"Nobody notices what we do until we don''t do it" is a slogan often seen in custodial closets and on lunchroom notice boards.
To a degree, it is typical of the way in which cleaning services have been perceived by both service providers and their clients.
Those receiving cleaning services are often completely ignorant of what is done to provide them with a clean working environment — even if it only "looks" clean.
Integrated Cleaning and Measurement (ICM) is a revolutionary approach to cleaning that ensures a work environment is measurably clean with all of the health and productivity benefits that ensue.
It is therefore extremely important to communicate to the client, the building occupants and the cleaning staff a clear and concise explanation of the following:
Implementing a new cleaning system in any organization requires a significant investment in communication if the process is to be successful.
At all levels of the client and service provider organization it is vital that everyone has a clear understanding of the system, including the reason for implementation, its benefits to all concerned, what ICM is and how the cleaning process will be improved.
Providing reasons for the change is critical as failure to do so will inevitably result in speculation among building occupants and cleaning staff as to why ICM is being implemented.
Much of the speculation will be negative — often to the level of raising unnecessary fears — which may lead to cancellation of the program.
Publicizing the importance of ICM and its benefits both to the client and the staff encourages a "buy in" and may also contribute to expanded contracts, as the client now has information and "bragging rights" to being astute enough to embrace the new system.
The client''s staff also will be able to disseminate valid information about ICM to their circle of contacts with potentially beneficial results.
Sharing the measured results of the cleaning process — including publishing the results in graphic form — will illustrate the achievement in an easily understood way and has the following added benefits:
The client understands and appreciates what the measured results mean and is truly involved in the process. An ongoing working relationship of this type will mean that the client is aware on a continuing basis of the quality of cleaning being delivered. Extension of normally time-limited cleaning contracts is much more likely under these conditions; this alone will justify the implementation of ICM for many service providers.
The client staff will have access to the results on a regular basis and are assured that the cleaning being performed is beneficial to their health and efficiency. Lower absenteeism resulting from the healthier environment created through ICM benefits the client and his or her staff as well as engenders higher morale in the workplace.
The service provider staff will have an incentive to achieve and maintain high cleaning scores and to take pride in their achievement. Pride in the work and in the workplace is no small thing; staffs who have this are less likely to be absent and tend to work in a more professional manner. Meeting targets encourages workers to do their work well and results in positive feelings due to the achievement of high results.
The service provider''s organization can refer potential clients to the ICM program in place and can benefit from a positive response to the program from the client.
Fully describing the various procedures being followed, the equipment and products being used and the technology involved in establishing the measurement results provides clients and their staff with "insider information" that makes them more likely to support the program.
Information pertaining to the following should be made available to clients by a number of methods including tent cards on desks, posters in lunchrooms, notice boards and possibly a clear, framed mission statement in or around the cleaning closet:
What adenosine triphosphate (ATP) measurement is and how it is important in demonstrating that surfaces in the facility are truly clean rather than simply having the appearance of cleanliness while harboring any number of biological hazards
Why high-flow fluid extraction cleaning works better than conventional "mop and slop" method
Why high-filtration vacuuming benefits the work environment and employee health
What "green" cleaning products are in use in the facility and why they are better for the environment — both indoor and outdoor — as well as the health of both client and service provider employees.
There is a growing concern among the population as a whole about the long-term health effects of chemical exposure — particularly cleaning chemicals.
Providing useful, valid information about the cleaning products in use will provide reassurance to the building occupants and cleaning staff and add to the reputation of the client and service provider alike.
Finally, it must be stressed that communication requires a clear understanding of the message sent to the client.
Misunderstandings and misinformation may damage the working relationship and hinder acceptance of the Integrated Cleaning and Measurement program.
By discussing the program and its results on an ongoing basis, the service provider is more able to ensure that the client has a full understanding of the program and its benefits.
Colin Butterfield is president of Yoredale Consulting Ltd., a consulting service for the cleaning industry. Enhancing the image and profile of the cleaning industry is a significant part of Yoredale''s mission statement. Drawing on his 30 years of experience in managing public service operations in unionized settings, including five years in health care and 20 years in university facility management, Butterfield provides management consulting services to cleaning organizations across Western Canada.