Nearly half of BSCs budget is spent on labour, so it is no surprise that the workforce is also their biggest business challenge. The cleaning industry has always been plagued by a “low pay, low-reward” perception. Cleaning is not seen as glamorous work or as a viable career path by many. Many employees enter the field by taking on a second job during the evening hours.
Some of the roadblocks to finding quality workers include:
• Lack of transportation – Some potential workers don’t have their own means of transportation to get to sites and they would be working at night when access to public transportation is limited.
• Screening problems – More sites are requiring drug tests and background checks, which rule out some entry-level applicants.
• Remuneration – Workers deflect even with a small hike in their wages.
• Accommodation – Workers applying from other regional areas, expect food & accommodation.
• Diminishing work ethic of young workers – The new generation entering the workforce does not hold the same values as their counterparts and does not see cleaning as a credible job.
• Peter Principle – Employers want to promote managers from within the ranks, but often a good cleaner doesn’t necessarily make a good manager and employees are promoted without the proper management skills.
While it is difficult to attract quality workers to the industry, it is even harder to retain them. Some companies experience turnover as high as 400%. With the uncertain economy, more janitors are holding onto their jobs, causing turnover rates to drop lower. A recent survey reported turnover as low as 34%. Supervisory turnover generally runs about 16% annually. With staff changing over frequently, contractors look for products that have multiple uses so workers have to be trained on fewer products with less chance for error.
Infection control/green cleaning
Infectious bacteria and pandemic scares have spotlighted cleaning’s role in improving building occupant health in the public eye. Proper cleaning procedures can help prevent the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), Clostridium difficile (C-diff), avian influenza (H5N1), swine flu (H1N1) and even the common cold. Along with encouraging building occupants to wash their hands, a cleaning-for-health programme that cleans and disinfects commonly-touched areas such as doorknobs, computer keyboards and light switches safeguards against cross-contamination and significantly reduces the spread of disease by 99.99%. Also, implementing colour-coding systems for products and touch-free fixtures in restrooms has helped to reduce cross-contamination in facilities.
The products BSCs use also have an impact on the environment. “Green” cleaning can be applied to nearly every aspect of a cleaning program. More product categories are offering green alternatives, including:
• Daily cleaners that emit lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
• Floor finishes and strippers with fewer VOCs that lack heavy metals such as zinc, which can be toxic to aquatic life
• Paper products made with recycled content
• Soaps that are biodegradable and use recyclable packaging
• Vacuums that capture significant amounts of soil from carpet and prevent dust from being released into the air
• Floor machines that use less water and chemicals and are also more durable with longer lifespans to reduce overall waste
• Enzymes, aka biodegradable proteins that “eat” away deposits on drains and pipes to prevent odours
• Brooms and mops made from recycled plastic bottles and use handles constructed from bamboo
• Microfiber cloths and mops that require fewer chemicals and water to clean
• Disinfectants: Currently disinfectants are classified as pesticides and therefore cannot be labelled green. However, there are options that are not as harsh as traditional products including those that have a neutral pH, fewer VOCs, are butyl-free or hydrogen-peroxide based. The EPA is working on a pilot-programme that one day may allow manufacturers to promote green claims on labels and packaging.
To help limit the confusion about green products and to counter “greenwashing,” third-party organizations are certifying products:
• Green Seal: Certifies a number of product categories, several of which apply to janitorial including: GS-37 for chemicals, GS-40 for floor-care products, GS-41 for soaps and hand cleaners, GS-9 for towels and napkins, GS-1 for tissue products and GS-42 certification for cleaning services;
• GreenGuard: Certifies cleaning products that improve indoor air quality;
• Seal of Approval: The Carpet & Rug Institute’s green certification for vacuums, carpet extractors, carpet chemicals and full carpet-care systems;
• Design for the Environment (DfE): Offered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DfE is not a certification, but a rather a partnership with companies that voluntarily commit to incorporate environmental considerations into their design process.
Green products are also safer for users and building occupants. Based on a recent survey of BSCs, 81% of respondents use green products and of the 19% who don’t, 70% of those claim they plan on switching to green in the near future.
The most commonly used green products include general-purpose chemicals, carpet chemicals, paper products and microfiber.
Building off the green movement, sustainability is the newest environmentally-conscious trend. BSCs are taking a holistic approach and greening their operations. From LEED-certified headquarters to hybrid fleets, BSCs are proving to customers they can “walk the walk” when it comes to green.
Janitors one of the most injured workers. On an average there are 3.6 injuries per 100 full-time workers. Common injuries include muscle and joint injuries, repetition stress injuries and slip-and-fall accidents. To ensure a safer work environment, BSCs can use ergonomically-designed equipment and green chemicals; supply proper personal protective equipment; keep up-to-date records of MSDSs; and provide training that is easy to understand for bi-lingual, non-English-speaking and illiterate workers.
Just a few years ago, simply having Internet access was considered progressive for BSCs. Today, however, the majority of cleaning contractors are “e-literate” and aggressively use the Web to promote their business. BSCs who have embraced e-commerce use the Internet to purchase their products and supplies from vendors.
Tech applications have expanded beyond the Internet and many BSCs apply cutting-edge technology to other areas of their business:
• Computer software to tabulate work-loading and bidding formulae
• Cell phones and push-to-talk devices to communicate on-demand with employees and customers
• Digital cameras to document accidents and errors during inspections
• Smartphones, personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and hand-held computers that use onscreen checklists during building inspections
• Portable MP3 players and portable DVD players to run on-site training videos
• Global positioning system (GPS)-enabled devices to track vehicles and improve timekeeping
• Social networking Web sites to correspond with colleagues and find job applicants
The above report is based on white paper published by Contracting Profits
Compiled by Suprita Anupam