Hiring Blues: Where Are All The Good Cleaning Technicians?
Why Your Cleaning Customers Are 57% Sold Before They Call

Survey Results: Having a Hard Time Staffing Your Cleaning Business?

In our last blog post, we addressed the question: Where are all the good cleaning technicians?

Most cleaning business owners are singing the blues these days because they're having a hard time finding good employees that stick around. Because of that article, we asked our readers to take a survey that would give us insights into the hiring difficulties cleaning company owners are facing today. 66 business owners responded and here are the results.

What kind of cleaning business do you have?

Residential 23%
Commercial 32%
Both Residential & Commercial 45%

Kind-of-biz

 

How long has it been since you started your cleaning business?

Less than 1 year 2%
1 to 2 years 6%
3 to 5 years 18%
6 or more years 74%

How-old

 

How big of a challenge is it to find good applicants and fully staff your cleaning business today?

Very challenging – often short staffed, always hiring 47%
Somewhat challenging – occasionally have staff shortages 50%
Not challenging – plenty of candidates, fully staffed 3%

Challenge

 

 How serious is your labor situation?

Serious problem right now 21%
Somewhat serious 36%
It’s an issue but not a problem right now 41%
Not a problem 2%

How-serious

 

How does your staffing challenges today compare to one or two years ago?

More of a challenge today 48%
The same 41%
Less of a challenge today 11%

  Compare

 

On a scale of 1 (not so good) to 4 (excellent). How would your employees rate your cleaning company as a good place to work?

4 – Excellent – everyone loves working here 18%
3 – Very good – much better than other cleaning companies 70%
2 – The same as other cleaning companies 12%
1 – Not as good as other cleaning companies 0%

Good-place-to-work

 

Please describe what you are doing specifically to make your cleaning business a better place to work. 

Here are the top 12 responses:

• Competitive wages
• IRA and 401K plans
• Paid holidays/PTO
• Quarterly incentives
• Weekly performance bonuses
• Gift cards
• Flexible work hours and schedules
• Employee of the month recognition
• Training programs and ongoing training/certifications
• Care/Listen
• Group Meetings
• Team/positive work atmosphere

Below are some additional comments provided by cleaning business owners on what they're doing to make their business a better place to work:

We just implemented PTO. This will start occurring after employee has been with us for 90 days. For every 8 hrs work they get .25 paid time off. We are really working hard at helping with childcare -- BIG issue with keeping employees. Yearly employee (with family) picnic at a local amusement park. Bonuses for quality assurance checks that pass with a 85% or higher. Starting wage is $10 an hour. Stages of growth in the business ~ work your way to better pay with added responsibilites.

Trying to encourage employees and verbally thank them for being a great employee. This seems to turn the attitude from grumblings to sharing how they were creatively finding a solution to a problem.

Listening to employees concerns and actively doing something about it, when possible, rather than justifying or brushing it off as " I'm the boss and I know better", gives them an appreciated team feeling.

Treat my employees like I would like to be treated in the business. If they have trouble with cleaning certain buildings find ways to fix the problem and help them out.

Hire using results oriented job descriptions. Insist that the Company core drivers are followed at all times, without exception. Train in-house regularly and require outside training and certifications. Hold regular employee meetings and evaluations. Buy far the toughest for me is to holding people accountable.

Lately, we feel like we've won the lottery when it comes to good employees. Because of this and not wanting to lose them, we recently increased their pay across the board. We had discussed needing to pay better in order to attract and maintain better employees, so we decided to raise the pay of the ones we have first. We also like to reward our employees with gift cards. They work hard, so giving them a gift of a massage or a night out to eat let's them know how much we appreciate them. Appreciation goes a long way and it needs to be more than just saying thank you. Our industry is a thankless one, we rarely hear a thank you from our clients, so we try to make sure our employees know how much they're appreciated to us.

