Princeton University Takes a Professional Approach to Cleaning with CMI Certification

Building services department creates a high-performance team through ISSA CMI and CIMS certification

CMI Certification Princeton Pictured: Richard Brown (front row, white shirt, no tie) and ISSA Education Manager Mark Warner (front row, white shirt with tie) with the training class in July 2019.


Three months after stepping into his role as assistant director of building services at Princeton University, Richard Brown was asked to share his observations and thoughts about the department, the team and the performance of both.

Brown had high regard for his team and the core values that guided them in “fostering a culture of teamwork, innovation, integrity, inclusiveness, respect, and sustainability.” While everyone on the team worked hard, Brown recognized that the team could do more by working smarter, not harder, and by improving communication in all directions.

Brown proposed that the department invest in professional development for the 44 supervisors, managers, and team leaders working in the 300-person department. Having previously achieved certification as an ISSA Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) Custodial Supervisor and Trainer, Brown appreciated the value of the program and understood how it could benefit the department and individual employees alike.

“In my previous years of work experience the view of cleaning as an industry and profession was general in scope,” says Brown. “The new product information and ad hoc advice I received from local distributors was helpful, but I soon learned it was far from enough.

“Through the ISSA CMI Custodial Supervisor and Train the Trainer Certification, I realized the scope and value of a professional approach to cleaning. I adopted a much more customer service-focused mindset and began staying ahead of potential problems by becoming predictive and proactive instead of reactive.”

Brown credits the certification courses as helping him learn how to analyze data in proper context, recognize best practices, achieve standards of clean, excel at customer service, plan and strategize, and leverage tools like soft skills, hard skills, equipment, staffing, software, and culture. Introducing employees to a more professional leadership mindset would be key to driving improvement across the department.


ISSA CMI Custodial Supervisor Certification recognizes the role that custodians play in efficiently maintaining sanitary and safe buildings. The course’s four sections each cover a particular area of supervising and managing custodial maintenance work. From the development of leadership qualities to technical workplace skills like incorporating technology and setting processes and procedures to recruitment, hiring, and quality assurance, the course includes information that will help attendees improve operations and advance their careers.

Brown’s leadership team embraced Brown’s proposal for ISSA CMI Custodial Supervisor Certification training and employees participated in five days of training.

“Some team members have participated in internal management training, whereas others had not experienced professional development opportunities beyond on-the-job training for new frontline employees,” says Brown. “


After on-site training was complete, a four-question survey validated employee pride and appreciation. Even the most tenured team members expressed thanks for the program, its energetic instructor, applicability of the course content, and most of all, the fact that the university invested in their personal career development.

“The participants were enlightened and inspired,” says Brown. “We experienced a genuine cultural shift and new ideas began to emerge from team members at all levels.”

The cultural shift has since been fostered by monthly one-on-one interviews with the 13 supervisors who participated in the certification. These “Development of Plan” discussions gather feedback—questions, suggestions, ideas, and concerns—that leadership uses to guide the continued revitalization of the building services department. In addition, the building services team continues to reference the ISSA CMI Certification training manual, regularly scheduling deep dives into chapters and topics in the spirit of continuous quality improvement scheduled for 2020.

“Fostering a culture of open and honest communication is absolutely fundamental,” says Brown. “When team members understand that their voices are important and appreciated, we are better able to realize our core values of teamwork, innovation, integrity, inclusiveness, respect, and sustainability.”

Those who successfully achieve ISSA CMI Custodial Supervisor Certification are encouraged to continue their professional development through ISSA CMI Train the Trainer Certification. The team was invited to prepare written essays, outlining how additional certification will help them achieve their professional goals and benefit the department.

“Our responsibility as leaders is to strategically deliver resources to meet operational requirements,” says Brown. “To achieve this, we must recognize that the most valuable resource any organization possesses are its team members. Therefore, investing in their continued professional development is critical to organizational advancement.”

RELATED: CMI Certification Creates New Opportunities for Facility Director

Posted On May 13, 2020
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Princeton University Takes a Professional Approach to Cleaning with CMI Certification
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