Best Practices for Hiring Employees for Your Cleaning Company
Want to Know How to Find and Hire Great Employees?
With most cleaning company speeches, teachings, webinars and podcasts, I have to spend the first couple of paragraphs on why that specific topic is a big deal to the reader to get everyone on board so I sound smart when I bring the good stuff and solve the problem.
This is not one of those times.
If you are a the owner of a cleaning company, you know the frustration of finding good cleaning company employees. This is arguably the NUMBER ONE pain in my clients lives and one of the reasons I get paid the big bucks!
Cleaning Company Employees: You can’t live with em, can’t take em out to the desert and shoot em
Let ‘s start with a little bubble bursting… You will never completely solve the employee issue.
This isn’t one of those “just read this and give me a bunch of money and all your problems will go away” . But don’t let that stop you from reading and giving me a bunch of money…
There is GOOD news!
We CAN give you freedom from the total chaos employees seem to bring to the equation and set your cleaning company up for success. You CAN build a commercial or residential cleaning team that still requires love and attention, but actually gives you energy and builds excitement instead of sucking you dry!
We in the cleaning industry often think of our front line people as commodities. The flip side us owners fail to recognize is our employees often see us a commodity. They have likely had one minimum wage (give or take a buck an hour or so) job after another and they feel like one job is as good as the next- or even worse, that the NEXT job is gonna be the “perfect” job.
This mindset brings about our age old enemy- the “No Call, No Show- I QUIT!!” that has ruined more than a few family dinners….
We are gonna talk about all that and more – so let’s get to the good stuff and put you on the road to FREEDOM!!
Here are the 4 Simple Steps we are going to cover:
- Pre Hire
- Parting Ways
The Foundation for Hiring Quality Cleaning Company Team Members
This first step is the foundation you are going to build the next three steps on. When you get this right, the rest gets a lot easier. If you don’t, it almost doesn’t matter how good you do with the next three steps, it is gonna be a long uphill climb.
a. Start with something bigger. Bigger than your employees, bigger than you and bigger than your cleaning company. It’s hard to get people fired up about haulin’ backpack vacuums around an office in the middle of the night. It’s your job to cast a vision that is bigger than cleaning toilets!
Cast a vision of making people’s lives better, creating clean and healthy workspaces that serve your customers and your customers customers. Maybe your vision is providing good jobs, fair pay and recognition that wouldn’t be otherwise available- maybe you give a portion of your time and money to a charity- just make sure you tie everyone’s hard work into something bigger than the company.
It is extremely hard to be successful if your employees experience with your company is exclusively them and their teammate (or even worse, just them) alone in the middle of the night cleaning a building. You MUST create community!!
Employees are desperate to be a part of something bigger- to connect with the rest of the team (including you). They need to feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions.
I go over all of this in detail in my book “I’m a Freaking Genius- Why is This Business so Hard??” and if you want the full scoop and how I used these concepts to build, buy and sell a couple multi million dollar businesses (including my first, a Servicemaster franchise), or you just want to hear the story of ALL of my employees quitting on the 1st day I owned my 1st company- get your copy and when you love it, don’t forget to hook me up with a glowing review on Amazon!
b. Core Values. Core Values are the keys to the kingdom when it comes to getting your employees fired up about something bigger than cleaning toilets. Your cleaning company Core Values should be short, powerful and most importantly the REAL YOU. You don’t decide on your Core Values. You DISCOVER them.
The process can take months or even years to get them exactly right, but when you are living them properly, you will naturally attract people that line up with what is important to you, (and equally importantly) REPEL people that don’t.
Here are my Core Values for Grow My Cleaning Company to give you an example:
** HELP CLEANERS ** HAVE FUN ** BE REAL ** MAKE MONEY **
My previous businesses Core Values Were
** HELP OUT ** HAVE FUN ** BE REAL ** MAKE MONEY **
There are only four (you should have no fewer than 3 and 5 at the absolute most), they all contain ACTION words and they are all short and punchy- 2 words each.
Start working out your own Core Values with the expectation that they will get clearer and more powerful as you start implementing them.
BONUS LOVE: When you have a solid set of Core Values it doesn’t just attract/ repel the right employees, it works for vendors, partners, customers, etc
c. Find the Right Fit. The final piece of the foundation step is to Avoid W.B.S.- Warm Body Syndrome.
This is a business killer.
