Commercial cleaning businesses are almost always short-staffed. It’s the nature of the business. Now that the world is reopening after COVID-19 and we are seeing that staffing concerns are getting worse. 

    For janitorial business owners, it will pay to have a short-term plan to weather this incoming storm. You will also need a long-term mindset to help ensure you emerge profitable and ready to keep growing in 2022.

    In the short term:

    • Anticipate that cleaners may be even harder to hire than normal, despite the reopening
    • Take the time to carefully understand the supply and demand for cleaning services in your area, and be prepared to increase your prices as well as your wages
    • Double down on improving communication habits with your cleaners

    In the long term:

    • Think about creating a strong reputation for being a leader through this reopening
    • Put time and resources into cleaner retention instead of just chasing and filling gigs
    • Consider this a massive opportunity to reimagine how your business is run, aiming to pick up some competitive advantages for 2022

    We go into these ideas in detail below.

    Hiring cleaners after COVID-19: bigger shortages

    There is no question that demand for cleaning services is increasing over the summer and into the fall. More physical spaces will open, and everyone will be much more sensitive to following proper sanitation guidelines. Customers will want cleaning more often and will want it to be more thorough than ever before.

    Despite this, there will not necessarily be a pool of willing cleaners ready to fill this need. Here’s why. Some people who may have once taken the job:

    • will be on government COVID-19 assistance, or
    • will consider working in cleaning to be too dangerous or high profile, or
    • have changed life directions during the lockdown, relying on remote work income

    Hiring cleaners after COVID-19: pay adjustments

    If demand for cleaning services goes up, but the supply of cleaners remains the same (or goes down), price goes up.

    It will be very important to closely monitor the situation in the area you serve. Some places may see huge shifts in this supply and demand balance, and others may not change much.

    If you are not adjusting your prices and wages accordingly, your competitors may do it first.

    Here’s some things you can start doing right away if you haven’t already:

    • Ask current and potential customers about their upcoming cleaning needs over the summer, and into the future once things get back to normal.
    • Consider what your business model would look like if you both raised wages and raised prices. 
    • If you don’t want to raise all wages, consider implementing a hiring bonus to incentivize a cleaner to join your team.
    • Another option is giving a referral bonus to any members of your team who bring in new staff as well (if you’re worried about them churning make sure it’s stipulated that they only both get the bonus’ after 3 months of work).
    • Because this could be temporary and subject to change, think about how you could communicate any changes to both cleaners and customers.

    You will be tempted to adjust the numbers so that you can capture more profit through higher prices. Remember that this is a time where the surge in demand may be temporary—do not get greedy and create a situation where you come to rely on this additional revenue!

    Better communication practices with cleaners

    If it gets harder to hire cleaners, it will also be harder to keep them. Competitors may offer higher pay, the intensity of the post-pandemic world may be too much, or remote work opportunities may become more attractive.

    If you have had a turnover issue before all this pandemic trouble started, it will only get worse in times of rapid change.

    Creating a solid, open, and honest system of regular communication with cleaners can do wonders for retention. 

    Because wages may change, and because cleaning task intensity is sure to increase, it will be more important than ever to build trust and training practices with your staff. One of Swept’s core features is about creating good communication, so we’ve authored a lot of material about this topic.

    Start with these articles for more detail:

    Post-pandemic: emerging as a cleaning leader

    Cleaners and cleaning companies are now in the spotlight. The successful reopening and rebuilding of trust in public spaces depends largely on the perception of pandemic-level sanitization.

    Your company has an opportunity to set a gold standard among your service area and beyond. But you also risk being labeled as unfit, especially if you can’t find or keep cleaners, or if the competition figures out the “gold standard” stuff first.

    The reopening period is a big test for any growing commercial cleaning business. Here are some mindset considerations that can keep you ahead of the game:

    • Consider the concept of being a “loss leader” — make short-term sacrifices to establish long-term superiority. This might look like forgoing profit temporarily in order to raise cleaner wages sufficiently to meet demand or paying more than you’d like to obtain premium supplies to make a client feel safe.
    • Build a reputation among cleaners. Become an incredible place to work, and not just a place that signs a paycheck. Put more effort (even if it costs you) into cleaner communication, training supervisors and managers, and going above and beyond for your staff.
    • Upgrade your technology. If you still use pen and paper for anything important, we hate to say it, but you are living in the past. Yes, we are a technology company so we are biased. But it is the year 2021, and cleaning companies that learn how to make digital technology work for them are increasingly the companies that win.

    Keeping cleaners and reducing turnover: now and forever

    This is a recurring theme, as you’ve probably noticed.

    If you can convince someone to stay on staff, you will save money and build a reputation. Loyal employees can create an incredible referral engine for you too. Customers like your services better if the cleaners on site become familiar.

    There is no downside to reducing turnover.

    Apart from the ideas already discussed in this article, here are some more articles on the topic:

    Reimagine how your commercial cleaning business is run

    Thanks to COVID-19, every industry has been forced to take a look in the mirror and ask, “Do we need to change?”

    Some will, some won’t.

    Luckily, the industry’s overall trend doesn’t need to dictate what you do.

    In times of great turmoil and stress, there is always opportunity. While you’re managing the short-term needs of the reopening, also take some quiet time to look a year or so ahead. What steps can you take to change how you run your business?

    This article has hopefully given you some inspiration and understanding of what 2022 might look like for you. For more information on facing re-opening challenges check out our webinar with the owner of JANCOA on how they’re dealing with similar issues. 

    Good luck out there! The rest of 2021 will be a very interesting ride.

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