Early in my career I was the Head Groundskeeper at a hospital in Northern Virginia. Like many hospitals mine was invested in community health and each year held a major screening and education event for the area. Because of the size of the event, volunteers were looked for from all areas of the hospital. Being eager to help my organization, I volunteered. The day of the event I checked in to get my assignment and was seriously disappointed to be assigned trash detail. While this was not the end of the world, I realized I had been pigeonholed. The people detailing jobs saw me as a groundskeeper and only a groundskeeper. Therefore, trash duty. What they failed to realize, and failed to benefit from, is a Grounds Crew can do so much more.
The Face of Your Business
The interpersonal interactions that take place in a business/workplace are the lifeblood of the organization. How people interact with staff can create a positive first impression and/or cement a long relationship. For many (all?) people that come into your business, the Grounds Crew is the part of the team they will interact with every day. Granted, they might not be the people that your visitors are coming to see but nonetheless, they are usually the staff that are seen first, answer requests for directions, or offer the first greeting on campus. In addition, the work of the grounds crew will be the first facet of the campus witnessed by customers, so it is vital your team be on their game. The Grounds crew must be considered a key member of the customer service team.
...the work of the grounds crew will be the first facet of the campus witnessed by customers, so it is vital your team be on their game.
Marketing is what a business or entity does to generate a purchase or convince a customer to enter an arrangement with that business. In order to drive attendance universities, utilize many different departments to market to prospective students. All universities support landscaping to some degree, but rarely is the Grounds Crew itself involved in the marketing effort. Uniforms, professional equipment, and even the team morale all come together to market the school to prospective students. Every university displays the campus landscape as best they can, and all look to supply a beautiful aesthetic. How many market the team itself? If a prospective student walks by a crew, would they be greeted appropriately? Do all crew members know their job enough to answer questions? Is the Admissions team in communications with the Grounds Crew? By integrating the Campus landscape staff into marketing, a stronger more cohesive promotion product may result.
The primary organizational goal for any Grounds Crew differs based on the business of the organization it is housed within. For a university, the primary organizational goal is education of students. But universities have many other goals also. There is Faculty enrichment, administration efforts, community outreach and fundraising to name just a few. Your Grounds Crew can come alongside all these efforts in direct ways. Our Grounds Crew here at Mississippi State University is partnering with our MSU Entomology Department to support a pollination project that department is working on. We will provide tactical support via plant advice, design, maintenance, and manpower in alignment with their strategy of pollinator habitat, ecology, nutrient cycling, and diversity. This partnership supports both our departmental missions in addition to the mission of the overall university. It also strengthens the interdepartmental ties where they otherwise might not be close. This is the power of a Grounds Crew.
Return on Investment
Successful organizations all spend their money carefully. Smart money must provide a return and help to build the value and assets of the organization. Human capital is often seen as a smart investment and many companies earn dividends by investing in their team members. This is especially true for your Grounds Crew. Providing training to your groundskeepers improves efficiency via streamlining production, eliminating delays, and preventing rework. By investing in the crew, turnover can be decreased thus reducing the cost and friction of training new workers. Proper training in proven techniques plus current research may eliminate costly mistakes but also take quality and outcomes to new levels. Perhaps most important is due to the durable yet perpetual nature of grounds work, training can result in short/long term, repetitive payback. Clearly the Grounds Crew can generate positive ROI.
Grounds Does It All
Every Grounds Crew I’ve ever been a part of, no matter the type of parent organization or location, has several traits in common. One of those traits is a deep commitment to serving their organization. Fortunately, this desire for service is usually readily available for utilization by their parent organization. In addition to the opportunities above, many Grounds Crews are active in volunteering, participating in boards and committees, mentoring, pollution prevention, and more. Talk to your Grounds Crew to help create avenues for increased participation and positive press. Your Grounds Crew truly can do it all.