I am going to focus on developing a stronger and more positive culture. I have at times been negative. I have been negative at finding people to work because I don't think they want to work, so when I schedule an interview, 9 times out of 10 they don't show up and I just get discouraged. I am looking at different ways to interview.

I feel as though we are moving in a good direction and after years created the "ideal" employee checklist to interview with as a guideline, allowing us at this time and the near future to be ok. Of course, with the appeal of the minimum wage increase slated to happen for some of the bigger companies, I feel that will have a great impact, no matter how much we care or listen. That is my concern now.

We have an employee of the month with a gift card for $25-50. We pay a current employee $100.00 for finding a good worker if they stay for 90 days. We are thinking about a star sticker program for employee's that keep their Janitor closets clean and neat. Keep our back pack vacuums well maintained especially the extension cords, from pulling out the pig tail from the vacuum, and keep the cord untwisted and damaged. I replace currently no less than 8-10 extension cords every month plus pick up at least 1-6 backpacks due to neglect and pulled out or shorted pigtails, or ruined extension cords due to either end plug end shorts, plus cord bare wires shorting out etc. We have a very real equipment neglect issues which extend much farther into very expense cleaning machines. Etc.

My staff clock in and out at our office the beginning and end of each day making it easy to communicate with the team leaders about their day. We begin each day with a smile and a "Good Morning" and end it with "How did your day go?" "I'll see you tomorrow!" Each teams next days schedule is posted on the wall so they can see what is coming up on the following day. We schedule the same team together as much as possible. We provide 6 paid holidays and two weeks paid vacations. We provide company uniforms and company vehicles, no one has to drive their own vehicles.  I conduct mandatory, weekly staff meetings each Friday morning to review training issues so everyone works from the same page. Our employee training manuals are complete and organized with a copy in each vehicle.

I stay very positive. I praise very loud and publicly. I reprimand privately. I am constantly discovering fun ways to coach, games, contests and while challenging to "rise above" other cleaning techs in service and skill. The bottom line, this is a very physical service and not a lot of people can do it well. I'm thankful for the staff I have! They make my business successful!

Prior to starting my cleaning business I was a Human Resources Director in the hotel industry for 15 years. So I have a very strong background in Team Member Relations and creating a professional positive and fun work environment. There are many things I've done but if I were to sum it all up into one this. Keeping the team members engaged with each other and the business. Make them feel like they are a valuable part of the business. Listen to them, implement their ideas and suggestions and if there's a "bad apple" in the bunch who, after coaching and counseling, won't change their negative behavior; they need to be kicked off the team and replaced. Also get the cleaners involved in the interviewing process and let them be a part of the hiring decisions.

Incentives, bonuses, flexible schedules, positive atmosphere, do not yell or demean when correcting a problem.

1- We recognize Team Members b-days, have donuts periodically or pan dulce, have "graduation celebrations" when Team Members become certified (and a pay increase comes with it), 6 month reviews with opportunity to increase pay by $0.80 / hr per review, weekly team reviews (we work in teams of 2), providing feedback - accomplishments as well as opportunities, we have favorite candy bars and sodas that they can get when doing something well, we hand out gift cards for lunches when team members are caught doing something well - make a customer's day.

The culture of Family first, This assures the ladies if one of the children get sick or a family emergency they are don't have to worry about job security. The have weekends off, and I have developed a great team who enjoy working together and serving our customers.

We try to pay higher than our competitors. We offer paid vacation after 1 year. We offer gift certificates throughout the year to local dining or bonuses when an employee has gone over and beyond.

Better pay than competition, thorough training practices~10 hours before out in the field, professional in all aspects, respect for their ideas and efforts, incentives.

Highest pay in the area, paid holidays (6), up to 5 paid personal time off, up to 5 more unpaid days off, 3 paid sick days, 401K for every employee even the 1 to 2 day part timers

Better pay, vacation and help when necessary picking up children of employees. We give some people that have a hard time finding work a chance.

We have water and soft drinks in the fridge. We have cookies, chips, or buy some food to have in the fridge just in case we have a long working day.

