Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Wanted: Quality employees

September 19, 2010
If you’ve been in the cleaning and maintenance industry long enough, you know the turnover scenario all too well:

Customers are happy with the service, productivity is high, cleaning results are top-notch, your employees are getting along and working as a team, and then one employee leaves for another job, starting the domino effect.

Most building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house cleaning managers invest time, money, and resources for what are eventually “rental” employees.

For end users, cleaning staff turnover is a critical concern.

Many of these managers face employee turnover rates as high as 300 percent.

Furthermore, there are now more generations and cultures in the workforce than at any other time in history.

This diversity also impacts your message and retention strategies.

So, how can you beat the odds, reverse this turnover cycle, and find the best of the best?

We contacted two readers, whose companies do not have turnover issues, to help us develop the top 10 ways you can find and retain quality employees.

10. Advertising for new hires
Today, there are many options for placing a help wanted ad.

And, since you are looking to fill an easy entry position, such as cleaning technician, chances are good that you’ll receive considerable attention during the recruitment process.

When deciding to cost-effectively seek new employees, know your ideal candidates’ tendencies and media preferences, such as the Internet, newspapers, television, etc.

You want to be sure that your advertising message is clear, targeted, and visible to your ideal prospects.

9. Interviewing
Be meticulous during the interview process and look for employees who have the ability and willingness to grow their skills with your company or department.

Ask detailed questions and require in-the-field testing of a common cleaning task.

Here, you are judging if they can comprehend and complete the task.

With scientific measurement devices, such as ATP monitors, you can even see the results of the test and compare it with your current employees’ results.

And, take the extra steps to be sure you are hiring the right people.

“When hiring, it is crucial that you know what you are looking for in an employee,” says Jackie Grabin, co-president of New York-based Arrow Exterminating, who adds that employers should always perform background and employment checks. “If you hire the right people, you will have a good organization.”

8. Sell your company’s strengths
Your company’s story is important to job seekers.

When you find the perfect candidate, share all the benefits, including vacation days, holiday breaks, insurance, working hours, dress code, meal breaks, retirement plans, training opportunities, as well as personal and company growth goals.

Also, cater to your specific employees’ needs.

“Our employee turnover is increasing as the workforce ages and baby boomers are becoming eligible for retirement,” says Judie Cooper, performance analyst for the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Facilities Management and Reliability (OFMR).

If you are targeting younger employees, for example, be aware of the issues that matter to them, such as green and technology, then stress and embrace those aspects.

7. Professionalism
Employees want to work for reputable companies they can be proud to be a part of.

Showing that you are a first-class organization can help address two issues: Attracting and retaining quality employees.

Be professional in marketing materials and provide service that is promised to the customer.

Adequately deal with customer and employee complaints in a timely fashion.

Uniforms can also help professionalize your image.

In a recent cmmonline.com Bulletin Board post, John Markey notes the importance of uniforms and customer perception.

“I would recommend that you have your staff in a uniform. It sets them (and you) apart from the run-of-the-mill cleaning contractor,” wrote Markey.

6. The perks
For current cleaning employees, the daily routine can be mundane.

Although public perception can change in coming years, cleaning a facility traditionally has been a thankless job.

Front-line cleaners are the most important employees in many facilities — for both appearance purposes and maintaining health.

As a facility manager or company owner, grow that awareness throughout the facility and encourage building occupants to interact with the cleaning department.

Other perks can include employee appreciation days/nights, picnics, Employee of the Month awards, flex hours, health club memberships, and so on.

5. Training
Training and certification elevate the worker’s status and sense of responsibility.

“As employees become more competent at what they do, they gain greater satisfaction from their jobs and feel more secure about their skill set,” says Grabin. “This also creates high levels of employee loyalty.”

And, certification provides extra validation and commitment.

“Certification is a type of training that can successfully motivate employees,” says Cooper. “Many employees are very interested in becoming certified or licensed in their profession to demonstrate their proficiency and knowledge.”

According to Cooper, a good method to pursue certification is to have the organization and the employee jointly contribute to the accomplishment, such as having the organization pay for the training the employee takes on their own time.

4. Pay
To compete for the best, you must offer fair wages.

Do research, such as through industry benchmarking surveys, and find the median wages in your area.

It is wise to match or exceed the local average.

3. Self-motivation
Empower employees who have earned your company’s trust.

New employees, by nature, will see the long-term success of their tenure at your company as it relates to their personal growth.

Motivating employees to accomplish the company’s goals, in addition to striving for personal goals, is a challenge owners and managers often face.

Keep employees focused by constantly reminding them of the company’s or department’s business plan.

Also, be aware, when looking to fill a position, that the best candidate could be an employee you have that is self motivated with the company’s goals in mind.

“Employers would find it very valuable to actively seek and invest in the potential of their (current) employees. This involves identification, training, and incentives for employees to remain, grow, and be recognized for their achievements,” wrote Chris Wheeler on a recent Bulletin Board post.

2. Communication
As a manager, your communication skills should be effective.

“We keep staff informed and communicate constantly about how events will impact their daily work,” says Cooper. Communication allows us to not only keep staff informed, but also to provide many opportunities for them to contribute to our collective success. We periodically survey staff to learn of their concerns and seek their ideas and suggestions for work process improvements.”

According to Cooper, managers can communicate changes and staff duties through a variety of methods, including individual and organizational meetings, electronic communications, and visual methods, such as posters and bulletin boards.
Employees can usually tell if your message is insincere or incomplete.

“Honesty is the best policy,” says Grabin. “Without it, you’ll lose the respect of your employees. Always be aboveboard with staff. Employees need to feel comfortable with the job they are performing.”

1. Give employees a vested interest
“It’s essential for staff to feel they are heard and that they matter,” says Grabin.

Simply put, give your employees a reason to come to work each and every day.

Tie in the employee’s success with the success of the company.

Constantly challenge employees to do better and deliver quality results.

And recognize these achievements.

Furthermore, encourage employees’ feedback and make changes to address concerns where possible.

Show employees that their opinions matter and they are more likely to work for you long-term.