You may recall my musings in last week’s Leader (https://thecleanzine.com/pages/21717/leader/
) about the enormous damage cleaners can cause by simply using their initiative when they encounter something unexpected – or perhaps when they don’t think things through. It prompted an interesting response from Jeff Klenovic, writing in LinkedIn’s Cleaning Industry Discussion Group, which addressed another aspect of the issues involved and gave me much food for thought:
“I think part of the problem is rampant turnover in the industry. As I understand it, the cleaner involved had not been on the job very long. I realise that there should be some information about what to do when an alarm goes off or if an employee is uncertain what to do, but it's much better when a cleaner is part of the team and learns more about what the team is trying to accomplish, the risks, etc. Upward mobility is great, but there is something to be said for long term employees who know what to do and why they are doing it. The best teams are the ones where everybody involved looks out for one another and shares a little about what they are doing. It adds intrinsic value to the job as well.”
When talking to people outside it, (who are sometimes looking for work or considering a change in career) about the great job our industry does in promoting from within, and how those who start off as cleaners in a reputable organisation - who are committed to their work and are prepared to put in the effort - are likely to rise through the ranks BECAUSE of the ‘rampant turnover’, I’d failed to recognise that those who stay in the lower ranks are really its very backbone. I’d always assumed that it was the management teams who held everything together, and while they’re a hugely important part, without the backbone there’s nothing much to manage, is there?
We clearly can’t afford to lose all these valuable cleaners – either to another industry or to workplace promotion, so we have to nurture those who are happy in their work and who don’t aspire to become supervisors, managers or directors. So what to do? Obviously decent pay is crucial, as are decent working conditions and respect. And while I’ve always advocated the type of training that leads to certification for cleaners, I’m now keeping my fingers crossed that the push for the Apprenticeship-Levy funded Apprenticeship Standard for our sector is successful (read more below) and that in future, newcomers to our industry can say: “I’m an apprentice cleaner”. Now that has a nice ring to it!