When it comes to making changes, many facility management executives overseeing in-house cleaning operations focus on products, procedures, and protocols. These are the first places they look to make everything from service enhancements to budget cuts. Indeed, concentrating on these areas can be an intelligent starting point since making these improvements is typically easier and faster.
However, other strategies can have a far more significant and sustainable impact on your cleaning operations’ ability to deliver consistently clean, safe, and healthy at the lowest overall cost. One such area is your people.
Only 10% of the cost of cleaning operations is equipment and supplies. The remaining 90% is employees, including wages, benefits, pension plans, sick pay, and substitute pay. So if educational and other large venues can increase the consistent effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity of their employees—while reducing costs associated with under-performing employees—the impact will be more significant and more sustainable than switching products or upgrading equipment.
Do the Math
There are more than 1.4 million custodians in the United States, 50% of whom are employed in the educational sector. Today’s average custodian salary is $31,300, while 90% make at least $42,700. Given these figures, let’s assume the wages and benefits of each subpar worker you’ve kept on the payroll averages $40,000. Over 30 years, this adds up to $1.2 million—per employee! Now, look truthfully at your department. How many of the employees in your cleaning operations are inferior performers—5%? 10%? More?
Added to wages and benefits are the costs of substitute workers when these employees are no-shows, the cost of extra labor required to redo their unacceptable work, and the wasted training dollars spent trying to teach employees who don’t want to learn and improve. Perhaps most detrimental are the physical and mental impacts these workers can have on your other employees and the shadow the shoddy work casts on your department and your leadership as a facility management executive.
Bad employees lower the team’s bar, eroding your facility’s cleanliness and health and safety levels while negatively impacting your image and bottom line.
Turning Things Around
Considering the cost of subpar employees – not to mention the headaches they cause – below are suggestions for building your dream team.
Attract & Recruit
Take it seriously. The best way to avoid substandard employees is not to bring them on board at all. Attracting, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding must be considered critical actions to prevent $1.2 million per employee mistakes. Make sure these practices are aligned with your core values and guiding principles. Know what skills, attitude, and DNA are required and develop a process to attract, recruit, and hire only the best. Include some of your best employees in the screening interviews—those who know the responsibilities of the position(s) and the dynamics of the group to uncover the best fits.
Be discerning. No matter how desperate you might feel at the time, avoid hiring people who lack the proper skill set and, perhaps more importantly, the right attitude. It will save you months—if not years—of money and headaches down the road. If you are strapped for help, consider a temporary contracted employee to get you through until you find your star. It may not seem possible, especially in times of labor shortages, but this is vital to your success. Don’t simply accept who comes or is sent your way. Your team is one of the most important investments. If you are deliberate about finding, developing, and retaining only the best, it will pay enormous dividends for you, your team, your facility, and your reputation.
Define the position. Be very clear on the core values/guiding principles of all your people and the purpose of your operations. If job candidates know what these principles are from the start, understand that they will be held accountable to uphold them, and realize they will be let go if they do not, many will not accept the position or quit.
Hire & Develop
Set expectations. Let all employees know that poor performance and behavior is not acceptable—and will not be tolerated. Establish the levels you expect them to maintain and hold those who fall short accountable.
Train and retrain The days of on-the-job-only training are over. Employees feel empowered when they know how to do the tasks expected of them from the start. This training should not stop with onboarding. Provide all employees with initial and ongoing training and coaching to build skills and confidence.
Be professional. Treat employees with respect at all times. Doing otherwise can erode the entire team’s morale and respect for your leadership— and lead to potential lawsuits.
Retain Or Not?
Pay fairly and promote. Workers can’t be expected to be happy and perform their best if they are unfairly compensated. A fair wage should be based on your geographic area and the position’s responsibilities. It should also include a path to higher wages as responsibilities increase and performance warrants. Many top employees leave because they feel stagnant in a job with no room for professional and monetary growth.
Do what it takes. Work hard to retain your best employees. Do they need to start a little later or leave early to work around their kids’ school schedules? The best leaders consider results, not hours, when it comes to performance. Bonus: Giving top-performing employees flexibility incentivizes other workers to up their game to gain similar benefits.
Take action. The best way to deal with bad employees is to deal with them. Don’t permit underperformers to erode the high standards of the entire team. Don’t wait. If a hiring mistake is made, rectify it as soon as the error is realized. New hires should be as good—or better—than your best employees before the end of their probation period. If, despite proper onboarding and training, this is not the case, it won’t get better; it will just get harder to let them go. In this case, swift action is best.
For more tips to increase your in-house cleaning operation’s ROI while ensuring a consistently clean, safe, healthy environment at the lowest overall cost, download the FREE Special Report, Maximizing Your In-House Cleaning Operations.
Calling All Facility Management Executives:
How can you be sure your in-house cleaning operations are operating as efficiently and effectively as they need to be to satisfy the demands of all stakeholders? Learn how to assess your operations, make any necessary improvements, and get the data to verify you and your department’s ongoing value.