environmental services jobs in healthcare include custodial work

Workplace safety is important for all organizations, and especially for medical facilities where the risks of illness and injury run high. A great deal of the responsibility for healthcare employee safety belongs to those holding environmental services jobs.

Without the right hires in place, safety can become an inconsistent variable potentially endangering all healthcare employees and even patients.

Hiring well for environmental services jobs begins by accurately representing the job and its associated duties during the hiring process, while also emphasizing the integral role these employees play in creating a safe healthcare workplace for all.

Set the Recruitment Stage for Environmental Services Jobs

The employment of janitors and building cleaners is on a consistent growth pattern, especially in healthcare, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, one of the main reasons for all the job openings is occupational turnover. Empowering environmental services job candidates with information is one way to win the battle against turnover in healthcare settings.

“Educate the community on environmental services jobs through ad campaigns that clearly define what someone in that role would do,” says Dana Cates, a senior consultant for Lean Human Capital by HealthcareSourceSM, who has more than 30 years’ experience as a talent management professional.Quite often, new healthcare environmental services employees are unaware of the job responsibilities awaiting them. This includes everything from the realities of shift work to unexpected tasks. “There is one component of the position a candidate needs to be aware of, and that is the likelihood that they will come in contact with infectious diseases and may have to handle bodily fluids,” says Cates. Hospitals and medical facilities are not always pretty places, but every role in a hospital or healthcare community is critical.

Quite often, new healthcare environmental services employees are unaware of the job responsibilities awaiting them. This includes everything from the realities of shift work to unexpected tasks. “There is one component of the position a candidate needs to be aware of, and that is the likelihood that they will come in contact with infectious diseases and may have to handle bodily fluids,” says Cates. Hospitals and medical facilities are not always pretty places, but every role in a hospital or healthcare community is critical to the overall success of the organization.

Competitive salary and career advancement opportunities are also necessary to help potential applicants realize their hard work will be rewarded. “There are many positions in environmental services, mostly housekeeping. This includes cleaning patient rooms and general areas of the hospital, disinfection, and other basic housekeeping functions,” says Cates. Employees in environmental services jobs will find themselves faced with a consistently demanding and physical position.

One of the biggest expectations environmental services employees must fulfill is delivering patient satisfaction and safety. Environmental services workers are as important as the medical staff — an unclean and unsafe medical facility cannot function properly.  Which brings us to the hiring process.

Focus on Making Smart Hires for Environmental Services Jobs

While you may find yourself with a group of environmental services job candidates who have experience cleaning hotels or offices, working in a hospital is a different animal. Clearly defined expectations, job description sign-off, adherence to standards of conduct, impeccable attendance, and displaying a neat and orderly appearance are all critical requirements for environmental services staff in a healthcare setting.

“I have found that more healthcare systems are conducting panel interviews where candidates can meet with current staff,” says Cates. This connection can provide a more realistic job preview and make it possible to find “new hires whose values align with the mission of the organization and great customer satisfaction. Customer service and other values must be evaluated in the candidate selection process.” The entire patient experience and any touch point with a staff member is a satisfaction measure, even interactions with environmental services staff.

Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Michigan, experienced high turnover within their environmental services department, so they implemented the following strategies to set up their healthcare organization for success:

  • Streamlined application process
  • Interview days with on-the-spot hiring
  • Pre-screening behavioral questions to recruit the right talent with the right values
  • On-site informational sessions providing managers and recruiters with the chance to observe candidates and conduct pre-interviews

This helped the organization meet its goal: To seek out high-quality candidates who respond positively to the information they’ve received about the environmental services job for which they are applying and who understand the job expectations.

How to Retain Environmental Services Employees

Bronson Healthcare Group began addressing their environmental services turnover issue by determining the characteristics successful new hires had in common. They also identified the problems that were plaguing the department: attendance and punctuality, the inability to meet appearance standards, and a lack of understanding the responsibilities of working in a healthcare setting or the importance of their job duties to the organization’s success. Miscommunication during interviews and too little experience also added to HR challenges.

New hires who are not prepared to work in a patient environment may not realize the job duties that await them, no matter how thorough the recruitment process. “The turnover issue can be better managed with employee engagement initiatives driven by leadership, more educational programs for staff, and hiring the right people in the first place,” says Cates. “Quite a few health systems now outsource leadership to companies, and the full culture is not developed in the department.”

From clinicians to the janitorial staff, how patients are treated and how the facility is maintained by all have an impact on employee and patient safety and well-being. Each and every staff member has a direct impact on the success of the organization, though many in environmental services jobs fail to see this connection or their own relevance. The duties that await environmental service employees can be incredibly demanding, but they are of supreme importance to a healthcare organization’s smooth — and safe — operation.


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Elizabeth Weiss

About Elizabeth Weiss

Elizabeth Weiss is a freelance writer and web content specialist. Her bread and butter is crafting web pages and blog posts for professional clients, but her feature articles have also appeared in Forbes, Marie Claire, Avvo, and other print and online publications. She lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. with her husband and two children and is often surrounded by Legos, dark chocolate, and library books. Learn more about Elizabeth at WeissWords.com.