You are sitting across from someone, their cleaning work experience is ok, they are saying the right things… sort of… but you feel in your gut that they aren’t quite right. Problem is- you need someone, you are sick of cleaning accounts yourself or worrying about quality control going down because you are short staffed.
So you hire them.
I’ve been there. It is TOUGH. The problem comes in 17 days later, they no call/ no show leaving unhappy customers and you short staffed again.
What’s a business owner to do? You can’t run short staffed forever and you aren’t going to grow your cleaning company and get the FREEDOM you want hiring sub par people that treat your company like a bus stop, just waiting for the next job or government handout to come by. You need to have a steady stream of QUALIFIED applicants wanting to work with you.
Getting Cleaning Company Applicants
Start by identifying your best and worst employees historically. Maybe for you single moms are the money, for others married men that are working with you as a second job.
What about the other side of the coin? Maybe you have found that college kids that live at home don’t work or that people with large gaps in employment history don’t work for you.
Once you identify similar qualities for your best hires, ask yourself- Where do these potential employees hang out? The answer to that question will dictate where you advertise for help and how you craft your ads to attract the best fit.
BONUS LOVE: Your ABSOLUTE BEST source of AAA Gold Star employees will come from your current best employees.
Most owners advertise where they themselves would look for a job, or wherever is free. Look at it from your ideal employee’s perspective. Is the 35 year old single mom going to look for a job the same place or in the same way the retired couple looks? Of course not.
Stop advertising where your less than ideal employees hang out and drop your line where your IDEAL candidate hangs out.
Once you are advertising in the right PLACE, you need to say the right THINGS. Many owners don’t know what to say in their ad, so they just write something safe and easy up and run the ad. The problem is you all end up saying the same, boring INEFFECTIVE things!! Does this sound familiar?
“Mike’s Cleaning Company is now hiring. We are fast growing and award winning. Good pay and room to grow. We do background checks, drug tests and require full hiring documentation. Reliable transportation is a must. Cleaning Experience Required. Email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org”
There are so many things wrong with that ad, it hurt my fingers to type it!! Check out some of the obvious offenders:
- It was all about the company- NOT the applicant
- It was BORING
- It sounded like EVERY OTHER ad and didn’t say ANYTHING about why the employee should work there as opposed to anywhere else
- It didn’t disqualify anyone other than felons, illegals or druggies
- It did disqualify excellent candidates that don’t have cleaning experience and/ or aren’t comfortable putting together a resume
- Weak call to action
Try this ad for cleaning company employees on for size:
“Are you a HARD worker who wants to be APPRECIATED for your CONTRIBUTION?? Are you the kind of person that NEVER calls in sick, and wants to be a part of an exciting team? Sick of trading precious time for nothing more than a crappy paycheck? You just might be in the right place…
Before you run to the phone and demand we give you a job, check out the requirements. We are only looking for:
- Team players with GREAT attitudes- that’s all we hire and why this is such a great place to work
- People with good transportation,
- Drug free, felony free and legal to work in the good ol US of A
- Team members who see the value in and enjoy serving others
- Hard workers willing to learn the cleaning business and get their hands dirty
Enough about us- let’s talk about YOU:
- ABOVE average pay for ABOVE average effort!
- You wanna work hard and play hard- HAVE FUN at work
- Recognition and APPRECIATION for HARD work and a FANTASTIC ATTITUDE
If this is you- call 555-5555 right NOW. You don’t want to miss this opportunity and we don’t want to miss out on YOU! CALL NOW!”
Do you see how much more compelling that is to a prospective cleaning employee?
- Talked about them- not you
- Emphasized hard work and great attitude
- Strong call to action
- Did NOT sound like every other ad- stands out!
Your’s will be even better because you will fill it with your CORE VALUES and attract/ repulse the right/ wrong types of applicants.
Now that you know:
- How Core Values are used in the hiring process
- What type of person you are (and AREN’T) looking for
- Where to look for those people
- What to say to attract/ repel the right/ wrong applicants
You will find you have more and better qualified applicants than you ever have and we can move on to…
The Interview Process
Remember the Core Values we talked about in the Foundation step? They are the gift that keeps on giving during the interview.
Craft your questions around your Core Values.
You are looking for stories/ examples where the prospective employee did (or did not) demonstrate your Core values in their work and life.
Many owners of cleaning companies make the mistake of hiring for cleaning skill or experience.
