The public perception of workers in the cleaning industry is that they are unskilled, uneducated and unintelligent. The thought is that because you get your hands dirty, cleaning is a “dirty” job.

Far too often, the public overlooks the fact that you are business executives, chemists, health advocates and environmental stewards. The work done in the cleaning department keeps building occupants safe and healthy.

We know that cleaning workers are essentially the backbone of facilities and it is up to us to make sure the rest of the world understands that. However, changing public perception is not easily done, despite our ongoing efforts. It will require education from every angle.

For example, in our cover story, Executive Director of Plant Services Keith Webb talks about creating a skilled workforce that can lead departments into the future. By successfully executing the development of state-sanctioned employee training, Webb has created a structured employee development program and a pipeline for departmental success. This level of education, certification and recognition of cleaning staff reiterates the extent of knowledge and skills necessary to excel in this industry.

Involving parties outside the cleaning realm will also provide first-hand experiences on the intricacies of this industry. In our green article, Assistant to the Superintendent for Administration and Special Projects Patrick Pizzo talks about the importance of involving facility officials, as well as public representatives (in his case, parents of students) in discussions regarding instituting new cleaning procedures. Involving the public gives them a front row seat to what facility cleaning is all about.

But elevating your staff and involving the public will only be effective if you practice what you preach as a manager. Ben Walker, director of business development for ManageMen, offers some great advice on what managers can do, personally, to improve the perception of cleaning.

He emphasizes that as facility cleaning executives, it’s up to you to be the cheerleaders for your departments. Whenever possible, talk about the benefits of your cleaning programs, promote and market your green and/or sustainable initiatives, and treat members of your staff the way you’d want outsiders to treat them.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but implementing steps like these is a starting point to breaking down that negative cleaning stereotype.