More needs to be done to make the cleaning industry an attractive sector to work in, claims the CEO of a firm in the industry.
Dominic Ponniah, CEO of Cleanology, said the company's latest efforts to recruit had shown him that there was not enough appeal in the industry for candidates to want to join it.
He explained: "The situation was brought home to me recently when Cleanology recruited for a key management role. We interviewed a number of excellent candidates and, while they liked our sustainability, diversity and wellbeing initiatives, I was taken aback to hear five of our applicants say, ‘I like the company, but the industry isn’t sexy enough’."
Industry figures back this up. According to the British Cleaning Council’s 2020 research, the cleaning, waste management, landscaping and facilities management sectors are set to generate 93,000 new jobs by 2024. However, 29% of vacancies were hard to fill.
Cleaning and facilities businesses can offer opportunities for progression and competitive pay, but its image is hard to change for those entering the jobs market.
Ponniah says: “The first canary in the mine is diversity. We live in a diverse society, yet this is not reflected in business. According to the McGregor-Smith Review (2017), one in eight of the working-age population are from an ethnic minority background, yet these individuals make up only 6% of top management positions.
"The Parker Review (2016) found that just 85 of the 1,050 director positions in the FTSE 100 are held by directors of colour. Similarly, only 29% of FTSE 100 directorships and 27% of FTSE 250 directorships are held by women."
Ponniah added: "At Cleanology, we are proud to buck the trend, with a board of seven that includes three women and three BAME directors, but it only takes a visit to one of our industry events to see that the cleaning and facilities sector is lagging behind even wider business when it comes to diversity. In a sector like cleaning, which employs so many BAME and female staff at ground roots, it’s really time we upped our game.
"It’s not just about faces in the right places, it’s also about embracing more modern attitudes. Banks, law firms and brokers have all adopted more casual, modern dress, and young people expect a more relaxed approach. This doesn’t mean a fall in professional standards, but a more up-to-date way of doing business. If we want to attract top-grade young people – with all their enthusiasm and imagination – then complaining that people have left their ties at home will only drive them away.
"All this isn’t to say we’re getting everything wrong. Cleaning and facilities management is a great place to be if you are a graduate looking for higher-than-average pay and great progression opportunities. We have had cleaners and supervisors, with little spoken English, progress to become managers and directors. There’s nothing 'unsexy’ about that! Whereas in the fashion industry, with all its perceived glamour, unless you’re like Naomi Campbell, many roles are based on low pay, long, unsociable hours and menial tasks.
"Our biggest challenge is a perceived lack of glamour. But if we shout a bit louder about all the benefits, and work harder to address our shortfalls, we might find the industry becomes a more vibrant, diverse place."
Image credit | iStock