One of the biggest issues that we face as business owners is keeping employees. It’s hard to find great team members, and when you go through the effort to recruit and train them, it’s exhausting to see them walk out the door after a few months. If you operate in a market where there’s very low unemployment, you risk them finding a job that lures them away with a better offer. It’s a matter of supply and demand. If you’re in a location where there’s a large labor pool of people looking for work, you have a bit more leeway.

So how do you keep your employees from leaving you for a better job? These are a few of the key areas you should focus on to retain your staff:

Competitive wages – How much you pay your employees is a question that depends largely on what area you are operating in. As I mentioned before, if you’re working in a place where there’s very few people looking for jobs, you’re going to have to pay more to attract them or to convince them to jump ship from their current gig. You can find out what your competitors are paying for hourly rate by hiring someone to reach out to them to explore working for them.

The reality is that most cleaning business owners have no idea what “the real minimum wage” is.  They think it’s set by the federal government. I’ve got news for you—it’s not. Minimum wage is set by supply and demand. Period. So when you’re boasting that your company pays “above minimum wage” yet your employee turnover is rampant, it’s because you don’t know what the REAL minimum wage is. If people are quitting on you left and right, you haven’t discovered what the real minimum wage is for your area. In other words, you aren’t paying what people are willing to show up for work for. Cleaning is hard work, and you’ve got to entice someone to want to clean toilets and deal with messes. If you expect your staff to drive their own car or use their own gas, there is an even higher “minimum wage threshold” for you. If you pay the same rate or even a little higher as a fast food restaurant where they just have to take orders at a register, you’re not going to have much luck finding candidates and keeping them. Bottom line, don’t think the federal government can set the minimum wage for your company in terms of what will attract the best workers. In most cases “minimum wage” for our industry will be nearly double what the federal government has set as the minimum! I’m not talking about compliance with the law, I’m talking about the pay rate that will attract the cream of the crop in staff that will be loyal to your company, year after year.

Respect – This one almost goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how many employers don’t treat their employees like human beings. Your staff will be loyal to you if they know that you respect them and have their back. Don’t ask them to handle unreasonable requests, like cleaning a two bedroom house in one hour. In fact, the best policy is to never ask your employees to do anything that you wouldn’t want to do. These are the people who are helping you run your business, and mutual respect goes a long way.

Flexibility of schedule – Related to the idea of respect, you should be able to accommodate the occasional schedule change that your employee asks for. Now, I’m not saying that you should bend over backwards and grant every request for schedule shifting that comes your way, but realize that your staff is human, and things crop up in daily life that are unexpected. It’s a fine line that you need to tread here to not be a pushover but to clearly indicate that you are willing to grant schedule changes as needed. Having a clear policy in writing will make it easy for you to know when to say yes and when to say no. Your company policies will be the best guide if you follow them.

Recognition – This one is easy, effective, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Be sure to call out any team member who has done an excellent job or who received compliments from the client. You might even create a monthly contest where your staff competes amongst itself for who can do the best job and receive the most shout-outs. Your recognition can be as simple as announcing in the team meeting that so-and-so did a great job last week. Or you could put up a whiteboard and write in the person as the team member of the week or month. If you’re willing to spend a little money, you could even offer small prizes, like gift certificates to a local restaurant.