Are the service providers able to give trained manpower knowledgeable in the application of chemicals and equipment? Unfortunately, not! “The new recruits come without any formal training. It is the service providers and the clients who train them and mould them according to the needs of the client companies. In maximum cases, the service provider sources manpower from close to the site of the client company. Very often, anyone with minimum or no education is roped into doing the janitor’s job.
That’s the main reason why the client companies dictate terms to the facility managers as the latter are not able to deliver the quality they promised. Clients ask for ‘X’ number of workers to be employed because the service providers don’t have the expertise to decide. Only about 5% of them know what they are offering to the client. What value addition is the client getting for engaging and paying a service provider?
Says the pharma executive, “If I have to pay an extra price for a whole operation or a whole setup, and if you tell me you are giving a man-machine ratio which is going to improve my housekeeping services, you will have to give to me a standard which I can assess and judge and put on paper. You will have to tell me the number of times cleaning has happened, visibly show me results, give me a checklist, why these particular chemical agents are used and what better effect these agents would be having. Why a specific machine is used and not higher or lower version so that I know what I’m paying for. Till the time the facility managers cannot do that, they should not be cribbing.”
Ralph Sunil however, feels that the service provider should be empowered – should decide on the equipment and the number of people to be deployed, but with the following conditions:
- SOP – what is wanted from the service provider – scope to be provided by client
- Job allocation of each employee – to be provided by the Service Provider (SP)
- Duty roster to be provided by SP
- Equipment deployment schedule – SP
- Deliverables – SP
- Supervision scope – SP and Client
- Penalty clauses for non-adherence – Client
- Deliverables from the client side as in repairs, Capex equipment, payments on time and staff welfare for the staff of the agency.
All the above should be signed off by the service provider and the client.
Keith Monteiro also feels there is a need to empower vendors, “but this should be done by having a clear scope of work (SOW) in place. Based on the SOW, both the client and the vendor, need to agree on the service level agreement (SLA) that needs to be achieved. Normally, an 80% benchmark is acceptable for an office but this would need to be at 99% for a controlled lab or critical manufacturing unit. Once the vendor is empowered, the client can concentrate on his core business and enjoy the delivery of the service as per the SLA.”
Agreed that the housekeeping companies should be empowered, says Richa Dwivedi. Professionally they are much experienced than the client. “But at the end of the day, the client has to face the problems of improper cleaning like wrong use of chemicals – either it is not being used in the right quantity or at times they are not used at all. So, it is better to pay the service provider on the basis of the manpower than for the service they provide.”
Hence it is best left to the client to decide on the number of workers to be employed and the equipment & chemicals to be used, because in the end it is the client who knows the areas that are to be kept clean – the hidden and the areas of prime importance. It is the client who can best suggest the employment and deployment of workers to these areas.
Similarly, the client knows his or her budget, the amount that can be spent on chemicals or equipment and hence shall be the deciding party. BUT this would be the case ONLY if the person in the client facility is from the housekeeping background.
In how many cases, the facility head of the client company has a housekeeping background? A quick glance of more than 10,000 companies, including corporates, MNC, educational institutions, healthcare and industries revealed that more than 60% of them did not have a seperate facility head but the housekeeping is managed by the head of administration or the HR department. Most MNCs have facility heads and in maximum cases they have housekeeping background.
The corporate clients CIJ spoke to unanimously agree that the minimum wages structure is indeed low and the skill sets should be recognised to determine wages.
“Minimum wages should only be a reference to the basic salary that one should receive. This is a major factor determining retention which is one of the biggest challenges this industry faces today. Skilled and trained boys should be given merit. Loyalty should be recognised and given its due. Every person wishes to rise in life and give their families a better life year after year – if minimum wages is a detriment to this, then we will lose housekeeping staff to other sectors,” warns Ralph Sunil.
“In fact, housekeeping is one of the lowest paid sectors. Surely workers cannot be expected to work at the minimum wages set by the Government. I do not know on what basis the wage structure has been set but definitely at such wage slab we will soon be facing a shortage of labour,” adds Richa Dwivedi.
Any officer in any company, client or otherwise, would like to move up the ladder. Then why can’t a janitor, questions Ralph. The housekeeping staff should be given a growth path. “If we ask skilled manpower to work at stagnant rates then we will have a higher turnover. To overcome this problem, we could either have slabs for skilled and experienced workers with the maximum and minimum cut off. Or, we could develop a one-time additional payment to reward the skill set – thereby keeping the basic rates intact. There is not a wide horizon, but surely small rewards and small upgrades would go a long way.”
Refuting suggestions of higher wages, a client feels that not all housekeeping service providers are professionals in India. They do not provide trained manpower. The workers engaged by the housekeeping company at the site are absolutely raw when they begin service contract. “They get trained at my manpower time, then why should I pay them extra? I’m teaching them work, they are using my facility as a learning ground. They get trained and move on to other companies with higher salaries. It doesn’t make sense for me to pay double – in terms of time and money.”
It is time, the housekeeping service providers come up with trained workers. They need to build a backup of their systems and procedures, train people and retain them. If service providers bring quality workforce and then ask the client companies to pay higher, it is justifiable. “It is then asking corporates to pay for quality and no one minds paying for quality.”