by Mark Warner — Originally published in the December 2017 issue of ISSA
If you aren’t aware yet…. Change is here.
The cleaning industry worldwide is going through a shift that is turning the typical business model we are accustomed to on its head. The times of salespeople cold calling a customer and walking away with a sale are gone, having migrated to the e-commerce space and online shopping, The Internet of Things, and e-learning are only going to continue to impact the face of our industry. Similarly, the times of contract cleaning companies winning bids simply because of relationships they have with certain facility managers are gone.
The question remains, what will the industry require in the future? If times are changing, what does this mean for companies, employees and products and services? The answer is much simpler than you would think. Everyone and everything within the cleaning industry will be held to higher standards as the industry demands excellence. The next question, of course, is how will the ability to meet these higher standards be measured. One way is third-party certification.
When industry professionals sit back and ponder if they need to adhere to a standard or obtain a certification, the main question comes back around. Does a certification truly matter in our line of business? The answer couldn’t be more apparent.
Disrupt, innovate, differentiate, and change are common words that we are hearing more often in the commercial cleaning industry. As we stand here scratching our heads on how we can disrupt or innovate in the industry, we shouldn’t focus attention on recreating the wheel just yet. For most industries, standards are nothing new. Consider the standards for food service, health care, and government—to name but a few. If we are joining with ISSA in its mission to change the way the world views cleaning to have it perceived as the vital necessity it is—while looking for ways to raise our levels of service and thereby differentiate ourselves—the question that comes to mind is how did we ever think certification was not important?
Two major types of certifications are needed now more than ever: individual and company certifications validate the top-notch service an employee and/or organization can offer. Without the validation, an organization can’t prove its expertise, and an individual will lose their battle to define their relevance in the workplace.
How Training Pays Off
Below are just a few of the benefits of a well-trained staff.
Health and safety
First and foremost, a well-trained and knowledgeable cleaning staff can also be the front line of defense against the spread of infectious diseases. In this world of threats by infectious diseases, such as MRSA, norovirus, C. diff, flu, etc., the importance of adhering to best practices and paying attention to detail is paramount. Lives can be on the line. On the other hand, unfortunately, it has been documented that careless cleaning can increase the spread of infectious diseases, even though the cleaning people may have the only the best intentions in mind.
The cleaning industry is a vast landscape, full of fantastic opportunities and rewarding career paths. It can lead a person to high-level positions within a company. Of course, the cleaning industry is full of part-time and full-time job opportunities, but at the highest levels, there is no limit to the level one can reach. This includes positions such as CEO, president, director, and other levels of management in small or even very large companies—the exact levels many of you reading this have worked hard to achieve. Just think if 50 years ago there had been third-part certification available to our industry how much faster many of us would have reached these levels of success!
All this is possible within the cleaning industry, yet there is more good news. As those of us already in it know, there are very few barriers of entry into the cleaning industry, if one has the motivation and the fortitude to be willing to come onboard and work hard. Promotions and upward advancement can happen swiftly. The key to the cleaning industry career path is getting this information out to potential recruits, then providing them with the training and information they need to succeed. All this achievable through high-end training and certification programs now available.
We all understand the maxim that there is only one chance to make a great first impression in the same way that it is widely accepted that well-trained, knowledgeable cleaning personnel can greatly enhance the perception of a clean facility, which greatly improves first impressions of the facility. But, that is just the obvious starting point.
Buildings are full of structural assets that need to be properly protected. It is astounding, yet depressing, to see the amount of costs associated with damage to floors and carpets as well as to furniture and other assets resulting from untrained, unskilled cleaning personnel. Often, these costs could have been easily avoided with the proper training.
Reduced legal problems and fees
In any facility exists the pervasive threat of legal and financial liabilities related to slip, trip, and fall claims from visitors and employees alike. These financial liabilities have been known to run into thousands and thousands of dollars. In some cases, these costs have the potential of being the highest costs related to the care of the building, far exceeding the cost of the materials and supplies used to care for the building itself.
With everything that can be inter-related with the cleanliness of a building, it will become increasingly important to establish and achieve the highest cleanliness standards in the future through training. Although there is a cost to providing good training, attempting to save money by hiring low-paid, untrained workers can result in significant hidden costs related to poor performance and reduced efficiencies. These hidden costs can include things, such as higher employee absenteeism, reduced productivity, and lost customers.
Customer and employee satisfaction
The other benefits of certified training include the reduction of complaints and the minimization of disruptions. Tie this in with the increased morale and higher levels of motivation as well as creating better engagement with their jobs and their employers, and you have a winning combination.
Turn to Your Association
In the end, there are huge benefits to providing high-level training to the cleaning personnel. At the highest level are certifications offered by ISSA’s Cleaning Management Institute (CMI) that are acknowledged and accepted worldwide. These certifications are viewed as the key to the development of an individual within the cleaning industry. It’s about certifying that the individual is a true professional in the cleaning industry, acutely aware of existing standards and regulations, as well as having the knowledge and the skills, to use best practices to adhere to the highest standards of cleanliness.
At the organization level, there are just as many reasons to pursue certification. ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) outlines the characteristics of a successful, quality cleaning organization. This program not only addresses human resources policies, work-loading, and staffing issues, but it also emphasizes quality control measures. That is why many government agencies and large corporations are beginning to require CIMS certified service providers. In fact, CIMS certification is now readily recognized as a valuable component for organizations pursuing the U.S. Green Building Councils’ Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED)’s Green Building designation.
Any way you look at it, training and certification in the cleaning industry matter. It sets quality individuals and organizations apart from the competition. You wouldn’t let someone work on your electrical wiring or plumbing unless they were properly certified. Why would we not hold the same standards as it relates to the care of our buildings?
Mark Warner is ISSA senior training specialist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.