Awhile ago, I had a conversation with someone from the Building Service Contractors Association International regarding cleaning worker turnover rates. I was trying to confirm our survey’s results that showed an annual rate of about 75 percent. I had heard much higher rates from a variety of contractors and wanted to talk to someone who might have numbers to compare with mine. He was quite excited to hear my results, as he had found similar rates when he had done studies. The problem was few contractors would believe him. They said turnover of more than 100 percent is the norm in this industry and that anything lower was skewed.

We agreed that, while some companies truly may struggle with turnover in the triple digits, others perceived their problems to be worse than they really were.

We found a few common threads among the companies that had low turnover rates. These executives had a positive outlook regarding employee potential and a desire to do whatever they could to make working at their companies a good fit for people. They also invested in new hires the moment they walked through the doors, rather than waiting for these people to pass a litmus test before they received a full orientation.

Many of the BSCs complaining of consistent turnover and bad employee work ethic, however, seemed to be caught in a self-fulfilling prophecy. They had negative experiences with employees, so they began to assume those encounters were the norm, no longer giving new recruits the benefit of the doubt. The result was a cycle of mistrust and negative attitudes that gave these BSCs the lack of progress they expected.

So this month’s cover series offers advice on keeping an open mind and avoiding becoming too jaded to invest in improved employee initiatives.

In the workplace, personal interaction, especially between management and employees, is amplified and scrutinized, greatly impacting staff perceptions of who they work for. At a time when many BSCs struggle to increase employee retention and morale, they might want to review their own attitudes when looking for places to improve.