Years ago, before Swept was a software company, we were a cleaning company like many of our customers. We learned the hard way how easy it is to lose touch with staff that work remotely.
Thanks to our use of technology, we were able to grow. But the faster we grew, the harder it was to stay in touch with our staff. That lack of connection led to mistakes, confusion, frustration, and on more occasions than I would like to admit, staff leaving because they found a “better” job.
As you may already know, employee retention is a problem many companies struggle within the cleaning industry.
Unfortunately, if your staff don’t stick around, you’ll find it extremely difficult to grow your business. In this article, we’ll share the approach that helped keep our retention rate at over 90% when we ran our own commercial cleaning company.
Start a “Cleaner Happiness” Program
As the title suggests, the first step is to hire a “Cleaner Happiness Manager.”
Yes, we’re serious.
The key here is to make it someone’s job to talk to each of your staff on a regular basis, and ask 3 questions:
- What should we start doing to make your job better?
- What should we stop doing to make your job better?
- What should we keep doing to make your job better?
How your staff respond will form the basis for learning what’s working, what’s broken, and what needs to be added to keep your team engaged and loyal.
For those of you that are thinking “I don’t have the time to do this”, keep reading, and we’ll share how to get started in less than 2 hours per week. We’ll also share how to hire a dedicated Happiness Manager for only a few dollars per week.
Walk Before You Run
Before rolling this program out to your entire company, it’s essential to first communicate with your team what you’re trying to accomplish. Start by selecting 3 – 6 cleaning staff you feel would provide you with candid feedback if you asked. Let them know you are working on a program to improve your company’s communication and would like their help.
Once you’ve selected your starting team, let them know that you or someone on your team will be giving them a call for 10 – 15 min at some point in the next couple weeks to ask a few simple questions.
Make sure to communicate that you’d really appreciate them providing honest feedback so that you can better understand what is actually happening in the business.
It’s also important at this point to let them know that while you appreciate their feedback, it may not be possible to address everything that is suggested.
Question #1 – What could we START doing that would make your job better?
This question is all about collecting new ideas. Sometimes you will hear minor changes to existing processes, other times you will hear brand new ideas that you would never have thought of. Remember, this is the point! Make sure to write down as many notes as possible and ask clarifying questions as needed. The main goal is not to address or agree to any of these suggestions on the call, but simply to listen and understand what they feel would improve their day to day jobs.
Question #2 – What should we STOP doing to make your job better?
This question is all about finding out what rules, processes and procedures are broken in your business. The first few times this questions is asked, it may feel like your staff are just complaining. That’s okay, that’s what the process is all about. Don’t be surprised if some of your staff use this as an opportunity to complain about specific things that happen on particular jobs. That’s okay too. Be sure to ask if they feel this was something that was isolated or if they think that there was an existing process that should be changed to prevent this in the future. It’s important to remain as objective as possible on these calls. The focus is to listen and identify what’s happening, not to fix or address the issues.
Question #3 – What should we KEEP doing that makes your job better?
This question will let you know what is working already. The purpose of the question is to better understand what parts of their job are important to them. Often this is also the question that will be the hardest for staff to answer early on in the program. That’s to be expected. As suggestions are identified by the other two questions, and you and your team have had an opportunity to implement them, there will be more and more examples for them to see the changes the program is making and their feedback will become more routine and regular.
Walk the Walk (Or, Run the Run?)
Once you’ve completed the 2-3 week test with your starter team, identify at least one change you feel you can make. If you haven’t received feedback you feel you can or should implement, continue to increase the number of cleaners you include until you do. Once you’ve implemented something that you’ve communicated to the entire company, you’re ready to make your announcement.
Mention the specific change an idea that came out of the Cleaner Happiness Program you were working with a few selected cleaners on. If possible, collect feedback in the form of a testimonial from one or more cleaners that submitted the ideas that led to the change you implemented and include it in your announcement.
It’s Not About You! (It’s About Them)
Remember that this program is not about specific people or specific circumstances. Its goal is to create a feedback loop between you and your employees that provides you with the information you need to make the right decisions for your business. When we originally started this program in our company, we found that 2 things improved it over time:
First was to make sure that it’s not a passing fad. In the beginning, our staff were skeptical. We were not the first cleaning company they had worked for, and the idea seemed a bit far-fetched. As the months passed and the changes suggested from their feedback started being communicated to them as changed to policies and procedures, skepticism was replaced by enthusiasm.
The second thing that improved our program was to hire a dedicated virtual assistant whose primary role was to listen to and communicate the feedback. When we announced that we had appointed a dedicated Cleaner Happiness Manager, not only did we receive positive feedback but we also started seeing an increase in the amount and quality of the feedback itself.
In the beginning, when we were smaller, we set a target of talking to 3 staff per week, which meant that our Happiness manager would connect for 10 – 15 min with all staff every four weeks. 1.5 hours was dedicated to interviews and 1.5 hours devoted to writing up feedback and recommendations. As the team grew, we invested more time with the objective of talking to all staff a minimum of once per month. Over time, through this and other retention strategies trust was earned by our commitment to improving their jobs and in turn their commitment to improving our business.
Now it’s your turn. Share the ideas you and your team have created to engage and retain your staff. We’d love to hear the ideas that worked, the ones that didn’t and what you learned in the process.