What Commercial Cleaning Companies Should Stop, Start and Continue in 2022
How to plan for cleaning industry trends and position your cleaning business for a successful year.
We’ve asked our leadership across the globe to weigh in on what your commercial cleaning company should be starting, stopping and continuing (or even ramping up) given current cleaning industry trends.
Jill Davie, President North America: Jill Davie started full time with TEAM Software in May 1998 as an account manager after working at the company as an intern during college. Over the next two decades, she held various roles, including senior vice president of client experience. Davie is now using her deep industry knowledge, her focus on our customers and her passion for TEAM’s people to serve as TEAM’s president. She earned her Bachelor of Science in business administration and marketing from Iowa State University.
Mike Taylor, President EMEA & APAC: Mike Taylor founded Innovise in January 2004 and joined TEAM via acquisition in December 2019. Mike led Innovise through significant growth, listing and de-listing from AiM, acquiring and disposing of businesses and eventually joined TEAM to help the company continue to grow internationally. Taylor was a Non Executive Director at Companies House between 2013 and 2019, including service on its Audit Committee. Before that, Taylor was a Director at Credit Suisse, leading its European Equity Research Team focused on the media sector. He earned his BA and MA degree in economics from the University of Cambridge and went on to study a Diploma in Investment Management.
Jeff Davis, VP of Strategic Growth: Jeff Davis was president of Kwantek, a recruiting and onboarding software provider acquired by TEAM Software in 2020. Since joining TEAM, Jeff is the VP of Strategic Growth North America, acting as a subject matter expert and thought leader for TEAM in the security and cleaning industries and assisting with global sales and marketing initiatives. For the last 20 years, Jeff has focused on technology, working in sales and marketing to executive leadership, with four years specializing in human resources technology. He has an MBA focusing on Information Systems from Tennessee Tech and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Louisville.
Start: Thinking like a marketer.
We’re all living the same reality right now: hiring (and retention) is arguably the hardest it has ever been. To attract employees to apply (let alone accept an employment offer) companies are having to do more than ever before. According to labor market analytics interviews conducted by CNBC, that’s likely to not change anytime over the next year.
While the cleaning industry has seen a solid uptick in applications since record-pandemic lows and hiring is up, companies are still expressing frustration in their ability to meet the demand of services due to the inability to staff, brought on by these gaps caused by labor market trend shortages. In short, we’re not out of the woods yet.
Steps to course-correct hiring for your cleaning company.
While there’s no magic answer, we do know this: the key to attracting talent in a cut-throat labor market is to position yourself as an employer of choice. While variables like competitive wages, benefits and perks obviously help your company stand out, no one will be jumping to apply for your open positions if they can’t find you. If they can’t understand your website. If information isn’t clear. To achieve those things, you don’t necessarily need a unicorn HR organization. You need marketing.
Jill Davie: “The reality is, the approach to HR needs to reevaluate the traditional recruitment funnel for hiring. Historically, so much energy has been put on the latter half of the funnel — evaluating, interviewing, hiring. When the market was more favorable to the employer, companies could afford to make that choice. That isn’t today’s reality. Today, there needs to be a concentrated effort on the first half of the funnel, well before an application is ever submitted by a candidate. That means, marketing.”
Start by comparing a traditional recruitment funnel against a traditional marketing funnel. They really aren’t all that different, especially in the beginning stages. Awareness is at the top and is where you have the most opportunity to position yourself as an employer of choice. This is your first touch point with potential job candidates, and it is also the stage where you have the opportunity to set the framework for the quantity and quality of your candidate leads.
So, what are some common marketing tactics that fall into the “awareness” stage that you could apply to recruitment efforts? Think about ways you can boost your visibility to your audience, and how to bring value to that audience without requiring commitment on their part. Consider search engine optimization (SEO) and content, for starters.
- SEO is used to optimize your website (and increase your visibility, making you more “findable” by both active and passive job seekers). Using what you find from SEO, you can add keywords to things like job descriptions, organic and paid ads, blog posts and webpages to help the things you want people to see (like your job listings on a job search) show up higher on a search engine’s results page. There are tools, both paid and unpaid, with varying degrees of sophistication where you can get started. If you’re just dipping your toes in the waters of SEO for the first time, start by exploring free tools, like Google Keywords planner, where you can enter products or services related to your business to churn out possible keyword results. Or, run a competitor’s career page domain and see what trending keywords are coming up.
