Next generation cleaning

24 July 2013

Principle Cleaning has launched its latest labour innovation, 'Hybrid Cleaning'. Gerardine Coyne reports

On May 2, 30 St Mary Axe, known informally as the Gherkin, was the chosen site for Principle Cleaning to launch its latest innovation, 'Hybrid Cleaning'. The Principle Cleaning (registered) system/process predominately uses a full time workforce to operate flexibly with any business to develop ways of improving quality and service in a sustainable way.

'In the cleaning industry, apart from the London Living Wage, innovations in labour are few and far between,' announced Doug Cooke, chief executive of Principle Cleaning, at the launch. 'And most of our clients, are now paying the wage, which is great. But they're also looking for more.' Principle Cleaning has developed Hybrid Cleaning to provide its clients with a host of benefits to suit individual needs. The system make shifts flexible, meaning that any work considered to be disruptive by the client in any part of the contract, will be done out of core hours. Yet cleaning staff are available if the customer needs them during normal office hours for one offs or special cleans.

There is no typical Hybrid model, but one example could be, two full time shifts 6am - 2pm, and, 2pm - 10pm. This gives an adequate window both in the morning and the evening, depending on the business model, to carry out vacuuming, floor maintenance, and any other disruptive tasks out of hours, while meeting rooms, empty offices, waste, common areas, washrooms, and restaurants are all serviced during the day in accordance with the building's usage.

Smart use of staff 'We try to use full time staff at both ends of the day,' explained Peter Smith, Principle Cleaning MD. 'Full timers are more reliable, there is less turnover, they're more committed as it's their main job, and training is more important.' (The company also still uses some part-time labour). 'Full time staff have one journey rather than many, so cleaning is delivered carbon neutrally.' Hybrid Cleaning also alleviates problematic night shifts, which are no longer socially acceptable. This also decreases staff turnover, ensuring cleaning staff are highly motivated, happier, better trained and more productive.

'Hybrid is about service and people,' continued Smith. 'It's not daytime cleaning as shifts are flexible - we recognise some tasks have to be carried out out-of-hours, especially disruptive tasks such as vacuuming. But our clients benefit from a greater cleaning presence in the day for the non out-of-hours and ad-hoc tasks.' Minnie Patel, outside contract manager at One New Change, was eager to praise the system, having implemented it on facilities.

'You've undersold yourselves!' said Patel. 'We're not just using Principle's staff for cleaning - we train them for the ad-hoc tasks, such as doing teas and coffees - but we even have one person doing accounts! It's a team of hard-working people showing great initiative and intelligence.' The system allows cleaners to take on different responsibilities, as a visible and trusted part of the facility's workforce. Terry Murphy, operations director, Principle Cleaning, said, 'We really wanted to develop people and give them opportunities. A few years ago, a cleaner would slide down the wall if you walked by - now they have opportunities and they can be proud of what they're doing.' Patel agreed, 'They're made to feel like part of the team, so they're confident and want to do more.' Murphy was quick to praise Principle's cleaners and expound on all their other merits. 'A lot of our cleaning staff have qualifications, or they're studying something like marketing - and they bring these other skills.' However, it is of course cleaning that is at the heart of the company, and this constant, active presence where the cleaners are very much part of the fabric, has other benefits.

As Patel confirmed, 'With daytime cleaning there's more respect, not just for cleaners, but for the facilities - our teapoints look immaculate - people see the effort going in and they contribute to the upkeep.' However, it will take time to convert clients to Hybrid Cleaning; as Smith admitted, attitudes are still slow to change. 'There is reticence in daytime cleaning. I have people saying to me - "Oh you can't have vacuums running in the day," and that is often the first thing that we have to explain!' Cooke added the fact that because early morning and evening teams are redeployed, and there are no redundancy payments, Hybrid Cleaning means, 'zero costs most of the time'. To which one client bystander piped up, 'We actually saved money - sorry!' The only other potential problem that cropped up for clients was language. Back to Patel, 'One of my barriers was the cleaners' level of English and communication with having daytime staff and a high level of service, especially client facing.' However Patel has been very impressed with the Principle staff, and one reason behind the success is the HR department.'We train staff with English pr ogrammes and we're looking at further options, so that our staff are fully competent in whatever situations should arise,' said Lilia Lamberto, HR manager, Principle Cleaning.

Principle believes that Hybrid Cleaning will be regarded as a 'win, win' situation for both its clients, and for its cleaning staff, who have 'embraced the revolution of change' and will work more sociable hours. The company currently operates Hybrid Cleaning solutions at twelve different locations, all delivered sustainably as carbon neutral contracts. This Principle innovation looks like a winning formula, as in a world where client demands constantly change, the Hybrid Cleaning teams have been purpose-built to adapt.