There is a strong need for leaders in environmental services (ES). As our industry gets more competitive, so will be attracting, developing and retaining future ES leaders.

It starts with the interviewing process. Selecting the right individuals from the beginning is important. I believe personality and a way with people are key traits in our business. Common sense and patience helps a bit, too.

When I interview a job candidate, I look for a personality that can enhance our work environment. I believe that's how you also cultivate culture change.

Once you have the right individuals, you need to identify and build on their strengths. The performance evaluation process is a valuable time to discuss your employee's interest in development. It is important to show interest in each of your team members so they feel valued. One way to develop staff is through assignments. Identify a low-risk project through which you can guide your staff. Share the results and give them recognition for their achievements. The better they do, the more responsibility they may want to assume.

Also, look for opportunities to develop an additional layer of leadership. I recently developed a second position as lead worker for two of my staff members. They get great satisfaction from what they do and I am building future leaders.

Finally, find opportunities for education that you can fit into your budget. Perhaps you have a sister hospital where future leaders can shadow someone you have identified as a mentor. Also, present opportunities for your future leader to present to your team or chair a departmental committee, perhaps a "Safety" or "Brighten Your Day" committee.

I am a training facility for many new managers that come into the ES field. I have a tremendous opportunity to share what I know, but my biggest excitement comes from inspiring people to be their best and explaining that our field is truly limitless with opportunity.

About four years ago, for instance, I had an opening for an operations manager at my hospital. This role is key to running a successful department, so I took the interviewing process extremely seriously. I reviewed many resumés and interviewed nine candidates.

One of the candidates stood out — not because of his experience, but because of his interview. I decided to hire him even though he wasn't necessarily the strongest candidate on paper. This individual had worked with me for about two years when an opportunity to become a director at a small hospital presented itself.

He has been promoted again since then to a larger hospital director position. He thanks me for my mentorship, but I am truly grateful to him for allowing me to share what I know.

By Lisa Ford, CHESP, corporate environmental services director and Sodexo general manager, Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden, N.J., and AHE board member for 2012–2014.

AHE insight

Valuable resources available

AHE is the membership organization of choice for a wide variety of professionals caring for the health care environment. Here are a few of the many resources that AHE offers.

What Makes a Great EVS Department? In this prerecorded webinar, AHE's experts look at a number of different performance measurements. It can be accessed for free by AHE members and for $139 by nonmembers, through Dec. 31. More information is available at

AHE Seal of Review and Recognition Program. Designed to be a comprehensive review and formalized recognition process that promotes quality and safety, this program allows a company's or organization's cleaning procedures, in-service training or programs to receive AHE's seal for content excellence. For more information on the program, go to

Employee Engagement: Myth Busters. Examining both myth and reality, AHE's experts take professionals on a hunt for the truth to uncover what works and what doesn't in the world of employee engagement. Access this prerecorded webinar, which is free for AHE members and $139 for nonmembers, through Dec. 31. For more information, go to