Let's talk about training cleaning operatives
13 October 2017
Stephen Goodall, managing director of UhUb, argues that the cleaning sector is lagging behind when it comes to training and offers suggestions on how it can catch up
It’s frustrating, but you can’t ignore it, not anymore, and to put it bluntly, we should be doing a heck of a lot better for our workforce across the cleaning sector. Traditionally the approach to training cleaners has been, well, traditional, and whilst that was OK, nowadays it’s just not cutting it.
Many companies are focused only on making the business look good to win sales, claiming a few trainers are properly teaching hundreds, maybe thousands of staff, often even telling clients they will train to ‘those’ standards and charging for it, knowing they can’t honour the promise, and pocketing the £% as profit.
If you feel you train cleaners thoroughly, then kudos to you, you may as well read something else, but before you leave, let’s be clear about what ‘training cleaners’ means. I don’t mean train them once and tick the box. I mean every cleaner properly trained, before stepping on to a client asset, with training fully refreshed at least once a year. If a cleaner is alone needing help, training and revision is there for them 24/7, immediately, when they need it. So, I ask again, do you?
Here’s the thing. You should and could be. Certainly, your cleaning staff need, and probably want it, and many other industries do it already! So why not cleaning?
Several excuses leap out:
Legacy – Until recently there was only one recognised option, meaning the market was almost monopolised by a single organisation. OK, but look around, there are options which are easy to deliver, a fraction of the cost, and deliver training as set out above.
Cost – Most current training only delivers in small numbers; it would break the bank to train all staff properly once in 2-3 years, let alone twice a year.
Time – How to get staff into a room to spend a day training? I am sure some have achieved it, but overall, good luck with that!
Risk – What if we train them and they leave? I can’t believe I am saying this, but, ‘What if you don’t, and they stay?’
People – How much resource can you afford? Trainers and assessors aren’t cheap, so 1-2-1 training in full isn’t usually a realistic option.
Space – Where to do it? A room in head office, (an academy?), which is an asset that sits empty most of the time.
Perceived lack of cleaner interest – Cleaners aren’t stupid and usually want to learn, but if your reasons are company facing, they’ll know, so on living wage, where’s the carrot?
Tradition – Individuals in the field are often so entrenched in the ‘way it’s always been done’ they cannot see that no, not necessarily, not anymore.
I know there are companies out there that do a good job of it, but if you struggle, where can you go from here?
Look to emerging technology, at the rate of change in the world, and seek to do things differently. People expect to see and use tech every day, in all areas of life, especially their phones.
Seriously, name one area of your life that you can’t use phones for. Ordering milk, on my phone, booking dinner or holidays, banking, docs sharing, even accounting, or booking my dentist, you guessed it, on my phone. My son even accesses university information and lesson content on his phone. Yet for the cleaning industry, not so much. People say, ‘cleaners don’t have phones’, but yes, on the whole they do, and they’re willing to use them.
Cleaning must catch up. Developments like the apprenticeships are great, valuable, and important, they really are, but we mustn’t lose sight of providing training that can be delivered to the whole workforce. We must change now to lift our industry up to the level of others when it comes to basic knowledge and skills.
It’s been difficult, but now there are solutions out there, if you embrace thinking differently.