You Get What You Pay For

How to run cleaning operations more efficiently with limited resources

Leo’s meeting with the administrator had not gone well.

“The custodians aren’t working hard enough.”

“The cleaning isn’t meeting expectations.”

“It’s your job to get your people to work faster and do more, and that’s what we expect you to do.”

Leo had no choice but to nod in agreement throughout the meeting, while waiting for the moment when the boss would stop.

Then, on the way back to his office, Leo found three of his employees sitting around in the break room, as though they were trying to prove the boss’s point.

“Why aren’t you working?” he yelled.

“It’s 5:10—time for our break,” one of them answered.

Leo returned to his office in frustration. Maybe the administrator was right. Maybe he wasn’t driving his custodians hard enough. Maybe they could be accomplishing more.

Determining the Problem

Managing cleaning operations, at its most basic, is providing the most services possible by using the resources that are available. This requires use of the most efficient cleaning procedures, equipment, and chemicals. It also requires training to convey these efficiencies to employees as well as implementation of quality control to provide feedback on how the cleaning system is working.

However, even the most efficient use of tools and technology can’t make up for insufficient staffing. The difference between cleaning 20,000 square feet versus 40,000 with the same efficiencies is significant. In all fairness to our cleaners, we cannot expect them to clean to the same level in the same amount of time when the amount of work is double.

Leo’s real problem was that he didn’t know exactly what services his department could provide with the available resources, and neither did his boss. Maybe Leo could achieve more with improvements in efficiencies, a possibility that managers must constantly consider. On the other hand, maybe the resources—including staff—were being stretched beyond capacity, and the administrator’s expectations were unreasonable.

Know Your Operations

By having the necessary procedures in place and maintaining the right data, Leo could have easily determined whether there was room for improvement in cleaning operations or if his boss was expecting too much based on the resources for which he was willing to pay. Here’s what you can do to avoid falling into the same trap:

  • Take space inventory. Know and record every cleanable space in the facility. This includes location, size, floor type, and room function. There is no way to know your efficiencies without knowing your infrastructure.
  • Standardize operations. This means getting everyone on the same page by implementing a cleaning system that utilizes standard chemicals, equipment, and procedures. Only by developing a set of procedures for each task, along with prescribed frequencies, can you achieve predictable results.
  • Quantify cleaning. Utilizing the space inventory and the standardized procedures will enable you to put numbers for staffing and cost to your operations.
  • Right-size your operations. Investigate the use of multiple cleaning levels to right-size your cleaning operations and determine the appropriate amount of service to provide.

Share Your Data

Once you have the data, it’s important to share it with all the significant players: your cleaners, your customers, and especially your boss. All three groups will benefit from knowing you have a plan that is based on efficient use of the organization’s resources.

As for your boss, he may not be able to get all he wants, but he will at least know that he is getting what he’s paying for.

Posted On December 23, 2015

Kevin Keeler

Founder of Keeler Consulting

Kevin Keeler is founder of Keeler Consulting. He specializes in the development and implementation of tools, technology, and systems that provide cleanliness, cost effectiveness, and accountability. Keeler is a co-author of Behind The Broom. For more information, visit

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