More than ‘just cleaning’

31 March 2016

Jane Leeming, director of learning and development at ISS UK, provides practical advice for contract cleaners and managers of in-house cleaning teams on how to implement a successful training programme

Cleaning services, especially when part of an integrated FM service, can cover a huge range of requirements for a client. The people who deliver the cleaning and their attitude and skills sets are critical to excellent service provision.

Training is a key part of this attitude toward excellence. Many partners and clients have specific brand values to protect, which means that the people involved must provide more than ‘just cleaning’.  From frontline cleaners in a transport hub through to specialist hygiene operatives in food manufacturing plants, all of our people play their part in a wider scenario.

Some of the main challenges involve how to encourage the relevant outlook and temperament, instilling purpose and understanding of the wider impact of roles, developing the key skills and sharing essential information with team members at various levels. This is often with a multi-lingual workforce (where English can be a second or third language) with different levels of responsibility, working at different sites and finding ways to make learning as accessible as possible.  

Five-stage programme

ISS has developed a five-stage training and development framework that is suitable for all team members; from first day entrants to those wanting to have a long-term career path.

The programme, which was the first to gain endorsement from British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), has been designed to provide individual focus on the differing elements that affect the day-to-day work of our people.

It was rolled out to provide them with an induction into team work and culture, skills development, an understanding of what constitutes excellence at different levels, leadership and developing team members.

We started with our frontline people as they have the biggest impact on our customers and clients, and the course has been established so that it is specific to their job role within each service segment.

Multi-channel approach

To improve accessibility to the training opportunities, a multi-channel approach to training was introduced. This involves a combination of paper-based and audio-visual materials created for learners to use on site and take away to read and/or watch on smart devices. This collateral is supplemented by sessions for quick, engaging training, along with comprehensive support for overtime.

Transferable skills do require proof for those involved, however. When a training programme is endorsed by a professional third party organisation, it’s a win-win situation. If a team member moves to a different client or sector, the new employer is safe in the knowledge that the skillsets can be benchmarked and applied to a new requirement. And, for the employee, they know they have recognisable, measurable talents.

No matter who we are and what we do, we want a clean, healthy and inviting environment. In order to achieve this, we need to ensure that our cleaning teams understand why they do what they do and its impact. It’s a straightforward formula at heart – teach people something of value and the wider impact of what they do; this will help them to value their new skills and be keen to learn more.

A combination of attitude, ethos and skills are often key aspects in successful service provision. A comprehensive training programme covers every element from team engagement and understanding the impact of their interpersonal actions to company culture.

Investment in learning and development has a long-term impact on people, which ripples out to create organisational pride, builds relationships and encourages positive business performance. This can be seen in measureable ways – lower churn rate, higher retention and positive client feedback.