Cell phone use by janitorial employees?

Hi Steve,

I own a fairly large (about 500 workers even though most are part time) janitorial service here in Portland, OR. I recently received this email from one of our largest accounts. Obviously my employee using her cell phone while working in front of my customer (who is the Facility Manager!) is wrong. But given that my managers and I can’t be watching 500 employees 24-7 how can we avoid this Negative Moment of Truth?  (Thanks for teaching me this phrase in the SFS seminar- we use it every day in our company.)

Puzzled in Portland

Here is the email:

Could you please ask your workers in our locker rooms to not to be on their cell phones?  Almost every time I’m there in the evening, the woman is washing things down with one hand and talking on her cell phone with the other.  Not only is she not doing the job you (and we) are paying her for, but she’s jabbering the whole time in Spanish on a device that also has a camera! Not that she is taking pictures but you never know. I know it’s not the most exciting job in the world to spend your life cleaning up after other people. But if your employees have to be on their cell phone could it at least not be in our locker rooms?

This one is a constant battle, Puzzled, and one we address consistently in the SFS seminar. Simply put, the new generation of employees today are totally addicted to their cell phones and especially to texting (and tweeting, friending, updating, etc) along with the constant inane social media chatter of “look at me” so common today. (Don’t get me started!)

As your client’s email notes cell phone use on the job is a very negative Moment of Truth and especially so when they are blathering away in a foreign language.  So what to do?

1.  Given your uncontrolled work environment as a 24-7 unsupervised janitorial service I say forget about “banning” cell phones and forcing your staff to leave them in their cars. This just isn’t going to happen unless A) you are prepared to greatly increase inspection visits and monitoring by your managers and B) to then make an example of a few employees by firing them!

NOTE: With fewer employees I usually recommend to our SFS members that they have their techs leave their personal cell phones at the office and carry “blocked” company cell phones that can only make and receive calls back to the office.  But with such a large work force this may not be practical for your situation.

Remember that in SFS I reminded you to never make a rule that is “impossible” to follow.  “Addicts will always get their fix!”  Instead I would…

2.  Implement a policy that employees should …

a.  NEVER be on a cell phone while there are employees or customers of the place you are cleaning present.  And…

b. NEVER speak in a foreign language (either on the phone or to another company employee) in front of a customer. (I’m surprised you haven’t implemented this one, Puzzled! We talked about this rule AND it is in your SFS Operation Manual as a turnkey procedure!)

3. Now get back to the complaining client who wrote you the email above and give her a big THANK YOU for sharing a great view through her Customer Eyeglasses! She very likely saved you a lot of grief down the road!

Let me know how these changes work for you!

Steve Toburen

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