IT has never been easy to retain good staff in cleaning. For reasons we know only too well, cleaning is not the job of choice for many people, often being perceived as an occupation of last resort. The larger your cleaning company becomes, so does the problem of recruiting and retaining staff, meaning that sooner or later you need a plan to manage the issue.
An awful lot is said about creating a culture that makes people want to stay, but in cleaning that is much easier said than done. Not least because whatever initiatives you decide upon, it means pushing them right the way down to potentially hundreds of frontline staff who work remotely and often alone.
So, what is the ‘silver bullet’ activity that creates a retention culture, the initiative that is going to solve your retention problems? Well of course there is no single activity, no ‘silver bullet,’ but as the CEO of an airline going through hard times once said: ‘I can’t change one thing by 1000%, but I can change 1000 things by 1%’ – and I think that is the approach we can realistically take as cleaning contractors. It is the combination of things you do that makes staff feel your company is one they would like to stick with, rather than move to another job for £0.50p/hour more on their pay rate.
The culture-building activities I most often hear about, some of which work well for us at DOC, all focus around inclusiveness. Typical examples are setting up feedback forums for staff, acknowledging and rewarding good performance, handing out long service awards and letting everyone know about good things happening in the company. Then there are little things like printing ‘happy birthday’ on someone’s payslip, or just organising a night out. At a strategic level, there is the importance of delivering training, and on a softer level showing a bit of understanding when someone cannot make their shift, rather than ‘marking their card,’ so to speak.
Of course, these initiatives do not just happen by themselves, and I am well aware that not every cleaning contractor has the resource to fund an HR person, even on a part-time basis. That being the case, the job of generating and implementing such ideas will inevitably fall to a combination of operations staff and your admin team, both of whom are hard pressed enough doing their day jobs.
However, two things are happening to make a comprehensive staff engagement strategy more easily achievable. One is the fact that just about all cleaning staff have a smartphone, whilst the second is the emergence of employee portals that integrate with company management and payroll software. This combination is now making it possible to communicate cost-effectively with an entire workforce and make information available in a secure way that remote staff can access in their own time. Again, it is a case of longstanding issues we have faced as an industry being solved by simple technology. With or without HR, contractors can show staff they care about their welfare, and we really can talk seriously about that culture of thoughtfulness and retention.