By: Chris Macdonald6 min read
One outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic for most people is increased awareness of the importance of hygiene. Enhanced cleaning and hygiene standards once reserved for hospitals have moved into all public areas and workplaces.
Hand sanitisation in many areas has become the norm and that is not likely to change in the near future. This, in turn, has sensitised many millions of people to standards of cleaning.
The cleaning industry has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in many spaces. More frequent high touchpoint cleaning has become central to upgraded hygiene regimes.
New decontamination technologies that might otherwise have taken years to be taken up have been adopted in weeks.
Now, we’re looking beyond cleaning to prevention with innovations like SafeGroup’s Touchpoint Shield protecting coating system, which continuously destroys the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other potentially harmful micro-organisms.
These forces within our industry are throwing up big new challenges. One of them is to make sure we have the skilled and committed teams in place to carry out this important hygiene and decontamination work over the next few years.
This is why we support the Cleaning and Support Services Association’s (CSSA) new Clean Start campaign to encourage more people to look at the cleaning industry as a professional career choice.
I agree with the CSSA that it’s imperative, if we as an industry want to meet the higher standards society now expects of us, that we attract, train, and retain the operatives with the enhanced skills and motivation that we now need.
We, as in industry, have had to work hard for many years to make potential recruits realise that the cleaning industry is fast-paced, exciting, innovative, and a place where people who want to work hard can shine and rise rapidly, building a very successful career.
This ongoing perception needs to change, and fast. And the CSSA’s Clean Start campaign will help us focus energies in the right direction.
Cleaning and hygiene has traditionally been carried out when no one else is watching. There are practical reasons for this. But it means cleaners have been unseen and underappreciated.
Now people are more grateful than ever of the hard work done by cleaning teams. The COVID-19 pandemic has moved cleaning and hygiene up the priority list.
High frequency touchpoint cleaning has had to be carried out around the clock. It means the good work cleaners do has been seen for the first time. The media has played its part in explaining the importance of hygiene during the pandemic.
At SafeGroup, the pandemic hit at a time when we were carrying out a strategic review of our whole approach to recruitment, colleague benefits and retention.
The company is formed from three once separate divisions, cleaning, waste and pest control. Creating the SafeGroup brand has brought these elements more closely together. The move has allowed us to integrate our workforce.
Many more of our operatives are now multi-skilled, able to deliver specialist cleaning and waste management services. We’ve invested in vehicles and equipment that makes this much easier for operatives to work across the different services.
We’ve also carried out a deep review of our strategy for rewarding our colleagues. Looking at both together is crucial to create an overall business strategy that is sustainable, scalable and fair to all.
The added value we can deliver to clients, as well as cost savings, is allowing us to make sure our pay rates are as competitive as possible. We’ve always sought to give operatives higher rates of pay than the industry standard.
It is a reflection of the extra specialist skills they need, and the flexibility they show in responding rapidly at any time of the day and night to the emergencies we are called in to deal with.
Also, as part of the development of the SafeGroup one-service approach, we’re formalising our ways of working, including working towards ISO standards, that is leading to the rolling out of new skills training, some of it acknowledging the ‘new norm’ created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Importantly, also, we’ve been talking to colleagues about the additional employment benefits they might want. This has allowed us to put together a package of support and employment perks that we hope colleagues will use and value.
They include a healthcare cash plan for themselves and their children, life assurance for themselves and family members, and the PerkBox recognition and reward scheme, with discounted offers for things like supermarket shopping and days out.
We’ve also introduced a confidential counselling service. Colleagues can use this to get help with a wide range of issues. We also specifically had in mind support some may want with the more extreme cleaning challenges we deal with, such as trauma and crime scene cleaning.
What we want to create is a stable and highly-motivated workforce. We look to our highest-performing colleagues and we want more like them. We also want to promote talented people so they stay with us as we seek to expand, so need to fill the gaps their success creates.
With this in mind, we’ve also put in place a recruitment referral scheme. Any member of staff who recommends SafeGroup as a place to work, resulting in us recruiting a new colleague, is paid £500.
If a respected colleague is willing to recommend us to a friend or acquaintance, there is a better chance, in my view, that the new colleague will fit in and enjoy working with us.
We know SafeGroup is an exciting and rewarding place to work. We have a strong core of loyal, highly-skilled and high-performing colleagues who demonstrate that.
It’s our responsibility to reward them well and put systems in place to ensure more people see that value, come to work with us, and build great careers in the cleaning industry, hopefully by staying at SafeGroup.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a seismic shift in our approach to hygiene and disease control in work and public spaces. The cleaning industry is at the forefront of a response to that shift.
SafeGroup aims to lead the way in building teams that deliver solutions our clients and communities need. To do that, we need to be industry champions to attract the right people.
Just as importantly, we need to live up to the promise we make in terms of rewarding our colleagues and helping them to develop successful careers.