When I reported a little while ago on how some companies were outsourcing their custodial and sanitation departments, I thought it was a neat concept with some solid reasoning behind it, but I didn’t expect the decision to be an Earth-shattering one.
Well, I underestimated the power of outsourcing. In an article released a few days ago in the New Haven Independent, the Chief Operating Officer of the New Haven school district, Will Clark, extolled the virtues of the method. Last year, his district replaced one third of their union custodians with those provided by the private sector, and now they’re on track to save $4 million per year in cleaning costs.
New Haven struck an excellent balance between keeping union workers and hiring new private-sector workers, with most schools keeping two union workers full-time and adding up to seven union part-timers. Many of the old union workers were promoted during this change, raising their pay and responsibilities over the new hires; this is something that would have been extremely difficult if not impossible under the old union rules. In addition, the reapplication process for union workers meant that the district could scrutinize and ultimately trim off workers that had recurring attendance or disciplinary problems. When the dust settled, the district was left with only their best union workers.
The results speak strongly. The district now enjoys qualitatively cleaner schools, workers with more flexibility, and the ability to do more with fewer people. One particular school, Career High, used to have seven union full-timers on staff. Now they have just two, with the rest of the work being taken care of by seven new outsourced part-time workers. Due to the variance allowed by this system, the school can call in more workers for big projects, like when they tackled several gym floor repairs and saved the company an estimated $50 grand. With the abolition of dedicated workers for things like the pool and lunchroom, workers can go exactly where they need to go without being tied down by red tape.
And in addition to more staff when it’s needed, the district now also has the ability to stop money bleeding from paying overstaffed schools. The current system in Career High has more total workers, but fewer billed hours; the new workers can do the jobs of their predecessors in two employees worth of reduced hours. If a worker needs to call out for the day, one of the other contractors can step in without the school having to pay them overtime hours. This saving alone has almost amassed $1 million this year. And if the work for the day is done, the contract workers can be sent home instead of the district continuing to pay them to hang around. “We don’t need you sitting there doing nothing” if the building is already clean, Clark affirms, and I agree with him.
New Haven’s smart moves have saved them lots of money, allowed more people to have jobs, resulted in cleaner schools in less time, freed up hands and money for other projects, and added heaps of overall flexibility to their work capacity. If it could happen for them, who else could benefit from this method? You, maybe! Take a leaf from their book and get Ziptask to add some extra muscle to your workforce, and you’ll find your business will reach new levels of capability.