It’s the same everywhere. Turnover in the facility maintenance industry is rampant, to be expected, and a cost of doing business. Employee turnover and finding replacements is consistently top of mind for Building Service Contractors (BSCs). Just go to a janitorial industry conference and listen to peers commiserating. Turnover always comes up as a top challenge. What’s your turnover rate? 200% 120%. We’ve made it a priority and we are shooting for 70% this year. Most janitorial companies never consistently reach sub-100% turnover rates. What’s the answer? Trying to solve that problem is like trying to turn back the tides. It can’t be done. It will just keep coming. Relentlessly. So instead of fearing it and fighting it, better to embrace it and work to turn it into an advantage.
How Did We Get Here?
Even pre COVID-19 and the Great Reset, staffing facility cleaning crews was increasingly becoming more of an issue. The janitor profession had all but disappeared over recent decades as wages remained stagnant and made it impossible to earn a living in the industry. Then an unseemly overreliance on immigrant labor developed that filled most of the gap, while many looked the other way to avoid seeing the resulting problems and unintended consequences. And the remainder of the janitorial workforce was mostly occupied by a category of people largely characterized by having few if any other vocational choices available to them, the dysfunctional class, if you will. Perhaps harsh, but true. And all the while, there continued to be downward pressure on market pricing, both on line item cleaning budgets and employee wages.
Then, the historic COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Great Reset followed, and federal and state governments stoked the fires. All labor markets were impacted, turned upside down and inside out. As a result, the cleaning industry was pushed even further down the ladder of employment opportunities.
So here we are. We’re still scrambling to find employees, only now it’s more expensive too. Wages have finally increased, so that’s good for workers. But now, cleaning budgets need to adjust to the increased cost of labor and other inflationary pressures. Cleaning companies can’t be expected to absorb higher costs in an already low-margin industry. The janitorial market had become stagnant and long overdue for change. But proactive innovation wouldn’t show itself. The status quo was comfortable and well entrenched. So, it was inevitable that other forces would be needed to bring disruption. As it did in many industries, COVID certainly impacted and forced change in the janitorial services business.
Achieving Workforce Continuity
Self-awareness and acceptance are often at the trailhead of any productive path forward in life. Better still, though, can be the act of fully embracing the obstacle in front of us. So, what, give employee turnover a big hug, sit back, and relax? Well, not quite. But a simple re-calibration of how we view our team can yield results. Building a culture is good. Going deeper is better. One by one, understanding and truly supporting the WHY for everyone on our team can lead to celebrating when an employee meets their goal and announces it is time for them to move on. Sure, we still have a hole to fill. But instead of targeting and hiring anyone who will take the job and those who often have few other choices than to clean toilets and empty trash and will end up quitting or not showing up anyway, now we are hiring real go-getters who are on a mission to improve their lives. We know they won’t choose to be a janitor forever but in the meantime, we have a higher quality employee who takes responsibility and will perform at a higher level for our clients because that is how they are wired. Find people who are deeply committed to their WHY, whether it might be to supplement their household income, saving up to buy a house, or paying off debt, these are motivated people on a mission. How can you not celebrate with them when they achieve their goal? And the employment opportunities we provide played an important role. Yes, there are good people out there who will work to improve their lives. But they won’t clean toilets forever . . . and that’s ok.
Come here, Turnover . . . let me give you a hug!