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Challenges in hiring, training and retaining staff in the cleaning & hygiene sector

Does your organisation struggle to hire, train or retain cleaning staff? Ankush Gupta, an entrepreneur and founder of London-based cleaning agency St. Anne’s Housekeeping, takes a look at the staffing challenges faced by businesses in the cleaning and hygiene sector.

When I first started my cleaning company, I had a total staff of 10 people. As my business grew, I found myself constantly putting an ad in the local paper for new cleaning staff.

The process of hiring new recruits was quite simple, but I realised that I was mostly hiring new staff to replace employees leaving my agency, rather than hiring more people to sustain a growing demand for my services. Months later, after more comings and goings than I could count, I still found that turnover rate was high, and regardless of how rigorous my hiring procedures were, I could not overcome this challenge.

Today, many businesses face similar scenarios where they find it difficult to employ new staff. One of the growing challenges for companies in the cleaning and hygiene sector is not only to hire the right people to do the job, but also to train and retain them. Because cleaning and hygiene organisations belong in the service industry, recruiting highly skilled and dedicated staff is key to profitability. Committed cleaning staff prove valuable for an organisation, which can give them a competitive edge to operate in a highly saturated market.

While most cleaning and hygiene companies now understand that recruiting and training employees has become a core business task, they must realise that it comes with many challenges. We’ve picked out three contemporary dilemmas faced regularly by organisations that should be managed with care and attention.

Challenge 1: Hiring
It goes without saying that employees are the true asset for a service-based organisation. Their ability to perform and deliver services to a high level is important. If they do their job right, a business is likely to win over their customers and advance in the market. However, if they perform inadequately, an organisation can not only lose business, but also damage their reputation.

For cleaning companies, their staff is their business. Therefore, such organisations must invest in processes that hire the right people to do the job. Fortunately, cleaning can’t be outsourced to China, and there is no way to fully automate it yet — so companies don’t have to bother with those aspects of labour challenges. However, hiring the right employee who will deliver exceptional service and best represent your company remains the greatest challenge.

Solution: Invest in Assessments
In order to make sure your employees are maintaining service levels that create an advantage for your organisation, hire the right people to do the job the first time. Instead of spending money and time on hiring employees unfit for the job, hire a candidate who is both the perfect fit for the role and your organisation.

Luckily, companies in the cleaning and hygiene sector don’t require employees to have technical skills. Instead, they’re looking for people who excel at spending time doing repetitive and detailed work. When looking to hire new staff, make use of an employee assessment test system such as PeopleClues to find out if the candidate has the temperament for a position with a cleaning and hygiene company.

These tests help you understand the personality of a candidate, ensuring you can hire someone suited for the job. For example, if you are looking for a housekeeper who will be an excellent team player, is people-oriented and will complete tasks independently, use an employee assessment test to look for skills relevant for the job and to help you make the right hire.

Challenge 2: Training
The second biggest challenge in cleaning and hygiene is offering support and training to new employees, as well as existing ones. Let’s say you run a janitorial service agency in London. When you hire someone new, you ask your seasoned employee to train the new recruit while on the job. By doing so, you are putting pressure on an already pressurised staff member who may not be adequately trained to offer support to the new recruit.

The underlying problem is that there is a lack of dedicated trainers in this industry. When companies depend on existing staff to train new employees, they not only increase the workload of current staff members, often causing stress and demotivation; they also increase the likelihood of inadequate training for new staff.

Solution: Offer Dedicated Training Sessions
Companies should offer different levels of training for each employee, depending on their seniority, and the type of responsibilities they have to fulfil. If you depend on your seasoned employees to train new staff, make sure they have the adequate training to mentor new recruits and offer them the support required to train others. Companies can also sponsor training certification courses from accredited institutes such as the British Institute of Cleaning Science so that they have formal education to train others.

Also, connecting with new recruits during onboarding is a great way to introduce them to the work environment and easing them into the team. Doing so can lead them to have a positive experience and become a happy and loyal employee. Handle it well, and they can shadow other employees with little dependency and are likely to take a proactive approach towards settling into their job.

Challenge 3: Retaining
There’s no point spending money and resources on training employees if you can’t retain them. The biggest challenge in the cleaning and hygiene sector is that staff turnover rate can be extremely high, leaving a lot of companies struggling to retain well-trained employees.

Jobs in housekeeping and janitorial services are often great entry points for young or entry-level workers, with less of a focus on earnings and income than other industries. They are also often short-term or part-time positions, so employees are likely to switch over to another company if they are offered a few pounds more.

Losing employees creates stress on current staff members as it increases their workload, affecting the overall team performance.

Solution: Give Rewards and Offer Autonomy
A significant factor influencing the movement of staff in this fiercely competitive industry is the salary structure. One of the many ways companies can retain staff is by offering monetary rewards and benefits on top of a basic salary package.

Companies should also invest in their company culture and offer autonomy to their staff. The biggest advantage a company has is giving power to their employees to make their own decisions. By offering autonomy to employees in the cleaning and hygiene market, businesses can increase job satisfaction among their staff and create a sense of ownership.

Lastly, companies should regularly talk with employees and simply ask them how management can help them do their job better. Not only will employees answer honestly, they can also help explain the reason for a turnover, as well.

Those who fail to invest in their workforce jeopardise their ability to succeed in the market. This is especially true for cleaning and hygiene companies who depend heavily on their staff to deliver their services. The better their staff are skilled and motivated, the better job they do at representing their company.

Looking back to when I was struggling to hire and retain staff for my housekeeping business, it wasn’t until I started implementing some of these methods that I began seeing a difference in my workforce. I began changing my hiring procedures, investing in training methods, and started offering incentives to my employees, and quickly began to experience a change of direction in my company.





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