Contributed by Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services.

If you had any doubts about how important it is to hire the right people to staff your cleaning business, consider the case of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where two decades of research was lost with the flip of a switch.

In 2020, a janitor employed by a local cleaning service was cleaning an RPI university lab when he heard multiple alarms coming from a freezer where cells and samples from a research project were stored. Annoyed, he flipped the circuit breaker, cutting power to the freezer – despite a written warning posted by the professor overseeing the research. The note explained that the beeping was due to ongoing repair and asked that the freezer not be moved or unplugged. The note gave directions on how to mute the sound, if necessary. The next day, students found that the freezer had been switched off.

In a $1 million lawsuit filed this summer, RPI contends the resulting change in temperature ruined 20 years of research. In the suit, RPI blames the cleaning service for failing to properly train and supervise the janitor.

Amy Jackson, the learning and development facilitator at Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services, said hiring the right people and training them for the job they will be doing is the key to managing a successful commercial cleaning client relationship. “Unfortunately, there is no magic number on the correct number of hours or shifts,” Jackson said. “Training is all about building confidence in the job they were hired to do.” 

It all starts with hiring the right people.

Hire For the Right Reasons

How can commercial cleaning companies find the best people – especially at a time when there are more jobs than available employees? Jackson said to start by looking for someone who shares your values. “You can teach practically anyone to clean. Look for someone who has a ‘why,’ a reason they want to have a cleaning position, and who exhibits the same core values as your franchise.”

She also recommends that owners take the time to find the right person rather than rushing to fill a position with the first person who walks through the door. “It is better to take your time hiring than it is to get stuck in the cycle of hiring someone who is not right for the position and then having to hire someone to replace them,” she said. 

Take Care of Sensitive Clients

Of course, you want your employees to be well-trained no matter which clients they service. But it’s natural to take special care in dealing with new clients or especially big or sensitive clients.

Jose Bravo, the owner of Office Pride of Indianapolis-Carmel, knows about onboarding important new clients. Earlier this year, Bravo’s franchise took on two major new clients, a Coca-Cola facility and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. To meet the needs of these new clients, Bravo had to hire more employees and supervisors.

Although it’s helpful to hire someone with cleaning experience because they understand the physical demands of the job they are taking on, Bravo said, he would much rather look for applicants who are trustworthy, friendly and show initiative. He doesn’t send a new employee to a client’s place of business before they pass a criminal background check and are trained on the company’s processes as well as the proper use of chemicals, materials and machinery.

“For us, the key is to help our employees understand the importance of every single procedure,” Bravo said. “We are proud to be certified by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and we follow their guidelines with every single account we serve.”

Jackson, the corporate trainer, said the lesson in the RPI case is that thorough training is important – although it can’t replace ongoing communication. “When working with larger or more sensitive clients, train to the scope of work,” she said. “This will help foster a positive, ongoing relationship in which the employee knows what’s expected every day, which problems they can solve themselves and when they need to ask more questions.”