This is part two of an article outlining average salaries for custodial executives. It is based off Salary Survey results from readers of Facility Cleaning Decisions magazine.

Put quite simply, people looking for lucrative compensation aren’t going to choose a career in a field like environmental services, housekeeping or custodial services. Instead, people stick with this industry because of their skills, talents, preferences and passions.

“You have to love what you do because you have to deal with everybody’s mess,” says Joseph Zeigler, director of sales and marketing, hiring manager and former executive housekeeper at Wingate By Wyndham, Spokane, Washington. “Somebody has to come in and clean up, and do it with a smile on their face, every day. Then after three to five years, they want to advance into management? That takes a special characteristic, to have a love and understanding of what their job is and to want to improve.”

Custodial executives not only love what they do, but once they get a taste for the industry, they stick around. According to the study, the average introductory salary for custodial workers is only $24,469, but those positions come with opportunity for those willing to stick around. Forty-nine percent of survey respondents report a yearly raise of two to three percent and potential for advancement.

For Wagner, patience has been the virtue that made his career path worthwhile. He started 40 years ago in maintenance and moved up from there. Now the vice president of operations, he manages facilities across northeast and northcentral Ohio.

“It took some time to get here, but I’m where I want to be and doing what I love,” he says.

Zeigler has spent 10 years in the hotel industry, working his way up from housekeeper, to assistant lead, to lead, to executive housekeeper. And despite the notoriously low pay of those positions, he kept at it and applied for a recent vacancy in sales. He got the job, and his next step is to become an assistant general manager.

Almost half, 43 percent, of FCD survey respondents have been in the industry for more than 20 years, indicating that the loyalty shown by Wagner and Zeigler is the rule, not the exception. The flip side of employee retention, however, is stagnation — smaller companies that retain people in management and executive positions don’t necessarily give lower-level employees the opportunity to be promoted.

“Unless someone leaves or retires, members of your team are not moving up,” says Zeigler.

In these situations, smart departmental managers will offer opportunities for growth outside the custodial realm. It’s better to retain strong staff within the organization, even if that means transitioning them out of the custodial department.

“You have to give employees opportunity and show that there’s a future with that organization,” Wagner says.

In order to prevent turnover from being both a long- and short-term organizational problem, all employers in the facility cleaning industry need to offer competitive wages to everyone from front-line, entry-level workers up to executives, Green says.

“If they can make a quarter more at a business down the street, they’re gone. A manager who has a lot of potential will land somewhere else,” he says.

The industry also has to create leaders — not just promoting the best cleaners to become managers, because excelling at cleaning and excelling at leading are very different things, Green adds.

“We’ve got to start mentoring people, giving them education, giving them training so they can lead,” he says. “But if you don’t have the competitive wage, you’re going to be losing the good people to other facilities.”  

LISA RIDGELY is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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A Benchmark For Custodial Manager Salaries
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Salary Survey Results - Member Content