As the cleaning and maintenance industry enters a new year, it is faced with a number of intimidating market challenges.
One of the most notable — and possibly the most consistent — is the seemingly never ending freefall in operating budgets.
Whether a manager or contractor works for an educational facility, a hospital, a government agency or owns a cleaning business, he or she will probably struggle to do more with fewer resources in 2014.
Though scientific studies and occupant opinions clearly communicate the importance of the cleaning industry, janitorial and maintenance are often the first departments to experience major budget cuts.
Common Cuts, Reducing Quality
According to Brant Insero with Cleaning Management Institute (CMI), payroll is the most controllable expense for many cleaning operations.
Thus, many building service contractors (BSCs) that are forced to reduce expenses for a contract will first look to reduce their labor costs.
Layoffs occur, mostly from attrition, and the company’s remaining workforce will be left to pick up the existing workload, Insero states.
Since other costs are fixed and cannot be cut, employees often feel the brunt of budget pressure, Insero says.
Many in-house facility managers, especially those in the education market, have had to reduce their expenses by 30, 40 or even 50 percent, according to Insero.
This has led to an industry trend of facilities outsourcing their cleaning workload to reduce the expenses created by employee benefits and higher salaries.
To date, approximately 25 percent of the industry has experienced the threat of their jobs being outsourced, Insero notes.
Some institutions have made significant cutbacks by offering early retirement and not filling the position, and again, other employees have to pick up the extra workload.
Finally, many operations reduce budgets by ordering products that are less effective, reducing cleaning frequencies or postponing large purchases.
Insero points out that none of these options are feasible long-term solutions to shrinking budgets.
Combined, labor cuts and spending reductions will lead to negative consequences such as high employee turnover, low customer satisfaction and increased facility health concerns.
These are all direct results of losing budget dollars, and each will directly affect every person involved with a facility, including managers, cleaning workers, other employees and building occupants.
Proving The Value Of Clean
Today, cleaning services are seen as simply an operational cost for many facilities or operations.
To challenge this notion, managers and contractors must prove that there is inherent value in cleaning services conducted by well-trained professionals.
To address this, ISSA completed an informative whitepaper entitled The Value of Clean.
The download and other applicable tools can be found on ISSA.com.
In this whitepaper, ISSA addresses a number of ways that cleaning and maintenance managers and contractors can help facilities save money through effective practices.
Specifically, the download addresses:
- Absenteeism and productivity
- Asset preservation
- Energy savings
- Image enhancement.
Here, each facet is more than just a business buzzword; these are all applicable ways that having professional cleaners can save a facility or business money on their bottom line.
Training As An Investment
Further, valuable professional cleaners generally share a common trait: They have received thorough training.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, investing in employee training that includes proper methodology and hands-on components can financially benefit any cleaning company.
“Training offers benefits that help operations make significant reductions to their bottom line,” Insero says.
William (Bill) Griffin, president of Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. and an industry trainer, agrees.
“I think the companies that really understand training see the value in training,” Griffin states. “Without proper training, without proper supervision, you don’t get a good result.”
Without this training and documentation, it can be difficult for a cleaning supervisor, manager or customer to validate expectations.
Also, a lack of training can lead to employees “over doing” a task or spending too much time and energy in areas that are not as important as other areas, Griffin explains.
Insero offers the example of carpet cleaning — if an employee is taught the proper method to clean a carpet, they will never have to do the same job twice.
Tracking Return On Investment
Today, most organizations spend 5 percent or less of their budget on employee training, according to Insero.
Looking at the big picture, if a facility can raise their training dollars by just a few percent, there are multiple areas where the investment can pay off.
Insero estimates an operation that increases training spending can see cost reductions of:
- 10 to 15 percent on equipment maintenance
- 50 percent on labor
- 2 to 5 percent on workers compensation claims.
“These can be dramatic reductions, and these are long-term cost savings,” Insero states.
Griffin includes other benefits as well:
- Lower employee turnover
- Higher production rates
- Improved quality inspections
- Increased sales for contractors.
To this end, managers and contractors who invest in employee training should track, validate and document the return on investment that training offers.
One training example Insero offers is a common occurrence — cleaning equipment breaks down, but the budget does not include funds for new purchases.
Here, a properly-trained employee will have the knowledge of a secondary option.
The ability to proactively make the correct decision and handle this situation well will stem from the initial training each employee receives on equipment maintenance, according to Insero.
Moving forward, properly trained employees will be empowered with the instructions to maintain their equipment, and this will reduce the cost of replacement, which is more expensive.
Insero states that training must start before a piece of equipment is ever utilized in the workplace, and when proper training is delivered, equipment is less likely to be broken.
Labor And Turnover
While improved cleaning processes, lower chemical and equipment costs and increased sales are direct budget boosters that result from training, another benefit offers indirect monetary savings.
The creation of a career path for employees to grow and succeed with an operation can be one of the most valuable benefits that training offers.
“That, in my opinion, is one of the problems we have in the industry, attracting and keeping staff,” Griffin says. “We don’t offer any kind of an upward mobility.”
Employees that do not see any kind of a formalized development programs feel there is no real opportunity in the cleaning industry.
“As soon as they can get a few cents an hour more, they’re gone down the road to that other opportunity,” Griffin states. “And I think it’s a major problem.”
Frequent employee turnover can be a huge cost for cleaning operations.
Insero explains the industry guideline: Hiring someone new can cost nearly a year’s salary for one employee.
Between recruiting costs, background checks, learning curves, new equipment purchasing, etc., it is easier and more affordable to retain employees.
Today, many cleaning organizations have recognized this fact, and they are implementing a career path of success for their teams that includes training, according to Insero.
For these operations, employees are further motivated by the sense that they can grow with their company, and they put forth a higher amount of effort.
“When an operation invests time in training its frontline custodial professionals, there will be a stronger employee commitment to help the facility succeed,” Insero continues.
Because of this, allowing each employee to receive the highest level of certification training can prove priceless.
Though budget cuts and spending pressures are real concerns for this industry, both Griffin and Insero are excited for the cleaning market’s future.
“It’s a real exciting time in the cleaning industry, and I think that training plays a key role in our success,” Griffin says.
Insero agrees, pointing to a recent case study that showed 20 percent savings for a university the first year after investing in employee training.
For five decades, Insero says CMI has provided educational and professional development for cleaning professionals, managers, supervisors and executives across the world.
Continuing education should be a key component of any operation to create a pathway of success, even in this era of budget freefall.