Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Measuring Cleaning Performance

February 1, 2011

This is a continuation of last month''s column.

Who Is Measuring Performance?

There are three basic options for measuring cleaning performance: Do it yourself, let your contractor do it or bring in a third party.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these alternatives, and the most appropriate choice depends on a number of factors.

Not withstanding any savings, many self-inspection programs suffer from a lack of time to do a reliable inspection with the consequence of creating inconsistent, questionable management information.

An option many managers choose is to pass the task on to the contractor.

But, understand that you are paying for that inspection and the tools they use: This simply transfers the time and cost.

Sometimes, contractor-based inspection programs have a "find it and fix it" orientation, especially before there''s a complaint.

It''s also not unheard of to have the inspector work as an operations supervisor, actually doing the work they are inspecting.

The third option is to retain an objective third-party resource.

There is a definite and visible cost to this option, which sometimes makes it difficult to implement.

In this option, everyone''s time is saved, including the contractor''s, which may allow a cost reduction if their inspector is taken out of the budget.

The consequences are that a third-party performance measurement program tends to be more objective, with a focus on the accuracy of the information and the quality of the information provided.

Purpose Of Measurement

Let''s get basic for a moment: Why are you measuring performance in the first place?

There are two kinds of questions that should to be answered by measuring cleaning performance: Are we meeting our cleanliness goals; and how do we do better?

The first question is all about descriptive information: Telling us what we see and where we are on our journey to achieve our cleaning goals.

The second is about actionable information: Telling us how to constantly improve our performance.

An effective performance measurement system provides both types of information, with a lot of emphasis on how to improve.

A number of inspection programs are designed to describe what is inspected and find and fix problems.

An effective performance measurement system is designed to find and prevent problems.

So, while fixing problems is a good thing, understand that it is vastly more important to prevent problems before they happen.

Paper Or Plastic?

I am impressed with the number of cleaning measurement programs available today.

I''m even more impressed with the wide array of gadgets that we can use to actually collect cleaning performance data.

All of the plastic alternatives have great eye appeal and we feel good about using "the latest technology."

After spending money on the latest technology are you clear about the value of the new gadget?

If you have a clear picture of why you are measuring performance in the first place, you understand it''s all about the information you get at the end — your performance report.

Even a paper-based inspection will give you powerful reports.

The real value of a performance measurement system is not how you collect the data; it''s the information that allows you to improve cleaning performance.

So, when measuring cleaning performance, it might be better to ask for paper instead of plastic.

Measuring performance is vital to managing a successful cleaning operation.

Whether designing or choosing an effective cleaning performance measurement program, you must consider the elements that create the best value for you.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • The customer establishes the definition of performance and defines the measurement standard

  • If a survey is needed, a five-point or seven-point scale is most accurate

  • Measure the attributes that are observable and verifiable to rate performance

  • Evaluate the things in the room, not the room itself

  • Calculate the specific items and rooms inspected, don''t try to be fancy with the data

  • Consider a third-party service for measuring cleaning performance, as it delivers results

  • Measuring performance is all about improving cleaning processes, everything else is second

  • You don''t need gadgets to have an effective performance measurement program.


Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Elliott Affiliates Ltd. of Hunt Valley, Maryland, www.ealtd.com. He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice, performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management.