Tackling Employee Turnover With ‘Tools of the Trade’

Solutions to attract new contract cleaning staff and in-house professionals

employee turnover

As businesses rebound from the pandemic, many are experiencing the effects of the “Great Resignation,” named after the trend of workers leaving jobs for better opportunities or retirement. According to a McKinsey survey, 40% of employees are at least somewhat likely to leave their job by March 2022. With many industries like commercial cleaning, hospitality, foodservice and manufacturing facing a surplus of job openings, a shrinking pool of interested workers, and a rise in retirement, it’s becoming more difficult to compete for talent.

The cleaning industry has historically experienced high turnover rates. Coupled with the fact that many older employees of in-house cleaning departments are leaving the workforce, this is putting additional pressure on facility managers and building service contractors (BSCs) to attract new and younger talent. Once hired, it’s important to make employees feel valued by demonstrating an ongoing commitment to their wellbeing. One strategy for securing and retaining talent is adopting cleaning technologies that positively impact employee health, safety, and engagement.

The state of staffing in the cleaning industry

Annualized turnover rates in the contract cleaning industry have soared to as high as 200%. Consider the rising costs on your business to hire, train, and retrain new employees, who may then exit in just six months. High turnover often leaves BSCs in a constant state of recruiting and onboarding. The quality and consistency of cleaning can suffer and management problems can emerge, which results in lower customer satisfaction.

In-house cleaning departments have traditionally experienced lower turnover, as many retain the same custodians for years or even decades. However, these “lifers” have been leaving the workforce over the last few years and will continue to do so as more age out of the industry. This creates staffing issues for in-house departments, too. Attracting young professionals to physically demanding, repetitive, and front-line custodial roles can be difficult. Thankfully, organizations can support hiring by leveraging today’s innovative cleaning technologies, and support employee retention by leaning into a culture that is rewarding and responsive to their needs.

Recruiting today’s workers

To recruit and retain empowered staff members, it’s important to understand the unique desires of millennial and Generation Z workers. Nearly 40% of millennials have selected a role because the company was more sustainable than the alternative. Members of this generation also are more interested in employers supporting physical, social, financial, and emotional health than Generation X and baby boomers. Millennials value health and safety, so building a culture of safety is a tool to attract and keep them.

Meanwhile, according to a report from Deloitte and Network of Executive Women (NEW), 77% of Gen Z respondents in a 2018 survey said it is important to work at organizations with values that align with their own. In fact, the environment is Gen Z’s top concern, so organizations hiring for cleaning roles must tap into this passion. Thankfully, innovations are pushing the industry forward in terms of sustainability.

The pandemic also heightened everyone’s awareness of cleaning and disinfection in facilities. This trend, in combination with the rising importance of corporate values, has led employees to ask new questions such as, “Am I working in a building with healthy air quality?”; “How safe am I while working?”; “Are these new cleaning and disinfecting processes affecting me?”; and “Are they impacting social responsibility and sustainability?” Using technologies that support healthy work environments can help answer these critical questions.

Implementing facility improvements and cleaning tools

Innovative, safe, and sustainable cleaning technologies improve safety, reduce environmental impact, and make cleaning jobs more enticing to millennials and Gen Z. BSCs and facility managers can consider the following solutions to attract contract cleaning staff and in-house professionals:

  • Indoor air quality (IAQ) enhancementsIAQ has taken on a new level of importance during the pandemic due to increased knowledge around the impact of toxic chemicals on our air and the spread of respiratory illnesses. Help workers feel at ease with air quality monitoring solutions that reduce the presence of toxins from strong-smelling and harmful chemicals and curb the risk of pathogen transmission. Enhancements may include shifting to safer cleaning chemicals, installing upgraded filters and air purifiers, and improving ventilation in your building.
  • Electrochemically activated solutions (ECAS)—Adopting an innovative technology like ECAS demonstrates to cleaning professionals that their wellbeing and the environment matters. ECAS are cleaning and disinfecting solutions created using a generator, water, salt, and electricity. ECAS do not irritate eyes or skin, are drain- and disposal-friendly and support good IAQ, making them an ideal solution for daily use.

    Replacing numerous toxic cleaning products with ECAS reduces the risk of dangerous chemical mixtures and employee and customer exposure and simplifies training. Because the solutions are generated on site, cleaning teams can refill spray bottles and containers, further reducing waste, garbage, and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Robotic equipment—From automated floor scrubbers to smart vacuum cleaners, there are numerous robotic technologies that your cleaning program can introduce to reduce repetitive tasks for cleaning staff. Look for equipment that is easy to operate and maintain and uses sensors to safely avoid people and obstacles. Because robots deliver consistent results, they help limit the need for recleaning that requires high volumes of cleaners and disinfectants. Additionally, robotic vacuums kick up eight times less dust than manual cleaning, which improves IAQ. Overall, automated machines create safer, more sustainable and more efficient work environments to support employees.

Safe and consistent cleaning

For the cleaning industry to attract and retain new talent, demonstrating a commitment to the health and environmental concerns of these new employees is essential. Numerous technologies, products, and services can make work environments safer, which in turn helps employees focus on consistently providing cleaner facilities for occupants and visitors. When combined with a workplace culture that celebrates cleaning professionals and aligns with their values, these tools of the trade help tackle one of the industry’s toughest and costliest challenges: staffing.

Posted On January 3, 2022

Bill Kohley

President, PathoSans Technologies

Bill Kohley, Ph.D., is president of PathoSans Technologies, a leading provider of on-site generation (OSG) devices that produce ready-to-use, highly effective cleaners and disinfectants known as electrochemically activated (ECA) solutions. Learn more at 

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