Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
April 2013 Let's Talk Shop

Quality Is Expected And Should Be Inspected

To accurately evaluate quality, you must first establish a baseline and then measure cleaning outcomes against your starting point in an unbiased, repeatable manner.

April 5, 2013

Many managers, supervisors and owners are unsure how to determine if their cleaners are meeting expectations and whether or not their customers’ demands are being fulfilled.

If you count yourself amongst this group of uncertain individuals, honestly answer these three questions:

  1. Do you have systems in place to measure performance?
  2. Do you have the relevant data to see downward trends so that you can take corrective action?
  3. Do you reward cleaning staffs that provide excellent service so they don’t look elsewhere for employment?

If your answers are anything other than a confident and declarative yes, you may benefit from a standardized system of inspection and evaluation.

Systemized Evaluation

Take the situation of Sandy, a custodial supervisor, and Henry, her employee.

It’s a common one in today’s cleaning industry, as managers and supervisors are pulled in all directions and don’t always have the time to perform proper evaluations.

Sandy had been with ABC Cleaning Contractors for seven years and felt like she had finally arrived.

She now had her own office, she supervised all of all the downtown accounts — which included 87 employees — and, within the last year, the management team had started including her in all of their important decisions.

So, she was shocked when she opened the e-mail from her boss telling her that one of her employees, Henry, was considering filing a complaint against her.

Within minutes, she was in her boss’ office trying to learn more about Henry and what she had done to bring him to that point.

“Henry just completed his six months with the company, and you denied him the raise he expected,” her boss explained. “He hinted he might file a complaint if he doesn’t get it; he was very upset when he came to see me last night. On his way out, he said, ‘I never see Sandy, so how can she know what kind of cleaner I am?’”

Sandy and her boss both knew that Henry was right: Sandy was so busy with other aspects of the business that she didn’t have much time for employee evaluations.

Henry was just one of the names on the evaluation spreadsheet she filled out and submitted each month, rating each employee on a numerical scale of 1-5.

She spent only about 20 minutes to evaluate her 87 employees, but those evaluations were used to determine wage increases.

As she looked at the sheet, it was clear that she and the company needed to put more resources into evaluating employees in a more fair and comprehensive manner.

Sourcing A System

A system of quality control through inspections is vital for improving and maintaining cleaning quality; it is also the only means to fairly and accurately evaluate your staffs.

While it is still possible to maintain a pencil-and-paper quality control program, professional organizations today can rely on quality management software.

These systems allow you to quantify the results of your inspections to better evaluate your employees and provide real-time data that allows you and your customers to measure quality.

When purchasing software or developing a program in-house, certain elements apply across the board.

The quality control software you select should address the following considerations:

  • Simplicity

Your program needs to be simple so that everyone across the organization can use and understand it.

This includes your employees, as they need to easily understand whether or not they are meeting the expectations set forth by you, your company or organization and the customers and clients you serve.

  • Standardization

No matter what standard you choose — a numerical scale of 1-10, clean versus dirty, APPA’s five levels of cleanliness, etc. — it is important that the selected method be clearly defined and that everyone involved is on the same page.

Although cleaning is subjective, you can narrow the range of that subjectivity if everyone is cleaning to the same standard.

This is particularly critical in the fair evaluation of cleaners.

  • Customization and flexibility

Since every client and organization is different, it is important that your program be flexible and customizable to suit all of your needs.

The ability to customize a quality control program for a certain type of building, a special type of area, by a specific supervisor and by a specific cleaner helps you hone in on problem areas.

  • Advanced capabilities

There are quality control systems on the market that can provide seemingly endless amounts of facts, figures and other useful data.

In addition to real-time inspections, some offer global positioning satellite (GPS) functionality to track employees or company assets and specific item weighting features, amongst others. 

  • Reports

By far, the most important element of your program will be the reports it helps you generate.

The key purpose of a report is to identify trends — both good and bad — that allow you to identify where the problem areas lie so they can be addressed.

Communication Is Still Required

Communicating the results of inspections to your staffs helps them understand whether or not they are meeting the expectations placed upon them so they can adjust their behaviors accordingly.

Sharing data analysis results also presents the opportunity to ask for feedback on issues that might get in the way of your employees delivering quality results.

Identifying deficiencies is only one capability of a quality control system; such systems can highlight positive outcomes as well.

Recognizing positive trends and seeing that they continue is as important as pointing out the problem areas.

Companies and organizations can boost morale and improve performance as well as retain their best employees by instituting programs that recognize personnel who go above and beyond job requirements.

Quality reports can also be used to ensure customers that you are monitoring the cleaning process and providing the services that you promised and they signed up for.

Don’t end up like Sandy: A good quality control system will help you and your customers avoid any surprises and will assist everyone in doing a better job.