Swept and Creativity Solved Hiring and Retention Woes:  Justin Reus, Zoë Facility Cleaning


    Finding employees is hard. Finding good employees is even harder still. Keeping the good ones on your team…can be downright impossible.

    In 2018, when the unemployment rate began to plummet in the U.S., I was actively seeking an answer to one of the largest woes in the commercial cleaning industry… hiring and retention. There were more jobs than ever with even fewer people in the marketplace, more spaces needed cleaning, more mops needed to be held and yet, there were not enough hands to hold them. To make matters worse, janitorial work wasn’t exactly at the top of many job seekers’ wishlist. Staring down the smoking barrel of the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years, we needed to get creative…and fast.

    It wasn’t until I stumbled across an article about Millennials in the workplace that things began to fall into place. The article stated that the Millennial generation made up the largest amount of unemployed people in America because of their struggles with boredom (due to shortened attention spans). The younger generation needed constant stimulation as their lives had become accustomed to the smartphone lifestyle of scrolling through Facebook, checking emails, sending texts, and liking a few posts on Instagram all in the span of minutes. For some silly reason, the idea of slowly sweeping your way down a dusty office hallway in the middle of the night, just wasn’t super appealing to the aptly nicknamed “smartphone generation”.

    I knew that this was information I could work with. I brought the article to my executive leadership team and together we developed a 3-step plan that I honestly believe anyone can implement into their practices, which’ll greatly assist with recruitment and retention efforts.

    That plan looked like this:

    1. Use buzzwords

    2. Go paperless

    3. Keep them involved

    But, let’s look at each of these a little more in-depth.

    1. Use Buzzwords


    Janitorial work has a stigma for being an antiquated industry. For instance, technology isn’t the first thing you think of when you hear the word “cleaning”. We had an appealing system that used technology (Swept) but it was an internal tool and this was largely an external problem. We had the technology in hand, we simply needed to repackage our offerings in a way that could spark interest. So we turned our attention to our job postings and made a few edits:

    1. “Use your smartphone at work”
    2. “Able to listen to personal music/podcasts on the job”
    3. “Flexible positions that work for you, not the other way round”

    We didn’t make any of these job requirements per se. Rather, we appealed to the technology-minded generation without any real context…

    …and the results were remarkable.

    Our application rates tripled overnight. We hadn’t reinvented the wheel, these were all things that we already had in place. Swept was our clock-in system and just performed better when an applicant had a smartphone. The ability to listen to music is a perk we afford our cleaners when in unoccupied buildings. And we simply beefed up the wording of “Flexible Positions”.

    Sometimes the answer is simply in repackaging what you already have. Take the time to examine ALL of the perks you offer, not just the ones that have been sitting on your job boards for the last 6 years. Look at your target audience and how your work environment can best fit their lifestyle. Even if you can’t provide context, using buzzwords creatively might just be the way to attract the talent you want.

      2.Go Paperless

    Solving the problem of dwindling applications was merely the tip of the iceberg. The janitorial industry sees an average of 200% turnover, most of which occurs in the first 30 days of employment…and those metrics are on a good day. With the unemployment rate below 4% and businesses eager for new employees, it wouldn’t be uncommon for an employee to leave for greener grass because of an extra $.50. And who could blame them? The market was a job seeker’s dream.

    We knew that we had grabbed their attention, but now we needed to hold it.

    Once we got a candidate through the door, we made sure that everything we did was presented on screens. We played our mission statements on a loop in the conference room. There were welcome videos presented by the leadership team. All onboarding documents could be completed online via computer, tablet, or smartphone. We created training videos and online assessments that tracked time so that an employee could be reimbursed. Notifications pushed to their phones from management and co-workers when the new hire was introduced to Swept.

    Showing a new employee a mop and bucket as soon as they walked through the door would have been enough to send them running. Instead, we opted to launch a media assault. And it worked. We had given new hires an avenue to merge their lifestyle with their work. We were committed to making the act of cleaning fun and exciting.

    You don’t have to create a multimedia experience to engage new talent. Consider taking small steps to move away from those boring paper documents and create something fresh. Develop an online training course or cloud-based training manual that can be accessed anywhere. Even something as simple as seeing welcome messages pop up from colleagues in a new hire’s Swept app can be enough to develop a sense of community before even stepping inside a client’s building.

    3.Keep Them Involved


    Once you get past the buzzwords and media onslaught, eventually there was a mop bucket waiting for our candidates. And therein lay another problem. No matter the fun that our new talent had experienced up to that point, there was still work to be done. It was crucial to us, and for the longevity of their employment, that we kept our teams engaged and productive.

    We launched a full-scale campaign to keep our employees’ interests piqued. We developed newsletters that highlighted different employees every week. We created opportunities for community RAK-Attacks (Random Acts of Kindness) where we could visit nursing homes to pass out flowers or deliver hot chocolate to the homeless community during the wintry months. We used the Swept message boards as a way to encourage our employees to give shout-outs to one another in an effort to win gift cards. It all worked.

    Then we opened up the paths of communication within Swept to take suggestions from our employees in an effort to spark even greater involvement.

    One employee wanted help in gathering blankets for a homeless shelter, we did it. Another employee happened to be participating in a slam-dunk championship, and we blasted it out to all of our employees so they could come and show their support. A manager suggested we do a “ScareCam” of our employees to broadcast on social media- no suggestion went unseen. We issued a simple challenge to our employees and they responded in a big way.

    We had created a place to work that was no longer just swinging a broom. We fully integrated ourselves into their lives and not the other way around. Even if our employees weren’t thrilled about the work they were doing, they were engaged in so many ways that they couldn’t see themselves leaving. Even now, well into 2019, our turnover rates are among the lowest in the industry.


    Don’t be a company that just swings a broom or cleans the restrooms. Find outlets for your employees to focus their attention. Introduce exciting measures to keep your talent involved. Start campaigns that highlight the work they are doing. Keep involvement high and the message boards lighting up. People will stick around, if only to see what crazy thing you might do next.

    Putting an end to your recruitment and retention headaches isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to get creative. Sometimes you have to use flashy words, multimedia presentations, and high-level involvement to get the results you want. By incorporating new ideas into old strategies, we were able to completely overhaul our hiring and retention efforts…and if we can do it with a splash of creativity and the help of a smartphone app, you can too.

    Justin Reus

    Justin is the Operations Manager for Zoë Facility Services, a commercial cleaning company in central Indiana. He is a self-proclaimed beverage connoisseur and hopes one day to run the New York City Marathon. His current training program consists of craft beer, Netflix, and cuddles.  

    To find out more about Justin and the work Zoë does, head on over to www.zoefacilityservices.com




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