Many happy diverse ethnicity different young and old people group headshots in collage mosaic collection. Lot of smiling multicultural faces looking at camera. Human resource society database concept.

As we have seen during 2022, staff shortages and the ability to bring new people into the cleaning industry, particularly within the practical sphere of cleaning, including janitorial and custodial work, will continue into 2023, and potentially beyond. Combining this with issues relating to staff retention and anticipated rising costs, we can foresee that a key trend in the coming year(s) is going to be the role that staff play in cleaning.

The British Cleaning Council (BCC) has long championed the notion that cleaning staff should be recognized as essential workers, with the recognition and provision such a classification brings with it. This would likely also go some way to combatting the notion that cleaning is menial work, or worse, an unimportant role to occupy, one that is physically exhausting and mentally unstimulating.

So what trends within the industry are likely to help perception and retention?

The Machine Age of Cleaning

As we will see in the next section, cleaning is on the cusp of moving beyond the traditional perception of a broom, mop and vacuum paradigm to encompass a more diverse and technological way of doing cleaning.

Machines that not only bring technological enhancements but are designed to bring comfort to users and sustainability uplifts. The ability to walk behind an industrial cleaning machine that provides efficient sustainable cleaning, rather than constantly refilling mop buckets and unplugging vacuum cleaners, is a very visible way in which our industry is changing.

Including modern technology and ways of cleaning that are perhaps more unheard of outside of the cleaning industry in recruitment materials will show there’s more to modern cleaning.

As the industry continues to include sustainability and technological messaging in these outward facing materials, the more it will create a rejuvenated perception of what it is to be a modern custodian, in a way that’s appealing to younger generations.

And once people are in the role, we can then focus on methods of retention.

Staying Cleaning

With both robotics and cobotics, we are seeing custodians and machines working together in a more comfortable way with a greater range of skills to develop.

Machines are increasingly designed in a way that other, more basic tools are not. Ergonomic operation extends the ease of clean from a purely mechanical improvement to one that physically benefits the operator, allowing them to clean in comfort. Adjustable ergonomics also allow for a broader type of operator as the machine can adapt to the stature and comportment of the operator.

Which is good for the physical aspects of custodial work, but what of the mental ones?

With more advanced technology, ongoing training is required in a way that allows an operator to feel they are continually skilling up. Learning to not only use a machine but how to adapt it to different tasks, program it for cleaning and optimizing it for sustainable operation, engages operators and increases satisfaction with the work they’re doing, investing in it in a different way to their predecessors.

And from there, a world of data and metrics that robotic and autonomous cleaning provides as an avenue for professional development. Once you have seen how one machine can be flexible, the opportunity to do that across a suite of machines within a facility represents a significant leveling-up opportunity for operators.

There are other benefits that come from technological development. Quieter, less interruptive machines and processes mean more daytime cleaning can take place, which gives operators a greater sense of wellbeing through better work life balance, something that is increasingly important to emergent generations.

In 2018, prior to the pandemic, Gallup surveyed multiple generations to find out what they prefer most in their employers. For Millennials and Generation Z, the youngest generations, demonstrations that an organization cares about their well being topped both polls.

Over the coming years, the recruitment offer that the industry makes to young people not only needs to reflect the changing technological face of our industry, but also appeal to the things that young people value most in their employment opportunities.

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Making Cleaning Sustainable
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The Power of Robotic Cleaning