Not you. Hire for attitude and work ethic- train for skill.
You can teach just about anyone to be an amazing cleaner, but it is nearly impossible to change a bad attitude or work ethic. It can actually be harder to train people with “cleaning experience” as they are often unwilling to learn and/ or come with bad habits.
An effective interview process is a slow, even difficult process.
Your competitors are gonna have the prospective employee come in, talk to the owner and if they “feel good” offer them a job- if they show up to their first day of work, even better. Maybe this has even been you…
Let’s change that right now….
You are going to spend more time here than you are probably used to, but you are going to hire a LOT less people than you are used to with far lower turnover.
A solid interview process has:
- (3) different interviews ideally with
- (3) different people in
- (3) different places.
Just starting out and don’t have management? You hold the first interview, another cleaner the second and you as the third.
No employees? Use your spouse for the middle interview.
As far as 3 places, you can use:
- Your office
- A restaurant
- Job site
- A park
Be creative- the goal of the three locations is to see the “real” person. People act differently in different environments and you want to see as many sides of the person BEFORE you hire them and trust them with your current employees and accounts.
I know this sounds like a lot and it is.
It’s meant to be.
In all likelihood any other job they are applying at asks a couple of questions maybe a drug or background check and BOOM- hired! The more effort you make them put into the job, the more likely they are to value being a part of your team and the LESS likely they are to quit or make your job low priority.
The final trick in your arsenal is what I like to call the 2 week interview. When I had my cleaning company, I would go through so many employees which meant a lot of paperwork and admin crap that were not my favorite (ever send out a couple hundred W-2’s at the end of a year?).
A great way to weed out the new hires who quit on their first day or couple of shifts is to have them start training or cleaning before you hire them.
The best way to know how someone is going to work is to watch them work. Instead of hiring them, let them be a subcontractor for the 1st two weeks and then make a hiring decision. This will make them value the job more when they do get it and save you from all the “employees” who quit early on.
Now that you know how to get enough qualified employees, what on God’s green earth do you do when you do get em???
Hiring Perfect Cleaning Company Staff
We haven’t forgotten about our old friends Core Values. They are just as important here as they were at the start. The beautiful thing about a strong active set of Core Values is they will do a lot of the training, keeping of good employees and eliminating of employees who aren’t such a good fit.
If an employee who doesn’t share your Core Values somehow sneaks through your process, current employees and culture will make that person feel out of place and they tend to wander off on their own. On the flip side, when you hire someone that lines up perfectly with your Values, they will click well with your current staff and turnover drops like a rock.
When your Core Values are woven into the entire process, you can turn your focus to the first day of work for new employees. This day is so important because it sets the tone their time with you. If their first shift/ experience with your company is a lot of filling out paperwork and waiting around, you are communicating that your organization is disorganized and it’s ok to waste time and that their time isn’t valued by you or your company.
This is also a HUGE opportunity. A few well thought out surprises on Day 1 can transform lukewarm employees into fans for life. A big part of that is making them feel welcome and part of the team when they arrive. Here are some things you might want to have ready for them that will help them feel the love:
- A Welcome Party (don’t be afraid of cake and balloons)
- Business cards with their names (not someone else’s scratched out)
- Picture ID (at least the ability to make it for them right away)
- Checklists- First shift, first week, first month, first 90 days
- Employee Handbook
- Hiring packet (required state & federal paperwork, ID)
I know most cleaning companies don’t give business cards, but it is a fairly inexpensive thing and it makes people feel special. It’s also a great tool for new employees to give to prospective clients and employees they run into on a day to day basis.
Another nice touch is the welcome party for them- spend the thirty bucks on balloons and a cake and have a party. There is almost ZERO chance they have had this at any other company and it WILL make a lasting impression on them.
The employee handbook will cover all the Do’s and Don’ts. It should be conversational and full of actual useful stuff, not just a bunch of corporate speak that employees will ignore
The checklists are an awesome tool. They will help make sure both you and the employee know that he or she is on track for the first 90 days. Some checkpoints you might have for the first 90 days are:
- Demonstrate ability correctly perform each aspect of job (clean bathrooms, trash, vacuuming, mopping, etc)
- Completing their first cleaning self assessment
- Completing jobs in time given
- Taking lead on a job
- Having cleaned all of your accounts (not just “their” account(s))
- Filling in for another employee
- Training another employee
- Get their first positive customer feedback
During the first 90 days each employe should have a quick (20 minute) meeting with you or their direct supervisor every 30 days. These should be two way conversations with the employee giving feedback on their perspective and feelings on how the job is going as well as the supervisor giving them feedback on their progress, areas of excellence and areas of potential improvement.
