How to train your cleaners

You absolutely have to nail training in order to have a successful business. I can help you improve your training program or implement a program if you don’t have one in place. You need to stop winging it, and start making little changes starting today.

Step 1: Do you have the right new hire?

Training your cleaners is not just about teaching someone how to clean— it’s about identifying whether you hired a rock star or made a mistake in hiring, and then it’s about teaching them.

You’ve got to teach your trainers what to look for. Anyone can put their best foot forward in a job interview, but your trainers are your eyes and ears. Find out what the new employee is like out in the field with their trainer. They think they’re working with a peer, but they’re not, because your training supervisor is an extension of management. Teach your trainers to identify whether you made a hiring mistake after a few days of working with them in the field.

Trainers can alert you to serious problems like drug or alcohol abuse. Is the new employee coming to work stoned or drunk, or are they someone who might steal or who brags about selling pills on the black market. Clearly identify that this is part of the trainer’s job, otherwise they may feel like they’re being a snitch by telling on the new hire. Tell your trainer that you are looking for serious ethical issues that will help you know if you hired the right person.

Step 2: Learn the Speed Cleaning method

Training should focus on improving a few key things: skill and efficiency. The system that has been most successful for my business is Speed Cleaning. This is an internal term; we don’t tell our clients that we train our cleaners to be speed cleaners, we tell them our staff is professionally trained. Speed Cleaning does not mean rushing or hurrying. Speed simply means that someone is fast. You can achieve speed by being efficient; speed is not a dirty word like rushing or hurrying. Your cleaners will be fast because they have a method and routine that they follow. They don’t waste time, which is why they’re fast. Working slowly doesn’t guarantee they’re going to clean better than a person who is quicker.

Speed Cleaning is a method, not a result. There is a formula to follow and train your staff. If you don’t have your own method, you can come up with one or just use the tried-and-true Speed Cleaning method that Jeff Campbell invented many years ago. No one else has put a method together that’s more effective as a fast way to do a top to bottom maintenance cleaning.

Step 3: Focus on technique and less on results

When you implement a training program, you should focus mainly on the trainee’s technique and less on the end results. For example, to focus on results would be to ask the trainee to clean a mirror without streaks and a surface clear of dust. By focusing on technique, we tell them exactly how we want it done. “This is how we clean: we take a microfiber cloth, spritz two sprays onto the cloth, start at the top and work back and forth all the way down.“

Most of your trainers are probably teaching result instead of technique because that’s all they know. When you have a training program, they’ll know the exact technique to use to work efficiently and effectively. Focus on exactly how to do it, step by  step.

To do this, give your new employees a tangible guide, either one you create or the Speed Cleaning for the Pros guide. Give them a guide, let them watch DVDs about the process, and give them a week in the field to work out the technique.

Don’t forget that trainers need to be taught how to teach. Tell them to follow the process and not cut any corners. If you don’t teach them how to train, they’ll just show the trainee how to clean, which does not guarantee speed.

Step 4: Training should be SMART

You’ve heard of SMART goals, right? Your training should be SMART, too. That stands for:

Specific – give specific instruction about what to do. “Make sure no dust is on the table” is not specific. Better to say: “Pick up each item, spray on the cloth, use the cloth to wipe the table.”

Measurable – measure the trainee’s performance at the end of the week with an evaluation form that measures speed, quality, attitude, ability to follow instructions. Have a list of specific things you can measure so that at the end of the training period, you have something in writing that allows you to make a decision on whether you hired a problem child or a rockstar.

Achievable and Realistic – the goals you set for training should be realistic. People get demoralized by goals that are not achievable. Perfection is not possible.

Timebound – your trainee should complete training in about a week. Sometimes people need two weeks. If it’s taking 3-4 weeks then there’s probably a lot of practice that is going on. One to two weeks is all it takes to get someone trained if you have a proper training system in place.

Step 5: Other considerations and questions

You should meet with your trainers often and help them hone their training skills. Don’t just hand them a guide and leave them alone, they need coaching as well.

Here are a few questions I’ve received about training:

How do you turn excellent supervisors into amazing trainers?

You should incentivize your trainers. Sometimes people who are really good at cleaning aren’t naturally trainers. Don’t just give them a raise for being a trainer, or bonus them just during training. Roll this out as a promotion, make it an honor and a privilege with solid compensation. Put into writing what you expect of them, that their responsibility is to follow the system you’ve outlined. My company also has a regular trainers’ meeting where we order in pizza and discuss all things training. People support what they help build.

Is a trainer capable of training two or three people at a time?

If your trainer normally works in teams of two, showing two or three new people the ropes is stressful and none of those new trainees will get individual training. I prefer to give individual one-on-one training for new hires.

Need more tips on training? Check out my Cleaning Business Fundamentals Course. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely business, and very few people can guess their way to success in this business—in fact most people don’t. I highly recommend that you join my 16 week Cleaning Business Fundamentals course to get training, strategy, and weekly answers to your burning questions. 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.