The value of training

17 October 2017

The right training can help reduce employee turnover and by doing so, significantly lower operating costs, explains Marc Ferguson, international business development manager for Kaivac

Employee turnover in the professional cleaning industry tends to be higher – sometimes much higher – than in many other industry sectors. In the UK, turnover is close to 70 per cent. This means for every position, a new cleaning worker must be hired about every 16 months.  

This is a huge problem for the professional cleaning industry. The time, costs and resources needed to train someone on how to perform cleaning duties, and more specifically on how you want them performed by your staff, can be exorbitant. But why is turnover so bad in the cleaning industry? There are a variety of reasons. For instance:

•    Custodial work is often a “between jobs” position. While waiting for another job to come through, people take a job as a cleaning worker.

•    A lot of people, including cleaning workers, are not that proud of their position. While it is somewhat better today, historically many cleaning workers have low self-esteem issues.

•    Pay is often a problem. Cleaning workers in many parts of the world are not paid very well, nor do they have work-related benefits.

•    The chemicals used in cleaning as well as the physical stress required to perform many cleaning duties can, over time, take a toll on the health of the cleaning worker.

So how can we keep cleaning workers not only staying on the job, but enjoying their work, feeling better about their job, working safer, and wanting to advance in the companies they work for?  

Will more pay do it? Studies do indicate that if workers are paid considerably more to stay on the job, they will stay longer, at least for a while. But what seems to be an even better way to keep cleaning workers from jumping ship is proper and ongoing training.

What the experts found

A study published in the Australian Bulletin of Labour in March 2016, examined the linkage between training and turnover. The study involved 124 participants and tried to answer the question: If a company invests in their workers with training programmes, will they stay with that company longer or will they take that training and look for another or better job?

The study defined worker training as the “systematic acquisition and development of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required by employees to adequately perform a task or job or to improve in the job environment.” The goal of training programmes in most industries, according to the researchers “is to enhance employees' capabilities, attitudes, and behavior towards [their employer]” – with the hope of reducing worker turnover.”

As to answering our question, will well-trained workers stay with their employers or take that training elsewhere, the researchers did admit there were a number of variables that complicated their findings. But based on their studies, the key value in worker training is that workers feel a commitment to their employers. This means essentially that loyalty evolves between the employee and the employer and it is this loyalty that helps lower turnover.  

For instance, among the findings, were the following:

•    With training, workers feel more positive about their employers; this positive relationship results in workers staying on the job longer

•    Employee training helps make workers feel they are supported and that the company cares about their well-being

•    Training is one way employers can make a commitment to employees; the fact that the employer is investing time and resources in their workers is appreciated; this is reciprocated by the worker by staying on the job

For the professional cleaning industry, the bottom-line of these findings is this: training can help reduce employee turnover and by doing so, significantly lower operating costs. To help make this possible, onboard training systems are in the pipeline designed to provide “on the job/just in time” training, which should make training faster and easier. 

Proper training will also help cleaning workers feel more professional and have more respect for themselves and their work. Further, well-trained workers invariably perform their duties more effectively. More effective cleaning means not only that workers will stick arounds longer, but so may the customer.