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How to build lower turnover into your commercial cleaning teams

We’ve talked before about the irony of commercial cleaning: when your custodial provider is doing its best work, it’s rarely noticed by tenants and staff. Restrooms stay clean, trash disappears, and the environment is always comfortable, as if by magic. To maintain this level of service requires a stable, knowledgeable team – and one with relatively low turnover.

What’s the effect of turnover?

Every commercial cleaning team has some turnover, and this can, at times, be a good thing. Long-term employees may retire or change careers, making room for new workers with different experience and skills. It can invigorate teams, encouraging them to examine and improve their daily procedures.

But if your commercial cleaning provider has trouble keeping a team together, your property will most likely see service issues. Understaffed or inexperienced workers will make more mistakes and have a higher number of program deficiencies than a stable, well-trained team. It also means onsite managers will need to devote time to recruiting and training, pulling them away from the core duties of maintaining your property.

High turnover also signals a deeper problem. If employees don’t stay long with your commercial cleaning team, it might be because wages are lower than average, equipment is lacking, or they don’t have the tools or resources they need to perform their duties. These are common symptoms in commercial cleaning programs chosen for low price alone – resulting in higher costs and lower customer satisfaction over time.

What makes commercial cleaning services a more challenging career?

The seamless “invisibility” we mention above is the goal of any good commercial cleaning team, but it has a two-pronged effect on hiring and retention. First, smart, young workers often don’t consider the range of careers possible in commercial cleaning services, and second, they may leave for another employer (or even a different industry) if they feel undervalued.

Then there’s the current, very challenging labor market. A McKinsey survey from September 2021 found that 40 percent of workers surveyed said they were at least somewhat likely to leave their jobs by this month, with the service industry being particularly hard-hit.1

Part of it also is the nature of the work itself. The best custodial workers have great people skills, physical ability, and adept decision-making. They like being part of a close-knit team and are personally motivated to grow and learn.

Six practices to reduce turnover

The ideal skill set we mention above can be rare, but the right commercial cleaning provider knows how to bring out the best in team members, reduce turnover, maintain motivation, and increase efficiency. Here are six practices to look for when your commercial property is considering a new provider:

Find the right fit

Your commercial cleaning provider should hire workers who display both aptitude and attitude. Skills are important, especially in specialized areas like floor care. But skills can be taught; a team member’s outlook on the world is tougher to change.

As part of our screening process, we look for candidates with the right experience, as well as our shared commitment to excellence. When team members are aligned with our vision, mission, and values, we know they’re more likely to stay motivated and succeed long-term.

Create a pathway to success

Research shows just 12% of US employees strongly agree that their company does a good job of onboarding.2 When choosing a commercial cleaning provider, ask for details about onboarding and training for team members. From day one, new employees should have a clear roadmap of job duties, expectations, training opportunities, and safety practices.

For example, our Pathway to Success program gives new hires clarity and security that they’ve made the right choice. It’s a tested process we use to train employees at every commercial property we serve, from medical facilities to corporate headquarters buildings.

Keep communication flowing

Sometimes all it takes is a simple “How are you doing?” from leadership to prevent a great team member from leaving. Your commercial cleaning provider should invite feedback from workers in multiple ways, including daily huddles, open-door policies, and visible, accessible onsite leadership.

Daily huddles are particularly effective for eliciting feedback and sharing information. Team members that feel connected and informed are more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs and less likely to quit.

Huddles are also a great way to flag small issues with equipment or supplies before they impact your property’s program – or the custodial team’s morale.

Invest in the right equipment and supplies

Here’s where efficiency and safety go hand in hand. With appropriate equipment and supplies, a commercial cleaning team can get more done, with fewer safety issues. Property owners and managers should seek out a provider with a willingness to make a capital investment in equipment, as well as a detailed plan for repairs or replacement.

The right equipment and supplies also contribute to safer working conditions. In particular, custodial workers handle cleaning solutions and other chemicals that require safe handling. At Clean-Tech, we promote safer conditions in several ways, including:

  • Color-coded microfiber cleaning cloths
  • Detailed job cards that include safety procedures
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Job-specific uniforms and safety equipment
  • Greenseal-approved cleaning supplies

Giving our teams the right tools for the job sends the message that their time and energy are important, as well as their well-being. In turn, this helps boost job satisfaction and reduce turnover.

Invest in every team member

Custodial programs in commercial property environments are particularly people-focused. Property managers often share with us about the connection their staff has with our teams. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of our work – but it’s only possible because of the individual team members who stay motivated and upbeat every day.

Motivation is the secret ingredient in any high-functioning team. You can’t buy it and you definitely can’t force workers to have it, but you can boost motivation through regular opportunities for growth.

We focus on three main areas of employee development:

  • Regular reviews and feedback
  • Onsite training and cross-training to develop new skills
  • A commitment to promoting from within

Team members value a work environment that encourages them to set goals, then provides the resources to achieve those goals. With every new skill or accomplishment, they feel more empowered and invested in creating a superior custodial program for your commercial property.

Show appreciation

This may be the most important practice of all. Appreciation programs give team members a chance to celebrate their wins and rebound from tougher situations. Your commercial cleaning provider should have an established program that highlights the valuable contributions of every worker.

One of the simplest but most meaningful ways to lift up an employee’s work is through public recognition. By acknowledging an outstanding team member in front of his or her peers, we build confidence and connection while simultaneously demonstrating to other employees what great work looks like.

Other recognition practices we like include:

  • Mentorship programs for promising employees
  • Employee of the Month programs for outstanding individuals
  • Rewards for safety practices and high-quality work
  • Pizza parties for high-performing teams
  • Referral rewards for recommending new team members

On their own, each of these practices helps us express sincere gratitude to our hardworking team members. Together, however, these monthly recognition programs uphold Clean-Tech values, drive employee engagement, increase motivation, and ultimately reduce turnover.

For more information on building lower turnover into your commercial cleaning program, contact our team anytime at [email protected].


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