We pay slightly more and strive to make it a great place to work; fun and motivating while holding employees accountable rather than just praising their every move. The accountability piece lets them know we care and want them to be the best they can be.

Give each person time to say what might make the jobs go better for them. Main thing I found  is to let them have their concerns be heard.

Give my cleaning technicians quarterly incentive. 
Start a birthday club gift for every employee.
Training evaluation based on machine operation to increase wages.
Prize giving ceremony at the end of year for staff who have excelled in all areas.

Reward for great customer service performance and job performance with bonuses, gift cards and certificates.

I promote when needed and encourage them to strive to become a leader.

We attend several webinars on cleaning, social media training, customer service, etc.

We have monthly communication meetings and strategic trainings with staff.

I provide everything they need to make their job easier.

We are involved in charity events and I donate food for their families from food drives.

We provide eco-friendly cleaning products

Yearly employee (with family) picnic at a local amusement park

 

Please share the top two ways you’ve found good employees.

#1 - Referrals 58%

#2 - Craigslist 27%

Facebook 12%

Indeed.com 8%

Local trade schools, college websites 6%

Local Employment Office, Job Service or Workforce Center 6%

Classified ads in local papers 5%

Church bulletin board 3%

Local Chamber of Commerce 3%

Care.com 3%

Local staffing firms/Temp agencies 2%

Networking 2%

Career Builder 2%

SnagAJob.com 2%

Help wanted signs/walk-ins 2%

Find-employees

 

Please describe if your current labor problem continues, how will it change the way you operate your cleaning business?

Below are comments provided by cleaning business owners:

I believe the labor problem, from what I have read, is with any industry that employs hourly personnel. I see the problem in a lot of places around any community... Fast food, retail, light industrial, etc. The wage rate we are required to pay is quite attractive and comes with fringes, so as janitorial work goes, we are paying well.

I just experienced a growth spurt (yeah me!) and also had some of my strong employees leave (they were college students and graduated and got "real jobs"-can you believe that...the nerve!) so I ended up reevaluating my staff.

I feel as though we are moving in a good direction and after years created the "ideal" employee checklist to interview with as a guideline, allowing us at this time and the near future to be ok. Of course, with the appeal of the minimum wage increase slated to happen for some of the bigger companies, I feel that will have a great impact, no matter how much we care or listen. That is my concern now.

Biggest problem is that the uber taxis of the cleaning world are taking potential candidates -- especially Handy.com here -- with the lure of inflated wages that don't reflect the high cost of payroll taxes or other costs that legit companies like mine incur. It's also raising wage expectations of existing staff that do keep an eye to or hear about what is posted on job boards. The other big issue is the improving economy -- it's great for demand for our services, but bad for hiring as people have way more job options.

It will stunt our growth, we have more cleaning jobs than we have employee's which means we are always jumping in to help in order to get the request handled. We have hired young ladies 18-25 and most just don't have that work ethic developed yet. We have hire older ladies 50-65 and they poop out after the first home or complain my back hurts, my legs hurt, my elbow hurts etc. We have hired men and most just don't seem to have that cleaning gene in them or have that attention to detail. We have found that out best workers are ladies 30-50 years old. This has been our experiences.

Not being able to find and retain good employees is definitely impeding growth. Clients are easy to get, employees not so much. There was a point or couple of points in time over the last few years that I thought I was going to have to shut my doors due to not being able to find staff. I literally culled through my client base and had to let go of clients that were not real profitable so that I could get better paying clients in to do more with less. That was scary. That was in 2012 and not much has changed on the hiring front. We just try to do more with less. I guess I am happy to just maintain our current volume and no longer strive for the 7 figure revenues. I am in Massachusetts which is a very democratic liberal state. There isn't much incentive for people to get out and work when they can be paid by the state to stay home and collect welfare, vouchers, free health care, free housing and fuel assistance. I can feel myself winding up so will stop here :)

It's hard to be motivated to grow the business knowing that a few weeks after you hire someone, they quit showing up or you have to let them go because they don't do a good job. Then, the new building falls on us to do and we're trying to decrease the hands-on work on us, not increase it. My husband and I can't be everywhere and do everything and when there are call outs, the work falls on us. So, we aren't excited anymore to get more business.

