When someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you say? At school events for your kids or when meeting the new neighbors, do you sometimes hesitate to tell them you’re in the cleaning business? Whether you’re a cleaner, a supervisor, a manager, or a consultant, you know that today the industry goes far beyond mops and buckets. Yet to many outside the business, “cleaning professional” sounds like a contradiction in terms.
Beyond Cleaning Toilets
Ricardo had spent the past eight years working as a cleaning technician for an engineering college in Texas. During that time, he and his wife bought a home in a pleasant neighborhood and started a family. One evening at dinner his five-year-old daughter blurted out, “My friend Sophia says you’re a toilet cleaner.” His three-year-old son, who had just been potty trained and could therefore identify, gleefully repeated, “toilet cleaner, toilet cleaner.”
At first Ricardo felt angry and hurt, but after some careful thought, he responded to his daughter. “In the building where Daddy works, scientists do important work, students learn, people work in offices, and a lot of visitors go in and out every day. It’s my building, and it’s my job to keep all the people who come in and out of it safe and healthy by making it clean.”
Ricardo’s daughter gave him a big hug. “At school tomorrow, I’m going to tell Sophia that my daddy has his own building and takes care of everybody in it.”
Cleaning as a Profession
It’s not surprising that people outside the industry don’t always appreciate the importance of what we do. Cleaners tend to work behind the scenes or after hours. The bigger problem is that many of us within the profession don’t always appreciate the importance of what we do either.
The word custodian means keeper or guardian. Janitor comes from Janus, a Roman god who guarded the treasures for the rest of the gods. The treasures we guard are the health of the people in our buildings, the image of our organizations, the value of the infrastructure, and the productivity of the workers. Without the services of the cleaning profession, the organizations and companies we work with would not survive.
Promoting What We Do
With all the developments taking place across the cleaning industry, it’s a great time to take advantage of elevating our profession. Here are several ways to do so:
Reframe your own thinking. See yourself or your company as a partner to the organizations you service. Don’t be afraid to suggest improvements or make customers aware of new innovations that could benefit them.
Educate customers and building staff. Make sure your customers are aware of what you are doing and the technologies you are using so your work won’t be undervalued.
Partner with your workers. Create company-wide activities and events to make your cleaners feel like valued members of the group. Allow your cleaners to suggest ways to improve service and reward good ideas.
Value knowledge. Constantly make your customers, cleaners, and network aware of how the cleaning industry has changed and the vast amount of training and knowledge required to succeed.
Recognize and reward good cleaning efforts. Rewards help to instill professionalism. Recognize cleaners who go above and beyond and those who seek out additional or specialized training.
Whether you’re a consultant, manager, or cleaner, your job requires specialized knowledge of chemicals and techniques as well as staying up-to-date with new technologies in the industry and beyond. It’s time to reframe our industry.