Dealing with the Current Janitor Shortage: 3 Ways to Improve Performance and Retention

Retention and hiring of janitorial staff is as difficult as it has ever been. With large numbers opting out of the workforce, many unwilling to come back after being let go during the pandemic and increased competition for qualified labor with other higher paying job sectors, it's more important than ever to retain the top performers you have and improve the efficiency that affects performance.

Schools Are Struggling to Meet New Health, Safety and Cleaning Demands

While this janitorial shortage has impacted all industries, we are seeing the heightened impact it has had on education particularly in K-12 environments. From hiring students to do cleaning work to moving to outside contractors, school districts are being flexible in their quest to keep their schools healthy and clean.

Facilities leaders at school districts are experiencing heightened expectations for the school environments they provide to teachers, students and staff due to COVID-19. With every school back in-person, they are dealing with these expectations while understanding the importance of facilities and cleaning on educational performance.

Why Are Janitors Hard To Find?

There are a number of reasons why finding and keeping janitorial or custodial team members is so difficult in this environment. And it usually falls into a few buckets:

  • Higher Paying Jobs / Competition: There is more competition than ever for talent. Amazon, warehousing, gig economy and higher paying hourly work provide alternatives for these workers with potentially more flexibility and higher pay.
  • Opting Out: COVID displaced a lot of workers including many custodial workers at schools that were not being attended in person. Many of these workers were reluctant to go back to this environment or already found work elsewhere.
  • Health Concerns: Going back into these environments were tough for some that had health concerns with COVID and other ailments that prevented them from going back to the school environments.
  • Recognition & Appreciation: While we have seen movement here especially with COVID highlighting the impact of cleanliness, it often is a thankless job in many respects even though it's integral to running a productive school.

While there are other reasons for the janitorial shortage in schools, the fact is that janitorial retention is a top priority for most facilities leaders at school districts across the country.

So how do we attract and retain our best janitorial talent at our schools.

3 Ways to Improve Janitorial Staff Retention and Performance

To combat smaller teams and higher standards, school districts are looking for ways to improve efficiency, better train employees and rewards employees to encourage them to stick around.

Here's a few ways our customers are optimizing their custodial operations.

1. Real-Time and CrowdSourced Occupant and Janitorial Team Feedback 

Janitorial staff gets pulled into a lot of activities outside their normal job duties every day. They receive requests from principals, teachers and staff to help with equipment, extra cleanings and other tasks in addition to their normal cleaning rounds.

Most of these activities are never tracked and occupant requests are never logged and centralized. The problem with this is that it greatly affects the schools facilities leadership to plan and allocate resources properly in the school district.

Forward-thinking school districts are using digital cleaning tools and mobile apps for occupants to easily submit service and cleaning requests and for janitorial staff to document all the work they are doing in the school. This is providing a real-time audit trail of all cleanings for better management of custodial operations and performance tracking of janitorial staff.

2. Performance Based Rewards and Recognition Programs

Pay raises and reward bonuses are being used as incentives to better attract and retain custodial team members. The question is how to measure and determine top performers on your teams?

We have seen many school districts move toward using digital validation tools as the basis for launching performance based incentives plans for custodial staff. Tracking daily cleanings and other work they do on a daily basis provides a level playing field for determining promotions, pay raises and bonuses. Adding in quality assurance data entered by managers and you are able to centrally track performance for quantity and quality of cleaning.

We have also seen this information used to promote team members to team leads to help with training, quality control and resource planning on site.

3. Time and Management Savings and Staff 

Everyday custodial work is difficult and managing large teams across multiple buildings can be difficult. There is nothing more demoralizing for a custodial staff member who needs help but has no way to let their manager know. Or a manager who has to travel to all locations when his or her supervision is not needed.

The value of digital tools is that they can provide a real-time cleaning and facilities analytics dashboard of every cleaning that is happening across your teams and portfolio. It provides a heat map of where to spend management time, where to deploy extra resources and quickly identify problems before they start. By spending time in the right places, team members will feel more supported and team resources will be deployed in the way that helps the teams the most.

Meaningful Recognition and Validated Work is Critical

Retaining staff all starts with the data foundation for your employees to prove their hard work and your managers to use to best manage the day to day.

As an employer, you want to make sure the work you are paying for is being done. If you don't have this data every day, it's hard to determine what to do with your team in terms of incentives or rewards.

For team members, they want to be recognized for their hard work. This can be more responsibility, pay raises or bonuses for the work they prove with the data.

Get the data first and then use it to reward and most importantly retain your top performers.

Janitor Shortage Custodial Shortage Janitor Retention Janitorial Performance Janitorial Operations


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