New employee isn’t making an effort. Keep training? Or cut loose?

I recently was asked by a cleaning business owner what to do about an employee who sits on the floor while she cleans. For one thing, this does not look good to the customer if they come home and find their cleaners sitting around. For another, the cleaner is not being as efficient as possible by working from a sitting position.

Your best bet is to have a training program that specifically outlines exactly how to clean. If you don’t have a specific system that you’ve trained your staff, then anything goes. It’s harder to get rid of someone who’s sitting while cleaning if your training program hasn’t outlined exactly how to clean.

If you taught your team how to speed clean, then it’s crystal clear that they’re not following the program because they’d be standing, reaching, and bending over. If someone is sitting down, they’re wasting time. They might not have the stamina for this job, so you can start them with smaller houses while they work up to it. But they must follow your procedures and instructions. It’s probably not a good sign if they can’t physically stand to clean. People will build up more stamina over time, so you could keep their schedule light while they work up to it, but be careful about investing time in the wrong employee.

You’ve got to go with your gut if you need to get rid of someone. They can’t go rogue, they must follow the instructions you give them.

But how long should you wait before you make the call? My philosophy is that if you’re seeing incremental progress and a good attitude, you should keep working with them. If their progress isn’t consistent (they have a good day, then a bad day, then another good day, then a bad day), watch out. I don’t have a problem giving an extra few days of training to someone whose progress continually improves (and has a good attitude). If they can’t learn the job in 2 weeks, then something’s wrong.

I’ve been in this business for 35 years and I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen trainees who hit the ground running doing a fabulous job, quick, efficient, high quality, with a good attitude, and then they slack off and let their guard down. If this happens, you should bring them in and address complaints as they come up. Don’t let issues pile up— talk to them each time one comes in. Let them know that they’re on probation, that they’re no longer earning paid time off, that they must call you to check in and out of each house. Don’t let their behavior slide—stay right on it like a tick on a dog.

Here’s a great example of someone who made consistent progress and who’s still with me 22 years later—my office manager! When she first started out, she was cleaning houses and getting a lot of complaints. Only the complaints weren’t the same each time. Every time one came in, we addressed it, and I never got a complaint again about that particular issue. First it was sticky floors, then it was smeary or streaky floors, then it was complaints about dusting. One by one, we worked through these issues through conversations, coaching, and mentoring. She stopped getting complaints. The main issue there was that we had pretty crummy training back then— maybe a day of training—and she had to basically learn the job as she went along.

But the bottom line is, don’t wait too long to fire someone who isn’t trying or has a bad attitude.

This is just a sample of the kind of help I can offer in my 16 week Cleaning Business Fundamentals course. For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss whether my course is a good fit for you, simply fill out my owner’s survey and I’ll be in touch to set up a time to talk.

Also, spots are filling up fast for my June 23 & 24 Speed Cleaning for the Pros session. Reserve your spot today!

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