Every day we talk to business owners who are struggling with time theft in their cleaning business. It eats away at their profitability and shrinks already tight margins on cleaning contracts. From small companies trying to hit their first big revenue milestone to established players in the industry, without a way to track and monitor cleaners time on site, you risk losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars on each of your contracts. This is critical cash flow you could use to hire new staff, invest in marketing, or upgrade your equipment – ultimately you miss a big opportunity to grow your business..
What is Time Theft?
Simply put, time theft occurs when you pay for hours that weren’t actually worked. Here are a few of the ways our customers describe time theft to us:
- Cleaners clock in for a shift when they aren’t actually on site.
- Cleaners clock in for their shift on time, and click out later then the scheduled end time resulting in more hours logged for a shift than you scheduled.
- Cleaners have other cleaners “punch in” for them before they have arrived at the location.
Let’s say you’ve got a medical office that you have scheduled 3 hrs for a full cleaning 5 days a week (or 60hrs a month). However your cleaners are continually logging 3.5 hrs of work 2 times a week, pretty consistently at this location. That’s an hour a week or 4 hrs a month more than you’ve budgeted at just one location. Imagine you have multiple locations where this is occurring. Do the math and you’ll quickly see that you are losing money every month because you don’t have real visibility into when your cleaners are actually onsite and what work is being completed when they are there.
Another scenario you might run into is getting complaints from your customers that work is either not being completed, or the standard of clean you promised isn’t being met. You check the time sheets, it says your cleaner was there. When you visit the site, the closet hasn’t been touched. The supply levels haven’t changed and you realize that you’ve signed off on a payroll report to pay for the hours that were reported.
Is it time theft or is it poor estimating?
It is easy to jump to the conclusion that the issue is time theft. However there may be another explanation. Managers who are tracking cleaners time on site have used schedule variances to uncover estimating errors and onsite issues. A variance between the time scheduled and the time worked at a location is a signal that requires further investigation. Common issues variances point to include:
- Obstacles at the location that you aren’t aware of are slowing your cleaners down. This could be anything from obstacles accessing the space that needs to be cleaned, to physical obstructions in the space that weren’t there at the time of estimating the work.
- Cleaners may be having difficulty using certain equipment or performing different types of cleaning. This would suggest they need additional training in certain protocols to perform quality cleaning within the allocated time frame.
- The estimated time to clean was not accurate when you did the original walkthru
What does it mean when there are less hours worked than scheduled?
What does it mean when you have a surplus of scheduled hours versus hours logged by your cleaners? Here are a few of the possible explanations:
- You have cleaners that have found efficiencies on site; meaning they can clean faster than originally planned.
- You overestimated the time required to clean this location.
- Your cleaners aren’t completing all the requirements on site; therefore missing the expectations you set with your client.
- Your cleaners aren’t showing up for shifts and putting your contract at risk
In the first 2 scenarios, you may have an opportunity to identify a cleaner who has developed best practices that can be applied to this site – and potentially others. The opportunity to recognize and reward your cleaner has just been presented to you.
Furthermore, you have an opportunity to proactively retain this contract by renewing it without any increase because you can deliver the same quality for less hours than you originally estimated. We all know price gets the attention of our clients, and a competitor may undercut your price because they know they can do the job in less time.
In the last 2 scenarios your contracts are at risk because you aren’t delivering on your brand promise or commitment to your customer. If you haven’t heard from your clients already about shortcuts on site, you should expect to, or alternatively lose them at renewal because you should expect they are out shopping the contract.
Diagnosing the problem
In order to diagnose the problem, the best resource is data from your time tracking app. This will give you the quickest path to identify trends so you can diagnose if the problem is with the cleaner or with the location. Without data, you will be stuck going through log books and payroll reports manually.
- Isolate if the variance follows the cleaner or the location.
- What trends can you find in the variances? Certain days, types of cleaning, specific shifts, repeat offences from cleaners?
- Are your cleaners completing all of the work that is assigned to them during their shifts?
- What is the quality like at the locations where there is less time logged than scheduled? Are you getting complaints from your customers on these sites? Most importantly, are cleaners missing their shifts and you are at risk of not delivering your customer commitment?
The Impact to Your Business
In a random sample of Swept customers who rely on Swept for time tracking to protect against these issues, the average variance (over reporting) of hours was 198 hrs for September. At $12/hr, that’s $2376 a month potentially lost either to time theft or to underestimating work. Over a year, that’s over $28,000 in unbudgeted payroll variances.
How Technology can Help
As a business owner, you need to be able to quickly diagnose problems that impact your profitability and threaten your business. This means having the tools to diagnose and resolve the issues as quickly as possible. Having an easy way to track time and cleaners as they sign in and out of shifts is your first line of defence to proactively take steps towards reducing and eliminating time theft.
Tracking Cleaners Onsite
In order to be confident your cleaners are signing in to their shifts from the actual site, there are 2 options:
Geofences are virtual perimeters that use location aware technology to confirm someone’s location. When you use a time tracking app that has geo fencing, you can create the boundary line someone must be within to login into a specific location. Set up geofences to ensure your cleaners are signing in within acceptable boundaries of the location they are assigned to. This is good for you and for your cleaner.
While you can use photos in cleaning instructions, there are other ways to use photos to track onsite sign ins and sign outs. Cleaners can take a picture of the cleaning closet when they arrive onsite to start their shift. With Swept, pictures sent through our Messaging feature are time stamped.i Which makes them a great way to know your cleaners are on site and signing in and out accurately.
When Time Tracking isn’t Enough
While reliable time tracking with the ability to confidently account for the actual time a cleaner is on site is critical. But this is just the foundation of protection for you and your team. The real game changer is when you combine the power of time tracking with the ability to consolidate communications, monitor quality and provide location specific checklists.
Swept is software that is customized for janitorial operations, specializing in communications, with all of the features you need to build and grow a commercial cleaning company. With the simple mission “to be the most loved Janitorial Software in the world”, Swept focuses on connecting your field teams, your managers and your customers. It gives you control over your business, from anywhere.
Swept has a robust set of features to help you manage your janitorial operations – including Time Tracking & Payroll. But to tackle time theft efficiently you’ll need a couple other features…
Cleaning Instructions and Checklists
No two locations are the same, making cleaning instructions and checklists mission critical tools. They help to ensure your team knows how to deliver the quality cleaning you committed to your customers. Cleaning instructions allow you to share location specific instructions to your cleaners. You can include pictures with instructions to eliminate any room for errors. To ensure all tasks are completed, create a checklist for your cleaner and track completed tasks in real time. Checklists create a fail safe way to ensure the work required to meet the standard of clean you committed is being completed every.single.time.
Inspections are crucial for quality control. Regular inspections allow you to measure cleaner performance over time and identify leaders on your team as well as training opportunities. Looking at inspection results along with any schedule variances can help you understand if there are potential issues on site or with your staff. You now have insights you can use to evaluate contracts at risk, cleaners at risk, and identify gaps to close with your cleaners. With a complete system, you can offer a standard of clean you can confidently get behind and demonstrate to your customer that you can deliver on your promise.
The Swept Way
Swept builds simple solutions to solve complex problems in janitorial businesses. Running a successful business requires having a clear understanding of what’s happening in the field when you can’t be there. You need janitorial software that specializes in janitorial operations. Time Tracking combined with Payroll Reporting, Cleaning Instructions, Checklists, and Inspections is the complete solution to stopping time theft in your business.