Cleaning Matters to FM

LWC Consultants Ltd is delighted to welcome Martin Pickard,  Managing Director of FM Guru Training and Consultancy, and his blogpost on why cleaning matters to FM.  Your thoughts and comments are very welcome.


Cleaning is one of the services that should rank among the highest of priorities for every facility manager. Every building of any kind, in any sector needs to be properly cleaned for hygiene and safety reasons and to preserve asset value but, often of more importance, for the message that it sends. A clean and well maintained working environment sends a positive message to customers, visitors and to staff.

Reducing dust, improving air quality and minimising the chances of infection has an obvious beneficial impact on sick absence and productivity, and asset values can be adversely affected by poorly maintained condition or by damage caused by an inappropriate cleaning regime. But the impact on reputation and business credibility caused by grubby toilets, scruffy reception areas or a litter strewn car park can place a business permanently in the lower leagues,discouraging new customers and fostering an image of incompetent or careless management.

Despite this,many facilit ies managers pay little or no attention to cleaning activities beyond the passing on of complaints or an annual moan about the cost. Cleaning often takes place outside of normal business hours and the actual cleaning staff and their supervisors are not thought of as part of the facilities management team. Property operators who take this view are missing out on the huge contribution that a great cleaning service can deliver.

These days cleaning activities are widely outsourced as part of a bundle of environmental services that might include sweeping, dusting and vacuuming, washroom and janitorial services, waste collection and recycling. Periodic or specialist cleaning may include windows, carpets, kitchen or computer room deep cleans. Consumables like toilet paper, roller towels, rubbish sacks and personal hygiene services are also commonly included.

This kind of bundling makes perfect sense and a good cleaning manager is perfectly positioned to manage such services on behalf of their client. Cleaning managers need an unusual combination of skills and personal qualities covering the technical aspects of cleaning, a robust understanding of safety and hygiene matters and strong people skills to motivate and manage large teams of front line workers.

However, the continued trend towards the inclusion of cleaning in ever larger bundles of facilities services alongside catering, security, mail, reception and other ‘soft’ services can lead to the dilution of that skilled resource as efficiencies are pursued by the reduction of management and administration levels. The pressure to do this becomes even greater when these ‘soft’ services are combined with ‘hard’ services like M&E, grounds or fabric maintenance in a full facilities management contract.

The temptation to combine management roles is great and there is some merit in the idea. Several of the skills needed by a cleaning manager and a security or catering manager are common requirements especially in areas like leadership and safety. However each discipline requires very real specialist knowledge, the impact of which can be easily underestimated. The impact of this on the quality of cleaning can be easily observed in many FM contracts.

A professional 21st century cleaning service requires a high level of training and expertise in the safe and effective handling of chemicals and equipment. There is also significant potential for negative environmental impact through the use of non biodegradable products or the incorrect handling of waste. Serious damage can be caused to valuable assets by the use of the wrong cleaning methodology. The cleaning manager has to understand the science involved and be up to date with the latest innovations and market offerings.

Despite all the new technology and science involved in modern cleaning it is still a discipline dominated by people factors. There are over 250,000 people employed by the UK cleaning industry most of whom are part time unqualified women. A large percentage of the workforce is migrant workers and a lack of basic skills and language  difficulties are common problems. 83% of cleaning companies employ fewer than 10 people and staff retention is low with some companies reporting turnover rates as high as 90%.

The negative image that many people have about cleaning makes it hard to attract and retain new employees, especially good managers. Leading cleaning companies are working hard to address these issues through investment in training programmes and improved management practice. Facilities management companies and their clients  must do the same or put their whole contract at risk by failing in one of the critical core support services.

Martin Pickard is Managing Director of FM Guru Training and Consultancy who provide advice, support and inspiration to those involve in facilities and property management

This entry was posted on Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 11:01 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Cleaning Matters to FM”

  1. Dave Thompson Says:

    March 13th, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Martin, I find it interesting your comments and concerns follow my blog on Green Cleaning. Green Cleaning is a proactive approach to impact our personal health by reducing the immediate impacts of the products frontline workers use daily. Our education stresses the fact that educated individuals have a Green Certification which they can then be proud of and elevate their position within the community.
    You are so very right as to the need for this type of respect, but it is one our industry as a whole does not understand nor embrace as of yet.

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