- Expanding your content. Don’t only think about job postings and descriptions when your goal is hiring (although those are important, too). Think about your overall brand. Are you conveying the messages you want to? Are you demonstrating your company’s values, or highlighting reasons why someone would want to work with you rather than someone else? Think about how you’re showing these things and take what you find to the applicant directly — via social media.
Jeff Davis: “Think about them as a whole new pipeline for your sales efforts. The good news is, there’s an entirely different way of communicating with this pipeline, namely through social media. LinkedIn is an obvious choice with its job board capabilities, but don’t forget about true social spaces, places where people go to decompress, kill time, and entertain themselves. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. These spaces could be just as beneficial for you to target potential candidates and build your brand awareness around them.” Keep in mind, these areas don’t necessarily need to be limited to promoting job openings themselves, though you can run ads on them. Build your brand in a collaborative way or repost employee [approved] content.
Next up: the job description.
After you’ve begun engaging with a pool of potential job candidates, then you can start narrowing your focus to appeal to those who might actually be looking for a job, or passive job seekers who may be willing to make a switch. What can you offer that others can’t? Can you offer types of jobs that appeal to a certain candidate versus another (think: locations that are more convenient based on where an employee lives)? Are you able to offer flexibility with scheduled work, offer a hiring bonus or a guaranteed bonus after 90 days on the job? Even if its small, any detail can set you apart in the market.
That’s when you can start focusing on the job description itself. This is middle of the funnel stuff — where consideration (to apply) is becoming intent (to apply). Need some tips to improve your job postings?
- Along with standard information (job type, company description, job responsibilities, qualifications), include an elevator pitch explaining why your company is a great place to work. (Good news — if you’ve already executed on the awareness suggestions above, you already have source material to draw from).
- Make sure you highlight any benefits you offer. Include information like how often payroll is processed. (Do you pay weekly? Do you offer on-demand pay as a retention incentive? If you’re using new ways to attract and retain talent, like on-demand pay, you should say so every chance you get).
- Include accurate job descriptions — the goal is to secure quality applicants, not quantity. Even with labor shortages, it doesn’t help anyone to have someone join the payroll only to quit before they actually fill a shift. Keep responsibilities short, sweet and accurate. (Plus, you always need to make sure you’re including ADA-compliant details, like physical requirements, upfront.)
Stop: playing defense.
Since the start of the pandemic, nearly all industries, have been playing a waiting game. COVID has been dictating how we operate, and to some degree, it was unavoidable. Now, we’ve been living in a COVID-era for several years, and it’s clear that this really is our new normal. It’s time to ‘stop holding off’ and ‘seeing how the dust settles’ and start taking steps to better your business — or you’re going to fall behind.
This includes taking a look at your business and prioritizing areas where you can gain efficiencies. There are some things that you can’t drag your feet on. Wage pressure is one.
Jeff Davis: “One of the reasons cleaning companies, and the service contracting industry as a whole, have an uphill battle ahead of them is that the landscape of labor has changed so drastically in the last few years. There are companies from industries that aren’t direct competitors in terms of competing contracts attracting the same labor pool that cleaning companies are trying to target.”
The Wall Street Journal uses Amazon as an example of one such company leading the charge in changing how they approach wage and benefits for hourly employees, and as such, are drawing applicants away from existing labor pools (a process which started prior to the global pandemic, by-the-way).
Jeff Davis: “Wage pressure is real, even accounting for the fact that overall, industry wages have increased in the past few years. Hiring bonuses are being used as a method to get new hires in the door, and the reality is, cleaning companies need to stop playing defense when it comes to wages, or its going to eat into your margins.”
Consider renegotiating contracts with your clients to offset some of the new challenges against your gross margins (like wage increases). It doesn’t need to be a blanket approach. Instead, use job costing to track labor hours, overhead costs, supply costs, insurance, etc. to determine which jobs are profitable and which ones aren’t.
