Jordan Tong

In today’s tight labor market, building service contractors are forced to answer a difficult question: “Should janitor pay be increased with each successive year of employment, even when the customer price hasn’t been increased?”

Several factors make this question urgent. First and foremost, treating our employees fairly is an absolute must. Second, we want and need our team members to stick around. Low turnover is a good thing. Finally, the company must make a certain level of profit to maintain stability and provide for future growth.

So how do we balance these varying tensions? Here are five tips:

1. Bid Your Jobs Appropriately

The first step in dealing with a problem is trying to prevent the problem from arising. In the case of cleaner pay rates, the best way to prevent stagnant wages is to bid your jobs with enough margin to make room for pay increases along the way.

2. Don’t Start The Pay Too High

A common mistake many of us make is starting our team members at the maximum wage built into the budget. This may help staff the job in the beginning, but it creates inevitable tension down the road when you have no room for pay advancement. To prevent this problem, try starting wages $0.25 to $1 per hour lower than the budget, leaving room for raises in the coming years.

3. Strive For Regular Price Increases

While not always possible, your company should strive to make regular price increases a part of every customer relationship. This can be done in one of two ways. First, you can build price increases into the contract. Some customers expect price increases, and when you build them into the contract, you give the customer budgetary stability. Second, price increases can be handled on a case-by-case basis. As you renew contracts, discuss the need to increase worker wages and negotiate accordingly.

4. Realize That Every Job Has A Cap

When cleaners are asking for pay increases, responses range from total frustration to sympathy and a desire to help. If they’ve been doing a great job for an extended period of time, we want to reward them. However, it is important for both you and the team member to realize that all jobs have a ceiling. Instead of just telling the janitor “no,” you should coach them on the reality of how value is added to the organization. This can often be the launching pad from which they grow to new heights.

5. Consider Non-pay Incentives

Finally, when pay increases are not an option (for whatever reason), you and your management team should spend considerable effort to offer non-pay incentives to your team. Pizza parties, awards, recognition, training, time off, and other incentives can really boost moral and minimize the pay concern.

Jordan Tong is a BSC consultant and founder of Elite Business Coaching, in addition to being a third-generation owner of Frantz Building Services based in Owensboro, Kentucky. For more information on his coaching services, visit