At the annual meeting of the Consumer Specialty Products Association* in Chicago in May 2009, the manager of a major U.S. government facility discussed how he had “Greened” his building, and how it eventually earned LEED certification as a result of his efforts. This speaker also talked about the large disparity he sometimes experiences between what cleaning contractors promise in terms of worker training and what they actually do.
While many contractors "talk the talk" when it comes to ongoing training programs for their cleaning workers, in far too many cases the presenter finds this training simply never takes place. In fact, he even mentioned that in some situations, he and his staff found themselves training cleaning workers on how to maintain certain areas of their facility or use certain products.
Situations like this are actually at the heart of poor worker productivity. Workers turn to managers for direction--but in some cases that direction is simply not there. This fact was born out in a study conducted by Proudfoot Consulting (an operations-management company that performs a variety of studies regarding worker productivity issues). This 2006 study asked U.S. executives to rank leading barriers to worker productivity in their organizations. Three of the top obstacles mentioned were:
1.Poor management of people
2.Poor leadership in terms of managing and training workers and leading change
3.Poor communication between managers and workers
In other words, if a company wants high-performance cleaning people, they also need high-performance cleaning management.
According to this same report, cleaning contractors looking to improve worker productivity and create a high-performance staff can take a number of steps to accomplish this goal, including:
- Making productivity a strategic initiative. Improving worker productivity needs to be one of an organization's key “top-down” goals, and this message should be communicated frequently to all workers.
- Aiming high. Improvement goals should be ambitious and once a productivity goal has been attained, managers and workers should look for additional steps that can be taken.
- Training people on the job. As valuable as classroom training can be, actually coaching people on the job is critical to enhancing their performance.
- Communicating clearly. Workers need to know why things have to change in order to improve productivity and encourage feedback. Further success and accomplishment must be communicated immediately to demonstrate positive results.
- Measuring performance. Every improvement initiative must be measureable and measured. For restroom cleaning, this not only involves analyzing whether restrooms are being cleaned faster but also if they are being cleaned more thoroughly and hygienically.
Finding ways to use fewer cleaning products, chemicals and methods makes cleaning faster and helps improve worker productivity. This is especially true of restroom maintenance, in which a variety of different cleaning products and tools (cleaning cloths, disinfectants, chemicals and powders, mops and buckets, window cleaners, etc.) are typically used to clean a number of different surfaces, including fixtures, partitions, counter tops, floors, glass, mirrors and metals.
Cleaning professionals should always try to turn to chemicals and supplies that can multitask. For instance, using one product that can clean both fixtures and mirrors saves time, helps eliminate mistakes and means fewer items that must be loaded onto cleaning carts—all of which can help improve worker productivity.
Taking this a step further, using one cleaning method or procedure that can clean all of the various surfaces found in restrooms would eliminate even more tools and equipment and likely improve worker productivity even further. This is why many facilities have adopted what ISSA--the world wide cleaning association--refers to as spray-and-vac cleaning. This cleaning method involves using machines that pressurize water and metered cleaning solution and then apply it to soiled, contaminated surfaces. The area being cleaned is then rinsed, blasting loose pollutants from surfaces, followed by vacuuming the same areas to remove excess liquids, soils, and contaminants.
According to ISSA studies, these systems can be as much as three times faster than conventional restroom cleaning methods. The following example points out what this can mean in terms of time savings, improved worker productivity and related labor cost-savings:
Using Conventional Restroom Cleaning Methods
Number of restrooms cleaned: 20
Time to clean each restroom (in minutes): 30
Total restroom cleaning time (in hours): 10
Total labor cost (at $12.50 per hour): $125.00
Using Spray-and-Vac Cleaning Systems
Number of restrooms: 20
Time to clean each restroom (in minutes): 10
Total restroom cleaning time (in hours): 3.33
Total labor cost (at $12.50 per hour): $41.63
Using this example, if these restrooms are cleaned five days a week throughout the year, the cleaning contractor (or facility manager) could save nearly $11,000 annually using this cleaning method. This would also free up cleaning workers to perform other duties in a facility, allowing more cleaning tasks to be performed and improving the overall productivity of the entire cleaning staff.