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How to procure and manage successful cleaning contracts

In addition, it’s all about managing people. Think about it: who else in your organisation has responsibility for managing the same number of staff as the cleaning manager? Whether you have 10, 25 or 100 cleaning staff on your sites, when you consider the responsibility of recruiting them, training them, equipping them and co-ordinating them on a day-to-day basis, you soon realise the value of finding a contractor that can deliver all of this whilst meeting your expectations
and cost pressures. So how do you manage a successful cleaning contract?


In these times of austerity, many cleaning contracts have been cut back to the point where contractors no longer have the resources to deliver what’s required, so it’s time to work smarter when procuring and managing cleaning contracts.

Being an intelligent client is understanding what you want, what is needed to deliver it and having transparent structures in place to manage it. Consider whether the cleanliness of your facilities reflect your brand and core values to your people, customers and visitors? Is your organisation beginning to lose working days due to an increase in staff sickness? Are you in need of a gold, silver or bronze service?

Understanding your expectations, but also the value of cleaning is essential to success – after all, you get what you pay for. Being an intelligent client is also about finding the right contractor in the first place, by understanding who delivers what they say they will and who simply tells you what they think you want to hear!

Another point worthy of mention is that if you are looking to retender to save costs, don’t unless you have to. There are greater opportunities trying to work with your incumbent first. Before any changes are made, seek building-users views on whether they feel the current standards of cleanliness are acceptable or not. Then consider if you are happy with what you have or whether things really must improve.


Cleaning specifications should be clear and concise. Use a hierarchical structure to list building areas and the specification level required. Categorise each individual area into clearly defined bands reflecting the standards you expect in each (e.g. ‘Band A’ or ‘Gold’).

List the specification for each one including all the individual elements to be included, such as, the acceptable and unacceptable standard and the frequency levels required. For example, these are generally all the time in high profile reception areas or hygiene areas such as washrooms. Once a day for typical office environments or less than once a day for low risk and back of house areas. But note, practically every working environment is required to be cleaned a minimum of once per week under the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act (1963).

Whatever your specification, keep it simple so that key performance indicators are easily defined and service level agreements are easy to measure. Much confusion still remains over input and output based contracts, but without doubt, it is a hybrid approach that we see works best.


Different organisations have wildly different processes for procuring cleaning and other FM contracts. This is particularly the case between the public and private sector. However, regardless of the sector, the process is almost always time consuming and expensive, particularly given the growing number of contractors in the market.

If you represent a high profile client or site, you will undoubtedly have been contacted by many enthusiastic and competent contractors. But how do you give them all an opportunity without increasing your workload?

References are key, as is shortlisting contractors who pro-actively use independent best practice benchmarking. These contractors will have proved their performance against their competitors and should be ranked higher than those that simply talk about it. And, as a word of warning, beware of contractors that still use ‘industry productivity rates’ produced some 20 years ago and promote microfibre cloths as something new.

 Other critical elements for successful procurement include an accurate, detailed and concise specification (as discussed), site visits and the creation of a scorecard which you must undoubtedly stick to. Finally, don’t be too influenced by a slick sales presentation if the submission is generally weak. Likewise, don’t penalise those who don’t have the slick sales presentation because it is presented by the operations team that will deliver the contract if they win the tender.


Contractors have to constantly fund the pursuit of new business, which can cost up to 10 per cent of their total revenue. Therefore, developing long term partnerships allows contractors to invest in the contract which can provide a return for both parties. If there’s truly a win-win opportunity, you’ll see contractors being proactive about adding real value. They will be more likely to focus on developing multi activity roles, enhancing your visitor or employee experience, saving energy or improving recycling rates.

Despite having a generally poor reputation, the cleaning industry is actually very good at innovation. There are constantly new machines being introduced that either improve productivity, ergonomics, reduce energy or even water usage. However, contractors can only continue to invest in this equipment, as well as new IT solutions, when the contract length allows.

Whilst sustainability typically refers to environmental factors, you should understand that driving margins down to zero increases contract failure rates and is simply a false economy.

Most clients’ expectations are greater than their budgets. After all, we live in a world where organisations are expected to deliver more for less, but when all is said and done everyone needs to make a profit.


So, the first steps to success are selecting the right contractor, creating a clear and concise specification and using a robust procurement process. But, how do you ensure standards? 

Undoubtedly, independent best practice benchmarking is the key to continuous improvement that will drive efficiency and deliver better standards at a lower cost. By constantly measuring your contractor’s performance against other best in class providers, contracts can be competently managed and justifiably extended, which reduces the need to retender. As a final word, whilst benchmarking may offer some quick wins, don’t be fooled into treating it as a one off activity. If you genuinely want to maximise efficiency and maintain continuous improvement, benchmarking must be consistent, continuous and given an adequate focus.

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