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The commercial cleaning industry plays a vital role in promoting safe and sanitary environments across various facilities — covering spaces like offices and schools to hospitals and public hubs. Within these organizations, facility cleaning managers hold a crucial position in overseeing cleaning operations and ensuring the overall cleanliness and hygiene of the entire premises. This includes making visitors and occupants feel safe and secure that their health isn’t in jeopardy.  

Despite the significance of their role and the responsibility that rests on their shoulders, many in the industry question whether the salaries are fair. In fact, the compensation and benefits offered to these managers have been a topic of discussion for quite some time, especially in this post-pandemic environment when all eyes are on cleaning. 

To shed light on this current state of the issue and to hopefully gain a better understanding of managers' perspectives, a comprehensive survey was conducted. The “2023 Facility Cleaning Decisions Salary Survey” collected responses from facility cleaning/custodial managers nationwide, to assess the readiness of the profession to rise to the situation in this post-pandemic environment.  

Interesting Insights  

The survey revealed that a significant portion of facility cleaning/custodial managers expressed general satisfaction with their current salary levels or monetary achievements when compared to the results tallied back in 2017 — the last time this survey was conducted. As the results show, the numbers and demographics of professionals in facility cleaning management still largely line up with where things stood years ago. This suggests that the ups and downs of the pandemic may not have caused considerable upheaval in the types of people pursuing employment in this field.  

That’s not to say, though, that there isn’t a general restlessness brewing in the profession. When respondents provided information in 2017, the average yearly compensation increase sat at just 2.2 percent. Today, two-thirds of managers still receive only a comparable 2-3 percent uptick — steady, but barely in line with what is generally considered an acceptable cost-of-living increase — while more than 10 percent of managers expect less than a 1 percent raise annually. Additionally, fewer than 20 percent of managers are eligible for a bonus. Maintaining competitive pay is critical to keeping workers happy and retaining managerial candidates.   

Low compensation has always been a concern when it comes to hiring and retention, and a lack of consistent and acceptable cost of living increases can make matters worse. That sense of worry can creep into management and impact the succession of the department if employees continue to age without replacing the ranks behind them. It might also force managers to seek out greener pastures, resulting in the loss of valuable industry/departmental knowledge — well over half of the facility cleaning managers surveyed have more than 15 years of industry experience behind them. 

Fortunately, facility managers who were previously starting to feel undervalued were provided an opportunity to gain a sort of “professional refresh” from the pandemic. The public began to recognize their contribution to the overall feelings of health and safety in their daily lives, and federal aid programs offered temporary relief funds that acknowledged those efforts. Unfortunately, like most things, the attention was short lived — and much of the efforts made to recognize cleaning professionals fell by the wayside in favor of discussions on reduced cleaning frequencies in a hybrid work environment.   

Though salary for facility professionals is an important consideration, the context of said salary is also critical to understand. A surprising number of respondents (over 60 percent) come from facilities centered in the Midwest and Northeast. These are bustling hubs of office activity and traditionally fertile grounds for office building occupation, driving concerns that hybrid schedules may yet have an impact on how cleaning positions are considered and filled as the years go on.   

Another key to career longevity, and thus, increased compensation, is the feeling of job security that each role entails. According to Harvard Business Review, managers who had access to adequate resources and training opportunities, or those who pursued industry credentials were more likely to report higher job satisfaction due to professional growth opportunities. On the other hand, those who felt unsupported and lacked essential tools and training expressed frustration with their roles —and may leave the profession at a moment’s notice.  

The good news is this year’s survey revealed that the bulk of managers are planning for long careers. On par with general industry demographics, the average age of respondents was 55, and well over half indicated a desire to continue working for more than 5 years, at a minimum. It is clear that retirement has taken a backseat post-pandemic, and many managers are trying to settle the waters again before considering their next move.   

With time on their side, managers can devote ample resources to training the next wave of supervisors and facility executives. This will ensure continuity in the company and a sustained sense of culture. If there’s another single factor that is more important when it comes to retaining employees than culture, it’s hard to pinpoint.  

Improve the Workplace 

This “2023 Facility Cleaning Decisions Salary Survey” revealed that two thirds of managers have less than $1 million budgets at their disposal. On average, roughly 55 percent of that budget is allocated toward labor. Depending on staffing levels, this doesn’t always allow for strong salaries. That has managers looking for other areas to improve. 

Based on the survey findings and traditional industry best practices, there’s still time to put into practice some actionable items that can help managers feel valued and recognized in the pursuit of their career — without initially impacting budgets.  

Advocate for Recognition: Facility cleaning managers should participate in a recognition opportunity whenever it becomes available. They should also communicate the value of what is being done to improve processes, help better the department and the team, or better the facility environment. When upper management sees the impact that a clean, safe facility has on occupants, the increase in value and compensation may be soon to follow. This is one path to improved pay and benefits.  

Continuing Education and Training: Additionally, managers should stay up to date with the latest industry trends and best practices. Showcasing a commitment to personal and professional development should pay off when it comes to earning better salaries and benefits, but can also help develop the professional identity, which opens doors to better opportunities when they come along. 

Networking: Managers should engage with industry peers through networking events or join professional associations related to facility management and cleaning. Meeting executives from other geographic areas and challenges can pay dividends when it comes to solving unique problems and tackling work-related issues.  

Money Talks  

The survey results seem to indicate that facility cleaning/custodial managers could easily feel undervalued and undercompensated — the overall makeup of the industry hasn’t shifted too much in the last decade. Unfortunately, though, it has only delayed impending challenges like making sure wages stay up to date with cost of living, and ensuring educational opportunities provide the opportunity to advance careers and move the industry forward. 

By advocating for recognition, pursuing professional education, and networking within the industry, managers can increase their chances of improving their salaries and accessing additional resources, showing their value in the post-pandemic era. Employers would hopefully recognize the value in keeping trained, experienced hands around to train the next wave.