Employee retention concept

Contributed by Mike Sawchuk

This is the fourth of a six-part series on the five key pillars that will drive significant, long-term improvement and enable cleaning operations to meet higher client expectations while providing the highest levels of clean, safe, healthy at the lowest overall cost.

The days of hiring anyone with a pulse and advising, “Here’s a mop, get started!” are over. 

With cleaning and infection prevention front and center on the public stage, cleaning operations must hire better. They also must invest time and money in more effective employee education, training, development, and retention. While these needs require a greater investment, most in-house and BSCs will find the return on investment (ROI) of a better workforce and an increased ability to hire and retain cleaning staff more than worth it.

Investing in workers is a win/win in that it: 

• Enhances cleaning quality and consistency

• Develops more skilled cleaning technicians faster  

• Expands cleaning technicians’ skills and better prepares them for meeting future challenges 

• Improves employee satisfaction, loyalty, and retention

• Provides employees with a sense of contributing to the greater good

• Encourages employees to consider an industry career versus viewing it as a dead-end job

• Reduces safety hazards, accidents, worker’s compensation claims, and even lawsuits

• Reflects well on the company, enhancing its brand and reputation and ability to hire.

With so much for both sides to gain, let’s look at four key ingredients to help employers develop a skilled workforce and lower their regrettable turnover rate.

Hire Better

The first requirement to improve your employee retention rates and cleaning results is to hire better, i.e., to hire the right employees. This requires hiring for attitudes and traits and not skills, which can be developed.  

You need to know the critical attitudes and traits to look for in new hires. There are 20-plus key ones. Some of the most important ones include: 

• An ability and desire to learn 

• A “calling to serve” 

• Dependable

• Friendly

• Possessing attitudes, traits, and a personality that align with the cleaning operation, their teammates, and the facility where they will be working

• Good overall communication skills 

• Proactive in requesting feedback

With these, plus the other required attitudes and traits, new hires can be taught the required skills. Without the right attitudes and attributes, new hires will not fit in, can negatively impact the team and organization, and will not be with you long. 

Without hiring right, any investment in education and training cannot be maximized and will not provide as high an ROI or reduce employee turnover rates.

Why They Do What They Do

For workers to feel they and their work are valued, they must clearly understand why they and their jobs are vital. The COVID pandemic has helped in this area by illuminating the importance of cleaning and infection prevention. This message should be stressed during the interview process and to new hires from Day 1 and re-emphasized to all employees constantly. Proper cleaning and disinfecting where and when necessary keep building occupants and visitors safe and healthy. Cleaning technicians save lives. Their role in infection prevention is just as important as doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other essential workers. This is an important message that all cleaning technicians and cleaning operations must recognize and take seriously.

In addition to their role in public safety, other reasons they are working should be discussed, including the industry’s recession resistance that helps them support and invest in their family, so they and their children can have the best possible future. It also should be stated how the position will satisfy some of their social needs, including feeling they belong to a team, especially if the fit of job candidates within the team is considered as it should be.

How They Do What They Do 

Once the cleaners have been educated and understand the why, then and only then, they need to be thoroughly trained and developed on the how. No one can do their best without clearly understanding what is expected of them and how success is achieved and measured. This requires a thorough and detailed onboarding training program to ensure all the necessary products, procedures, custodial hardware and equipment, frequencies, and quality assurance protocols are understood and consistently followed. This includes the where, when, how, what, where, and why, and every other aspect of how their job is to be performed. These should be made clear. 

Establishing and Managing Expectations

It is essential to set clear expectations of the knowledge employees need to succeed in their current position and any proposed development path. For example, cleaning technicians must clearly understand what knowledge is required to perform their duties, how their job performance will be evaluated, and the implications for shortfalls. They also need to be shown that there is a path for their development and that the organization will provide the necessary resources to support this initiative. These paths can include being promoted once certain skill levels are achieved, being reimbursed for helping to train new employees, and/or being selected to lead new initiatives. Employees need to know there is room for growth and development and that the company will keep its promise to provide ongoing training and coaching to help them reach their professional and personal goals.

Cleaning operations must know what to look for in new hires. Once the right people are hired, cleaning operations must invest time and money to effectively educate, train, develop, and retain their employees, including ensuring they understand their invaluable contribution to the cleaning operation and society. Employers also need to provide effective initial and ongoing training and coaching regarding products and procedures and assist employees in developing soft skills, such as effective communication, management, and leadership. And finally, cleaning operations need to establish clear expectations and keep their word about what happens when these expectations are met.

This is part four of a six-part series. Click here to read part one, part two and part three.

Mike Sawchuk of Sawchuk Consulting is a leading education and BSC cleaning operations consultant and coach. He assists BSCs and facility management leaders, helping them improve their outcomes with insightful, pragmatic solutions and comprehensive, integrated assessments for cleaning operations. He can be reached at 905-932-6501 or via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/mikesawchuk. To learn about the other traits and attributes to look for in new hires or to learn more about Mike and his company’s expertise, visit www.sawchukconsulting.com.