The cleaning industry is going from seat of the pants to science.
Why we clean, what we use and how we do the work is evolving on a daily basis.
As these changes occur, the need for training, certification and standards becomes more important to workers, supervisors, managers and building owners.
Due to the liability involved when faulty cleaning processes are used in commercial and residential properties, building managers and owners are writing requirements for training and certification into contract specifications.
Manufacturers and insurance companies are now making similar demands; within a few years, it is likely that you won''t be able to bid on an account or get a job in the cleaning industry unless you are certified by an independent, third-party organization.
We are beginning to see the use of scientific quantitative measuring devices to validate successful completion of cleaning processes.
This is often referred to as Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM) and uses quality assurance testing equipment, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and gloss meters, slip testers, microscopes and other measurement devices.
Training Becomes Critical
Some companies do a good job of training their employees regarding cleaning, supervision and management-related subjects.
A few even do a great job. DMS Facility Services Inc. in Monrovia, California, has a vice president of training and development and offers Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) courses and six sigma classes for its employees.
Team Clean Inc. in Honolulu operates the Professional Cleaning Institute of Hawaii (PCIH) in cooperation with the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA).
Unfortunately, these companies are the exception, not the standard of practice.
An industry-wide lack of emphasis on training, employee development and upward mobility is a major obstacle when it comes to promoting the cleaning industry as a career opportunity to the next generation.
Up, Up And Away
If someone wants to earn an advanced academic degree in cleaning science, there is nowhere to go.
You can''t sign up at your local community college for an Associate degree in cleaning, and you certainly can''t get a Bachelors, Masters or a Ph. D in cleaning from an accredited university.
The IICRC and several industry trade associations offer training and certification programs in a variety of subjects and these are a step in the right direction.
However, if you look at what we recognize as professions, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc., you will see an upward mobility ladder that establishes, recognizes and rewards those who earn an advanced academic degree.
The failure to establish upward mobility in the cleaning industry is killing our future.
The problem becomes one of attracting young talent and retaining skilled workers and management staff.
Unfortunately, most people come to the cleaning industry, not because they want to, but because they have to.
And, it''s generally because they don''t have the education to get what would be called a "good job with a future."
At first glance, this may sound offensive, but think about it for a minute.
Can you name one person you know who is in high school or college and has the goal to work in the cleaning industry?
This is what needs to change.
To survive and mature as an industry, we need to attract the next generation of workers, managers and owners with opportunities for personal growth and financial reward.
Upward Mobility Makes a Difference
Employees involved in an upward mobility program with the potential to increase their income and status will make personal plans that are aligned with company goals.
This higher level of personal commitment will encourage employees to work hard and do a better job for the customer, the company and themselves.
This change in attitude will result in less staff and customer turnover and has the potential to generate growth and profit for employers.
Information about the company''s and industry''s upward mobility program should be provided to each employee during the initial hiring process.
We need to talk less about the job we are trying to fill and more about the opportunities our company and the industry have to offer.
Supervisors and managers must then continue to promote the program and use it as a marketing tool with potential customers and suppliers.
How Upward Mobility Works
The following ideas are the basic elements that can work for a building service contractor (BSC) and some changes will have to be made to apply the concept to an in-house operation, but the basic concept still applies.
When an employee is hired, they start at an entry-level wage and are made aware of opportunities for advancement based on their performance and longevity on the job.
Once a person has been with a company for a set period of time and completes basic training, they become eligible to participate in the upward mobility program.
Employee involvement is not a requirement; it''s an opportunity for advanced training and promotion as well as increased income and responsibility.
As an employee completes training and has been with the company for six months or a year, they are promoted to a certain achievement level and receive a small increase in pay.
At this secondary level, the employee becomes eligible to participate in advanced specialty training and can receive financial incentive bonuses, such as a finder''s fee, for any legitimate sales lead and a commission on leads that result in new business or additional sales.
Supervisors and managers would also get a bonus based on the bonuses earned by the employees they oversee, which would encourage everyone to participate in the program.
The goal here is multi-purpose. First, employees and supervisors set goals that match those of the company they work for.
They receive training and mentoring from others already involved in the program.
Employees no longer want to leave the company to earn more money elsewhere, but instead want to stay with their present employer because opportunities exist for training, advancement and increased income.
The employer benefits because a majority of its employees are now helping bring in sales leads that result in more jobs, which enables the company to grow and provide its employees with more opportunities for advancement and better pay.
Customers get better service because employees are vested with the company.
Employees don''t want to leave because they would no longer get a commission on any of the accounts that they helped the company secure.
With proper training and incentives, an upward mobility program would encourage most employees to look for opportunities to generate additional income.
When an employee becomes a lead generator for the employer, it creates a win-win situation for everyone.
Upward mobility in a company doesn''t have to stop with lead generation.
For instance, become an internal consultant/trainer.
Those who are successful in the program would have an opportunity to continue to grow to the consultant/mentor level where they become involved in the training of others who are moving up through various levels of the program.
In addition, there is no reason for your most skilled workers to leave and become your competition, which is often the case.
After obtaining defined levels of certification and being with the company for a set number of years, a worker could participate in the company''s intra-preneurship, partnership, franchise and sub-contracting program.
This type of opportunity would be made available to those workers who want to operate their own business.
This level of involvement could require a financial investment/contribution on the employee''s part, as well as ongoing business management training, coaching and mentoring over a five, 10, 15 or 20-year period.
This approach would provide an employer with an opportunity to retain his or her most skilled workers in a way that benefits everyone.
It is possible that the parent company could provide, for a fee, ongoing support in such areas as: Marketing; management; sales; credit; financial; equipment loans or leasing; buying group services; office and warehouse space; billing services; etc.
Consider independent certification from outside organizations.
These organizations could provide third-party training and certification in technical subjects related to specialized industry segments.
This could include the IICRC, ISSA''s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) program, the Cleaning Management Institute® (CMI), the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI), IEHA and other groups, organizations and companies.
Look to maintenance professionals.
Just as the cleaning industry is facing staffing shortages, so are other segments of the building maintenance trades.
Additional phases of advanced training could include plant maintenance skills, such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), fire safety and pest control.
These courses could be taught in cooperation with local community colleges and/or property management organizations, such as the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) and the Building Owners and Managers Association International/ Building Owners and Managers Institute International (BOMA/BOMI), both of which have local chapters in most major cities or training that can be provided online or via a correspondence course.
This relationship would also provide contractors with a closer relationship with potential and existing customers in these associations.
Academic advancement is the last step of this program and involves the funding and establishment of professorship chairs at several major universities where research related to professional cleaning could be conducted.
The Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) is positioned to help make this a reality.
It''s time that the cleaning industry took its rightful place as a profession.
To accomplish this goal, advanced academic degrees must be available just as they are for other professional groups.
Major cleaning-related companies, who have been taking money out of the industry for years, should establish a fund to finance the future of the cleaning industry.
Hopefully, these points will encourage industry-wide dialogue and give cleaners, supervisors, managers and owners a better understanding of the basic concepts needed to begin the process of developing an upward mobility program in their own organizations.
This is something each person can start today that will make a difference from this day forth — for everyone in your organization and the cleaning industry.
Upward mobility within individual companies — and industry-wide — is our only hope of opportunity, survival and financial reward in the years ahead.
Wm R. Griffin is the president of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. For more information, please visit www.cleaningconsultants.com.