The number one priority this year for DOC and the wider cleaning industry must surely be the protection of jobs and the provision of stability for the legions of staff who have done us proud for close to 12 months with their bravery and resilience. Our emphasis here is therefore on initiatives that will grow and sustain contracts through whatever means achievable, working with suppliers, clients, and technology to bring forward new ideas. To create some momentum, at DOC we have set up an Innovation Focus Group that is now meeting twice a month. Its brief is to review every new software platform and every new piece of machinery that comes onto the market, assessing whether it can make our contracts more efficient or increase benefit to customers.
In many ways this is building on the huge advances that information technology, in particular, has bestowed on the cleaning industry in the last 10 years. The difference now is that 2020 has forced managers of all buildings, be they offices, schools, concert halls, stations, or shopping centres, to get to grips with the new ways in which their buildings will be used, enlisting the support of their FM providers in the process. For the foreseeable future, whilst the economy recovers, it means that we, as contractors, will need to be ready to adapt our service provision, offering flexibility in staffing levels and in the type of tasks we perform to support new people flows and hygiene protocols. Information on building usage will be needed to direct the changes, of course. Whether this is supplied by customers, or whether we generate it ourselves using clever digital technology, it is something we are very excited to explore. The term ‘smart cleaning’ was popular a few years ago, although I am not convinced it was ever developed or understood. Times are different now and whereas simple advances like room booking technology were a ‘nice-to-have’ for organisations, now they are essential to maintain healthy environments, which of course means involving cleaning contractors. This can only be a good thing. It means getting closer to clients and cementing relationships. It will help raise the profile of contractors as professional service providers, not just suppliers of bodies, mops, and buckets.
I said that protecting people and jobs will be vitally important this year. Technology is set to play an increasingly important role here too, with smartphone apps coming into their own in the areas of staff communication and training. To mention a couple that we are using here at DOC: first is the employee app integrated to our contract management software. This allows every single member of staff to access not only payslips and holiday planners, but also a whole range of company information on health and safety, HR and HMRC guidelines. We also use it to send out important company notifications. Second is our training app, complete with its built-in task instruction videos, to which our compliance team has uploaded our own videos covering specialist deep cleaning and sanitation procedures. This supports another initiative, which is the redeployment of staff who were at risk of redundancy into new specialist teams – meeting the new client requirement for ad hoc work.
I hope I am not proven wrong, but I believe 2021 will see the fairly rapid return of staff and public to offices and other buildings that have been in hibernation for the last 10 months. Let us not waste this opportunity to reset our modus operandi and consolidate the gains we have made as an industry during the most forgettable of years.
Published in January issue of Tomorrow’s FM.