Approach your unprofitable contracts first and either renegotiate scope or SLAs, billable work or a mixture of both. Your competitors are facing the same challenges. As long as you’re continuing to ensure quality, certifiable delivery of services, your contracts should be able to remain competitive.
Reducing costs and increasing productivity.
Another way to counteract wage increases is to proactively reduce costs and increase productivity. That doesn’t mean cutting jobs or adding extra hours (and overtime) to your budget.
Mike Taylor: “Take a look at your business and prioritize areas where you can digitize your business and gain efficiencies.”
- Manual vs. automatic. Are you manually entering data — and if so, are you doing it more than once? Manual processes are time-intensive and human error is bound to cause inaccuracies. That means more time uploading information to ensure you have correctly scheduled work (and cleaners), processing payroll, managing employee time off requests, and cleaning up messy data to get accurate business information.
- Using multiple software solutions when you don’t need to. Financial information, workforce management and operations are all business-critical functions of your business. You should be approaching them in tandem. That goes for other areas of your business as well — think about your recruitment efforts and your employee engagement and service delivery goals post hire. These solutions should all work together, avoid redundancies and support shared data.
- Setting up job-level job costing to work cohesively with your labor budgets. This is a big one. Labor is consistently your biggest expense, so it’s important to continually and accurately track it. You should be able to dive into your data by day, budgeted hours, total labor hours budgeted, etc. If you’re not doing this (and not doing it at the job level) you’re losing out on time and money.
Continue: Prioritizing the details and the people.
The cleaning industry will always have critical compliance regulations. COVID regulations and compliance requirements are a prime example, but even pre-pandemic we’ve seen requirements cracking down on timekeeping violations and reporting. The point is, you have to keep paying attention to the details. This is where adaptability becomes so important as an ongoing business strategy.
COVID, compliance and evolving regulations.
For example, look at how companies around the globe are handling vaccination requirements. Some companies are choosing to institute mandatory COVID vaccinations for employees. Some are doing so under the guidance of state, federal or national governing agencies. Some are enforcing requirements by industry sector. Some companies aren’t necessarily requiring vaccinations of their cleaning staff, but the job sites being serviced are. With policies shifting with different variants and rising (or falling) diagnoses, adaptable software can be looked at as an implementable tool.
If you already use a software solution to handle the bulk of your business, from workplace management, ops and finance, to service delivery and proof of service, and recruitment, the next step is paying attention to the details of how that software is evolving over time. (Your business is evolving, so the solutions that are helping you achieve your goals you should be, too.)
One best practice to make sure you’re getting the most out of your software solution is to set a goal to implement at least one high-value feature per quarter. Pay attention to release comms and block some reoccurring time on your calendar to visit your software’s partner’s educational materials (a learning center, or even reviewing a blog or newsletter). Just because you’ve done something a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean your software shouldn’t be able to make that process work a little bit better in the here and now.
Don’t forget the human element.
If you’re paying attention to the details in your technology evolution, you need to be paying equal attention to your workforce themselves.
Mike Taylor: “The past few years (and the current global labor market and cleaning industry trends) are demonstrating that employers need to continue to prioritize the health and well-being of the employees under their care. Stress, wages, access to protective equipment, inflexible schedules…these are all variables your company should be prioritizing to improve employee moral and engagement, with just as much energy as you put into budget work and client retention.”
The cleaning industry workforce has been proven to be essential and indispensable. Wherever possible, you should equip them with the best tools to perform their job, the best avenues to connect with their managers or query the office team, the best methods to access training. Valuing your employees and proving that you value your employees are two different things, and only one will improve employee moral and engagement.”
If you remember the marketing funnel we discussed earlier, you might remember that the final stage in the funnel is loyalty. When looked at through the lens of recruiting, hiring and employee retention, this step should be added on to the end of your recruitment funnel.
Jill Davie: “Loyalty is a natural step towards advocacy. When you are making it worth it for your employees to stay a part of your workforce, you’re essentially adding opportunities for those employees to refer others into your recruitment funnel. It’s a full-circle process, so as an employer, you have to follow through until the very end of that process. It’s never-ending work, but it is critical work.”
Do you have questions you’d like to ask specific to cleaning industry trends and your business’s fiscal year growth? Reach out — we’d love to problem solve with you.