turnover rates.

The good news is, technology is making it easier to meet your safety goals and ultimately reduce your insurance claims costs. This post explores 3 of the most common problems with safety programs and our recommendations for how technology, specifically mobile technology, can help address them:

Problem #1: The Performance Gap##

"When we follow the program, it's GREAT! But... not everyone follows the program..."

In a perfect world, every janitor would execute their duties according to the letter of the law and every Manager would provide service that commands Customer loyalty. But the truth is, as in every profession, there is a marked difference between the top performers and everyone else. When we put good processes in place, including schedules and task logs, we are generally trying to make the behaviors of our best employees common practice. But any number of things can make this difficult, including:

  • Poor or ineffective training
  • Multilingual staff and poor translations
  • Strength of management and enforcement of processes
  • Huge staff turnover (more on this below)

Employee mobile apps open up a world of possibilities for communicating your safety programs to reduce this performance gap. Task lists or logs can be pushed to service workers at the right time and place, letting them know WHAT to do and WHEN it needs to be done. Tasks can be delivered in multiple languages and inputs can be instantly translated. And, unlike paper logs that more often than not end up buried in filing cabinets, mobile task reporting allows for detailed analytics, including frequency and duration of tasks in your process. Robust reporting means the ability to identify which of your hundreds of locations require additional training or enforcement of your safety programs to more efficiently allocate your management resources.

Problem #2: Staff Turnover##

"We train our new staff, they are following the program well, and then they leave"

We've never taken an official survey of this, but we'd be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 janitorial service providers would indicate "staff turnover" is one of their biggest challenges to delivering on safety and service excellence objectives.

Retention is a huge problem in the industry - some studies indicate it can be over 200% per year. That turnover can have big consequences including high costs of hiring, on-boarding and training, and lost revenues as you struggle to fill open hours. But importantly, the cost to your safety program is significant. It's hard enough to train thousands of employees to follow a process, but when 3,000 roles turns into 9,000 people to train and monitor, it can be near impossible.

There are a number of factors that contribute to high turnover in the janitorial industry - low wages, burn-out, even injuries related to repetitive tasks. And while technology is no silver bullet, there are a few ways mobile workforce management solutions can help:

1. Mobile On-boarding / Training: Some level of turnover in this industry is pretty much inevitable. Therefore, our priority needs to be on reducing the time and cost to effectively onboard new employees. Best in class used to mean online classrooms where employees follow regimented curricula. But, in an industry that is by definition hands on, these trainings tend to go in one ear and out the other. Training delivered at the right time and place, checked off as tasks are completed and quality inspected by managers later increases the speed and effectiveness of employee on-boarding. Even if you don't use mobile task logs and quality inspections in your everyday operations, they can be incredibly effective training tools.

2. Smart Task Scheduling: Anyone with experience in hospitality housekeeping is likely to be familiar with task rotation. It has been proven to mitigate risk factors for repetitive motion injuries (the leading cause of workers compensation claims in the industry. And, as a bonus, task rotation can reduce burn-out and improve efficiency. Technologies that measure a service worker's activity (i.e. steps taken/distance traveled, tasks submitted, hours worked) can also learn to identify risk factors and rotate worker’s schedules and assignments accordingly. The result is fewer absences due to injury and burn-out.

3. Gamification/ Employee Rewards: We already talked about the impact of the performance gap on effectiveness of your safety program. So, while some turnover may be inevitable, keeping your high performers should be the priority. Here too, mobile technology may provide a solution. Systems like Lighthouse.io combined with other Business Intelligence tools, can measure employee performance against benchmarks and KPIs and identify those high performers. Providing rewards to employees that consistently deliver can help us retain them and motivate others to lift their game.

Problem #3: The Law of Unintended Consequences##

"I've implemented a good safety program and my staff is onboard but, in doing so, it seems to have created new bad behaviors"

Service professionals are not robots, nor do we want them to be. Often times, the secret sauce lies in the ability to interpret a situation and the freedom to respond to it. So when a program dictates certain behaviors, it can stress your employees out and lead to the wrong outcomes.

We've long been critical of RFID wand technology (and QR codes for that matter) for service professionals for this very reason. These systems require employees to check-in (tap or scan) every time they pass a checkpoint. From a safety program standpoint, they provide a mechanism for tracking compliance to rotation schedules and service times. And, while it seems simple enough to tap a button, the reality is these systems very often create a situation where tapping the button the designated time interval becomes more important than providing quality service. We end up with cleaners looking for checkpoints rather than checking the floors for spills!

Moreover, these systems risk punishing employees for behaviors that should be encouraged (and can create some unnecessary stress as a result). Take this real-life scenario for example: at a shopping mall in the U.S., an unexpected late March snowstorm meant schools were cancelled and mall traffic was higher than normal. As those in the janitorial industry know, higher than normal traffic and wet snow at Entrances means rotations can take longer. In this instance, should the porter be punished for missing the required number of checkpoints or rewarded for diligently cleaning snow-caked entrances with higher slip risk?

At Lighthouse.io, we strongly believe that technology should provide the information you need and the freedom to act on it. In the case of janitorial services, the information a supervisor and a porter needs may be inherently different. The application of the technology is just as important as the features themselves. Here are 2 best practices in mobile tech we’ve seen applied effectively to mitigate this risk:

1. Passive tracking / automation for staff. A day porter's primary job is and should be cleaning and attending to safety risks. The goal of technology is to minimize the extra work required so they can focus on the job at hand. Lighthouse.io has done this by replacing manual or "active" processes (like scanning a QR code or tapping a checkpoint) with automated ones enabled by passive technologies like Bluetooth and GPS. The user signs in and location and compliance stats are recorded automatically in the background. For the most part, the only interaction the user has with the technology is at the start and end of their shift. If an active process like task submission is required, the form is suggested to the user based on their current location and contextual information - like user, time and location - is populated automatically, minimizing time spent on search and data entry.

2. Proactive alerts for supervisors. Conversely, the manager is on the floor, responding to issues and trying to provide the highest level of customer service. Mobile apps and time or location-based rules provide the ability to alert managers potential issues (like missed service loops) before they become potential hazards. Information is presented at their fingertips so they can determine the appropriate course of action. In our March snow-storm example, managers can be alerted to missed checkpoints and use their experience and common sense to adjust their rotations accordingly. They can even record real-time information on the safety hazards (say for example, missing dry mats at entrances, to provide context and prove duty of care should an issue later arise.

Conclusion##

Smart application of simple mobile tools can make implementing safety programs faster, easier and more cost effective. Most importantly, the tracking and analytics these tools offer allow you to effectively monitor your program and maximize its success.

This is not to say that every worker will be automatically proficient in mobile apps or that you won't face any challenges in implementing them. In fact, at least 30% of our new users do not currently own a smartphone. But we have learned that well designed, context aware apps help scale that learning curve and bridge the performance gap by communicating standards at the right time and place (and in the right language). When the standards do fall, proactive alerts and reporting means managers can spot the problem and take corrective action before it becomes endemic.

And, after all, if both your kids and your parents can learn to love their smart devices, so might your employees.

Want to learn more about how Lighthouse.io has helped our customers improve their safety programs? Book a demo with us today.

Amanda Darcey

I deeply believe that really great experiences come from simple, intuitive products and great teams delivering them. That is why I am so excited to drive the growth of the Lighthouse.io product in US.