If a labor problem were to continue I just wouldn't be able to grow my Company as fast as I would like to. Although I'd rather grow it slowly and make sure I have the right cleaners in place then to just hire a warm body who it thrown into cleaning and then we start getting a lot of complaints from the clients.

We will be working with our Team Members to identify what they believe would benefit those most and make them most likely to stay and refer us to friends - pay, paid time off, company vehicles, other benefits???

I need more people who drive, this is what hurts my business the most. The rise of minimum wage and what my budget allows from clients payments makes finding the right person a bit harder than 5 yrs ago.

My labor problem seems to be people that interview well, then turn out to be flakes. Dependability is a big issue as well as the physical exercise involved in cleaning, though this is emphasized in the job ad and the interview. Many seem to want to be paid but only put in minimal effort and call it good. If the current labor problem continues, and I end up with more clients than I can serve, I will place them on a waiting list until they can be served with confidence.

Our most difficult areas to staff are outside of the 50 mile radius of our office. We have decided to get rid of most of those accounts. It takes too much time and effort from our management to fill those positions and they have to clean the buildings if we don't have staff.

I started my business from the bottom and I know how the community works and how to help employees in my industry feel that they work for a good company. So, I will continue to create innovate ideas and motivate our employees.

Really not sure.... We are intrigued by the idea of hiring foreign workers as it seems many Americans in our local market do not like manual labor.

I can only get bigger as I get better!

It will not change the way I do business.

I am always looking for new and innovative ideas that will attract and retain excellent employees. Retention is really the key to providing consistency to our clients and giving the business an opportunity to grow. If I am constantly refilling lost employees, I am spinning my wheels and not progressing forward. I also lose a good bit of money hiring and training employees, so if the turnover continues I will be in a constant cycle of losing money.

It's a challenge, but not that serious of a problem to warrant changing the way we have done business.

Move away from adding more Janitorial accounts and focus on specialty services that require fewer employees to operate.

My business will suffer because the time I take to do operations takes away from my time to sell (bring in new business).

It's hard to be motivated to grow the business knowing that a few weeks after you hire someone, they quit showing up or you have to let them go because they don't do a good job.

We have been forced to reduce work. I can't see any other way just yet.

I am fearful that I may eventually become so exhausted and worn down from this that I will give up the business.

If the current daytime labor shortage continues, we will have to shut down the daytime residential cleaning division; and rely on commercial contracts to take up the slack in revenues.

I have too many requests for cleaning to keep up with and may go back to simply keeping the same regular cleaning jobs without expanding. Once I take on new jobs and an employee quits I am stuck filling in myself for lack of subs.

More project cleaning using less regular employees and higher pay. Contracting.

If a labor problem were to continue I just wouldn't be able to grow my Company as fast as I would like to.

We will have to hire more overseas workers if local recruitment efforts continue to be less than satisfactory.

Just being able to give each one more income. I feel that"s what needs to be.

My labor problem seems to be people that interview well, and then turn out to be flakes. Dependability is a big issue as well as the physical exercise involved in cleaning, though this is emphasized in the job ad and the interview. Many seem to want to be paid but only put in minimal effort and call it good.

If the current labor problem continues, and I end up with more clients than I can serve, I will place them on a waiting list until they can be served with confidence.

This could change the way I operate my cleaning business by decreasing employee hours,

I feel as I am competing against our welfare system, I really don't see an end to it. I have staff that has been with us for over 5 years, seems the people that really need the money don't want to work.

We have already stopped promoting for new clients so we're on pause. Closing down is going to happen once we have another income stream in place.

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