When a Janitor Doesn’t Just Clean, But Saves Lives

When a Janitor Doesn’t Just Clean, But Saves Lives

September 12, 2013

When leadership fully embraces a company’s mission statement and communicates about it consistently, this can have a powerful impact throughout an organization.

I was reminded of this recently while reading a study published by The Forum: Business Results Through People called Building Human Value Connections at Work. The paper presents original, in-depth research on the importance of organizational mission, loyalty, employee empowerment and several other practices to successful organizations.
What really jumped out was a simple quote that came from a janitor who worked at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The quote occurred when a  documentary team was filming a series titled Driving Towards Zero Medical Mistakes.

The crew had stepped into a hospital room as it was being cleaned and a member of the crew casually asked the janitor off-camera if he was cleaning the room for the next patient. To which the janitor replied “No – I’m saving people’s lives.”

It’s something you might hear a surgeon or a nurse say, but it’s unexpected to hear it from a staff worker. When asked to explain his reply, the janitor explained that that one of the biggest dangers in healthcare facilities is bacteria and unsanitary conditions. He added that unsanitary conditions may mean the difference between life and death for a patient, and this is why he felt as responsible for saving lives as ER doctors and first responders.

The Mayo Clinic’s mission statement is “to save lives.” It’s clear that the message has been heard throughout the organization. And it’s a prime example of the power of a strong mission and brand statement to involve all employees in the mission of the organization and make significant contributions to its success.

For those of us that work in employee engagement, it’s a bracing reminder: when companies fully embrace and live by their values, it can powerfully impact employee work satisfaction and loyalty.  This is consistent with what we’ve found:  the best engagement program results come about when a  program’s design and recognition are fully aligned with the company’s mission and its organizational culture.