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Professionalising the cleaning industry

18 March 2015

In January Sodexo was one of 16 companies to make a number of commitments to promote the professionalisation of the contract cleaning industry under the Business Services Association’s Responsible Cleaner Scheme (RCS).

Making these pledges was a natural step for Sodexo because we’re already all about people and recognised as a people business. We have strong values embedded in our culture and company, and pledging – under the RCS – to focus on valuing, recognising and rewarding the hard work and dedication of employees is something with which we can quite happily align ourselves. 

The industry needs to recognise that cleaning is a critical service and continue to bring interested parties together to work collectively to promote employee engagement and the value of cleaning.

The RCS pledges align closely with the work we’re already doing with Equality and Human Rights Committee (EHRC), who back in August published The Invisible Workforce – Employment Practices in the Cleaning Sector. The report found many cleaners were not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

There were some pretty horrendous findings considering we’re in the 21st Century, and quite the opposite of Sodexo’s employee recognition approach, which was held up by the EHRC as best practice. An example is Sodexo’s Service Excellence Awards, held every year to recognise the most outstanding frontline individuals and teams.

In 2014, Ann Rutter won cleaning supervisor of the year and the ceremony’s most prestigious prize, the Kathy Ridgard Award, presented in honour of Kathy who was Sodexo’s Centre of Excellence director until she sadly passed away in 2013. By identifying and developing talent like Ann in the business and sharing the stories of their success, we can better engage with our 8,800 cleaning employees in the UK and Ireland.

The EHRC recognised the value of this approach. As part of the dignity and respect sub group on their cleaning taskforce we set up a focus group within the business to find out from our cleaners on the ground what they thought of the report’s findings.

Cleaners involved came up with some great feedback. They take pride in the work they do as cleaning operatives, and were keen to talk about the critical role they play in preventing the spread of infection, making sure client production facilities are kept hygienically clean, and generally show that they understand the value of their contribution.

Some on the sub group were surprised by the feedback, but at Sodexo we know that when employees recognise the value of what they do, this is a key part of employee engagement that contributes to the delivery of a world class service. The RCS commitments can only help to promote the value of cleaning more widely in the FM industry. 

Written by Lauren Kyle, cleaning development manager, Sodexo