After 90 days, employees should meet with you or their supervisor quarterly. As long as the employees are on track, these meetings should be VERY positive and encouraging- 80% recognition, 20% training/ feedback.
This is also a great time to give employees raises. I am a big fan of paying (and expecting) more than my competition.
Bonus Lovin: Give lots of small raises and bonuses as opposed to fewer bigger raises.
The last key to the 1 on 1 meetings is accountability. Each meeting they should have 1 personal and 1 professional goal that you are holding them accountable to.
In addition to the 1 on 1 attention, get the team together as often as possible. If most of your jobs start at the same time, have everyone get together to get supplies, talk and feel like a team- Walmart has team meetings daily before the store opens. The important thing is to make your staff feel part of something bigger.
The last piece of the puzzle is monthly events. Have fun and let everyone know how appreciated they are. Events have the potential to revolutionize your business (covered in detail in this blog post), but the goal here is to get everyone together, have fun and build community.
There should be eating, drinking and lots of team community building. Check out cool these ideas to get you started:
- Cook or grill for your employees
- Encourage employees to invite their families
- Give lots of awards- buy or make your own trophies for
- Best cook
- Best looking kids
- Worst driver
- Customer favorite
- Invite customers and prospects
- Plan creative activities
- Basketball or foosball tournaments
- Costume contests
- Dunk tank (ideally with you in it)
- Inflatable bounce houses for the kids (and bold adults)
- Video employees talking about what it’s like working with your company
- Chili cookoff
- Community service event
- Great opportunity to give recognition and bonuses to employees who:
- Refer other employees
- Get the most positive feedback
- Have been there the longest
- Most days without missing a shift
- Any other behavior you want to encourage
These are the kinds of things that make memories for you and your staff and make it extremely hard for them to leave you for someone else paying $.50 more/ hour.
Bonus Lovin: Take every opportunity to “catch your employees” doing something right and make a big fuss about it.
The key to the whole operation is to give them the love and respect they often aren’t getting anywhere else in their lives. If you aren’t careful, you might even find yourself (and your customers) enjoying your employees…
Now that you are:
- Getting quality applicants
- Putting them through a solid interview process
- Treating them like rockstar’s
- Watching your turnover rate plummet
Let’s talk about the final piece of the puzzle…
Even the best employees are going to move on, but when handled properly you can minimize the disruption to your company and even get some valuable insight. I always wanted the best for my employees and always supported them moving on when it was a better opportunity/ promotion and I always let them know that I would be there for them even after they left- as long as they left on good terms. This led to a lot more 2 week notices and a lot less- “No Call, No Show, and by the way… I quit” scenarios.
Whether you fire them or they leave, an exit interview is key. As a cleaning company owner do these yourself and resist the temptation to make up your own stories around why they are leaving- just listen with an open mind.
Track why people are leaving and look for recurring reasons you are losing good people or having to fire bad people. Here are some of the tidbits you might pick up from certain patterns:
Employees you terminated:
- Were they a bad fit to start? If so how can you fix the interview process and/ or where you find applicants?
- Were they good to start and turned bad? If so what changed and how can you keep that from happening again?
- Were they good all the way through but committed a fireable offence (no call/ no show, theft, etc)? If so, what can you do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?
Employees that quit:
- Are they moving? Could have you known earlier they were going to move?
- Are they going to a better opportunity? Are there any better opportunities within your organization? If not- congratulate them and keep in touch
- Were they simply unhappy?
- Were expectations set properly to begin with?
- DId they not get along with other employees? Their supervisor? You?
- Was the work environment not good?
The key is not to just look at the disruption to your business, but to look for ways to improve the employee experience for your remaining team.
I know all of this sounds like a lot of work along with everything else on your plate and it is, but it is also the fast track to less turnover, less headache and better quality of life.
Not only will you make more money, but you will find yourself freed from much of the day to day operations of your business and able to focus on client acquisition, systems or whatever piece of your business you most enjoy, or you can just take your newfound freedom and spend more time with your family or taking more vacations.