When we started our cleaning company, over 10 years ago, everyone in the industry warned me that it is extremely difficult to find and keep good cleaning staff. I also knew that labour, including managers, is about 65-70% of our cost, while the next biggest cost is less than 4%. So, our cleaning staff were clearly going to be the heart of our business.
Today, we have roughly 120 cleaners working for us, and our turnover rate is exceptionally low. Our custodians almost never quit work with us, unless they are going back to school, moving, have health issues, or other circumstances that do not reflect on their experience working with us. In our 10 years in business, I think I have had only one person of whom I am aware who left our employ because he did not like me. And even he apologized for being difficult when we crossed paths years later.
The classic 80/20 rule really stands true in the commercial cleaning business, if you are not hyper-focused on hiring the best people. 80% of your time will be focused on the bottom 20% of your people. You will constantly be trying to “extinguish the fires” caused by the bottom 20%.
I am going to propose that, by following these 5 steps, it is possible for you to eliminate that bottom 20% all together, or at least minimize their significance. Using these 5 steps has helped our company, Picture Perfect Cleaning, have, in my opinion, the best staff cleaning staff in the world!
Step 1 – Create an amazing culture that attracts the best cleaners
We recognized from the day we started our business that if your cleaners are not happy with culture in which they work, you have nothing. On the other hand, good cultures attract good people who will become happy cleaners. I cannot express this enough.
And then, when it is time for you to hire more staff, your happy cleaners will gladly recommend their family members and friends. Very often our cleaners come from communities that have others also looking for work in the cleaning industry. Whenever we are searching for a new cleaner, the first place I go is to our current cleaners. They will only suggest that we hire people they trust, that they believe will also fit well with the company culture
Some of the things we do to make our cleaners feel that working for us is the best job they have ever had include: summer company BBQ’s, Christmas Dinners, health benefits for full-time employees, always paying on time, providing time off whenever needed, and most importantly, treating our cleaners like family. With every decision we make that affects the staff, we reflect on the question, “Will this be the best job they’ve ever had?” Creating a culture that is fun, healthy, empowering, respectful, and uplifting, naturally attracts great people.
Step 2 – Expand your hiring options and resources as much as you can
As I mentioned in Step 1, when we need to hire new cleaning staff, we reach out to all our existing cleaning staff. We do not just stop there, of course. We post the job online (we find the job site, Indeed, is the best for our city, Calgary), and we reach out to the staffing firms with which we have good relationships (we work with two wonderful staffing firms in Calgary).
Specifically, for online job postings, I cannot express how important it is to use the proper wording in both the heading and the body of the content. The information needs to be as precise as possible, so that those who open and read the posting can determine quickly if a job with Picture Perfect Cleaning is a good fit for them. Pay amount, hours and days, rough location (I typically mention an area of the city, but do not give the work address), and type of work are the most important items to be included here. I typically add a description of the type of person we are looking for as well (positive attitude, smiles, etc.).
We try to reach as many potential hires as possible. The more people that know we are hiring, the better. We want our job opportunity to be known by everyone, so that lots of people will apply. It is, after all, a numbers game. The more that apply, the greater the likelihood of our finding the perfect fit for the job. We are glad to see the resumes flood in and are not intimidated by our inbox filling up. We simply organize all applicants into a folder.
Step 3 – Call back as many people as possible
Once the resumes flood in, it is now time to sort through them. One of the lessons I have learned that you never know who is behind each resume. What I mean by that is, sometimes the most basic, poorly made resume, could be from the most amazing person. Often, in our industry, those applying have newly immigrated to our country, and so, may not have the skill set, experience, and/or knowhow to build a resume. That does not mean the person might not be an amazing cleaner!
We often get over 100 applicants, and I try to call as many as possible. Every time I skip a resume, I feel guilty, thinking the applicant could have been “the one.” I try to leave no stone unturned, eliminate any potential for missing out on the best possible person.
When I make that first call, I make it a quick one, no more than 10 minutes, but usually closer to 5. I am looking to see if the applicant can access (through proper transportation) the property for which we are hiring, is happy with the pay, and can work the days and hours needed. While determining this, I am also listening for their tone and how they communicate. I quickly ask about their past work experiences. I am getting a feel for the person, and if they are a good culture match with our corporate culture. If I feel they are, I suggest a face-to-face interview, which, nowadays, I often do through Zoom, Facetime, etc. (See step 5).
Step 4 – Search the potential cleaning hires on social media
I know this might sound a bit controversial, however, searching the candidates on social media has been a huge help in my hiring process. Sometimes I cannot find the person online; however, often, I can track them down.
You can tell so much from a person on social media. If I see they are using profanity or posting inappropriate pictures, I will automatically scratch them off the list of potential hires.
After hiring hundreds, if not thousands, of people in my career, I have learned to see patterns in what type of people match our corporate culture DNA, and those who do not. It is not a perfect science, and I certainly can make a mistake, but trusting my gut (based on my extensive experience) has worked for the most part.
If you have not hired 100’s of people in the past, and are new to hiring, it’s likely you will make some mistakes at the beginning. I recommend that you reflect on the bad hires, learn from them by asking yourself what you could have asked, or looked for, prior to hiring them, things that may have revealed why they were not a good fit.
Step 5 – Interview the cleaning applicants who might be a good fit more than once.
Once I am done all the screening phone calls, I typically try to narrow it down to 10 individuals with whom I had a positive phone call, to do a face-to-face meeting. Pre-Covid, I used to meet everyone at a Starbucks. I would schedule a full day (sometimes 2 or 3 days) of interviews. Since COVID, I have started doing interviews through Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, whatever works for the applicant (very rarely do they not have access to any of the video platforms).
By the time we start this video interview, I already know they want the job, can work the days/hours of the job, are happy with the pay, and can access the location. Now, the video interview is more about who they are. Based on their job experiences, passions and hobbies, goals, and dreams (we are dream facilitators after all), I ask myself a few questions when speaking to them:
- Would I enjoy being stuck on an airplane with this person for 10 hours?
- Would I trust this person in my house, when I am not home?
- Does this person’s corporate culture DNA match our company’s?
All the interviewees know that I will call back the person I decide to hire by a specific time and day. For those whom I do not hire, I will not be calling back, but will, certainly, keep them on file for the future (often, down the road, I end up hiring the second and third choices).
By the time I have completed this process, I have spoken to a significant number of people, and am able to pick the cream of the crop.
Whether you are the owner of a cleaning company, or one of our potential clients, I hope you found this blog valuable to understand how we attract and hire only the best cleaning staff!