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Large FM companies running multiple contracts need to establish a baseline for cleaning standards and excellence, says Yvonne Taylor.

© iStock
© iStock

 04 November 2019 | Yvonne Taylor

Any dip below excellent service – especially cleaning – is easily noticed by clients and directly affects their customers’ experience. So providers need to deliver consistently high standards by establishing a baseline. Focus on two parts: where you have been and where you wish to go.

Go back in time

Historical data can be useful in setting a baseline as it can account for varying performance conditions, such as seasonality and sector trends.

But this data may not always be available, so you will need to rely on other sources too, such as client satisfaction scores, employee turnover and cleaning costs. It is imperative to involve staff from within the organisation that understand the operational tasks and objectives to get a rounded view. You need to hear from frontline cleaners, management, HR and procurement. Find the right balance of voices to get substantial feedback – but not so many that it becomes too hard to act on.

Set the baseline

Once you have agreed on all the metrics to measure you will be in a position to set the KPIs to form your baseline. Don’t fixate on the number of KPIs. Focus instead on realistic indicators that align with the organisation’s goals and objectives. These will cover outputs such as finances, training and customer satisfaction.

Now for the tricky part (setting the baseline is easy): how to implement and maintain your new cleaning standards across multiple contracts.

Provide high-quality training

Targeted training for frontline cleaning operatives and supervisors is essential and will help to ensure that they meet the baseline through best practice while remaining safe at work.

Combine mediums: Provide practical training, comprehensive materials and a clear process. The process should outline the training delivery model, including the ideas and objectives. Consider the clients you service and the work that your staff carry out to inform how best to deliver training. Often a blended approach is the most appropriate, with a mix of face-to-face, e-learning and workbook training. 

Ongoing training: Offer training when people join the company or a new site and provide refresher training and performance monitoring at regular intervals to meet clients’ expectations and maintain standards. Auditing scores and customer feedback are both good barometers of the success of training and whether a refresher is due. Use competency checks in any areas where there might be a fall in standard and retrain as needed. 

Keep staff confident

Cleaning is not a career that people aspire to; they often fall into cleaning for a variety of reasons. It is an industry where people can feel disengaged and demoralised. 

Standardising processes and tools helps service providers to remove some of the reliance on the expertise, enthusiasm and aptitude of individual supervisors – often with wildly different approaches – to manage their teams.

Cleaning can also be an isolated job. People often work unsocial hours or alone. They may only see their supervisor or team leader occasionally. 

By setting up baseline targets and approaches, staff can improve their knowledge and confidence on the job and also take control of keeping themselves safe while at work.

Baselines help to guarantee consistency across multiple accounts and contracts no matter the configuration of a client site or the number of operatives working there.

Standardisation can drive improvements

It is easier to see where to make sustainable and incremental improvements to service when there’s a baseline comparison; for instance, comparing costs between current processes and new ones. So a service provider could trial the use of specialist equipment and monitor its effect. We recently standardised our chemical range, which led to cost savings and positive feedback from staff and clients.

Be clear about aims

By teaching and reinforcing industry best practice, measuring against agreed KPIs, and keeping focus on that baseline, processes and standards should be the same no matter who the client, the contract or the operative. 

Yvonne Taylor is head of cleaning at OCS