As a facility or property manager, you are constantly under pressure to do more, with less. What else is new! Controlling costs is one of the most critical challenges in building maintenance. So, when a cleaning or facility management company gives you a price that “you can’t refuse”, what’s at risk?

Unfortunately, a lot. A contract with a price that seems almost too good to be true may provide short term savings, but over the long term, could have serious implications on cleaning quality, consistency—even your reputation. Plus, if you are locked into a less than desirable contract, there may be nothing you can do about it.

Efficiencies versus cutting corners

Let’s assume that you need to outsource a facility maintenance or commercial cleaning company. How do you know you’ve picked the right partner?

The price is a major consideration. So you look for vendors that offer efficiencies, such as new ways of working leaner. Perhaps the company has invested in equipment that reduces the cleaning time. That is a good sign.

But there is a difference between finding efficiencies and cutting corners. Determining which is which requires transparency. You want to be able to see what work is going to be done, how issues around quality are going to be flagged and resolved, and most of all, where arethose cost savings? If they show up in areas that jeopardize the health and safety of employees and/or the overall quality of the services, you need to re-consider your decision.

Contract Signing

Picking a vendor for the right reasons

Be methodical about how you consider each vendor, and make sure you adequately answer these four critical questions:

1. Does the vendor adhere to Occupational Health & Safety Standards?

Workers in Canada and the United States benefit from high standards regarding their health and safety. These are provided in the USA under OSHA, and in Canada, under OHS. As a responsible employer, you need to make sure your supplier is working to these standards.

The kinds of practices and requirements governed by North American health and safety standards include:

  1. Material Safety Data Sheets for hazardous cleaning chemicals used in your facility
  2. Training for all workers on safe working practices, including OSHA info sheets on all chemicals used in the workplace
  3. Requirements for proper protective equipment, e.g. safety glasses, proper gloves, etc.
  4. Processes and a system for ensuring that all workers and supervisors have completed health and safety training, which includes their rights, roles and responsibilities in keeping workplaces safe and healthy
  5. The right for an employee to refuse work if they believes work is unsafe

So, is this cleaning company certified in health and safety?

The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) provides a five-part certification program known as the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS). This standard includes a thorough explanation of health, safety, and environmental stewardship requirements for companies that wish to obtain the certification.

Companies that adhere to the above list are CIMS certified. All you need to do is check!

“Facility managers and others responsible for selecting a cleaning service provider can gain an increased level of confidence in their contractor by using CIMS and CIMS-Green Building as a powerful pre-qualification tool.” ISSA

2. What does employee retention tell you about the company’s hiring practices and overall employment standards?

The turnover rate in the janitorial and cleaning industry is very high (between 200% –  400%). Recruitment and retention are at the top of list in terms of issues. Employees typically work alone and/or at night, and earn low wages. There often is a lack of good communication, training opportunities, or a working culture that keeps employees engaged. As a result, staff typically leave when something else comes along.

The above realiaty has specific consequences for the facility manager. High staff turnover at your vendor’s company leads to:

  • Inconsistency in services because of lack of employee commitment or training
  • Increase in fees to cover the increase in recruitment costs
  • Safety issues caused by a lack of training or onboarding, and lack of commitment by worker

Ask about turnover rates. If the company is proud of some longer term employees, that is a good sign! In addition, don’t be shy about finding out how much they pay their workers. Companies priced lower than the competition typically are getting away with lower wages. If this is the case, you know that turnover is going to be high.

Other employee benefits to ask about:

  • A good onboarding program, which includes thorough training on company policies, health and safety, workplace safety and policies and procedures.
  • Ongoing programs that keep employees engaged , such as industry recognized certification training, and incentive programs that encourage engagement in company culture.

3. Are Hiring Practices Legitimate?

It may seem obvious, but you want to make sure your partner is legitimate in their hiring practices. If the company is audited and found to be not in compliance with their employment standards, this could have a serious impact on your service agreement. Don’t be in the dark about the following

  • Does the provider do sufficient background checks on their employees from a security perspective and immigration status perspective?
  • Are any of their employees working illegally?
  • Have any temporary visas run out?

For US companies, this is increasingly a serious concern. In recent years, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has significantly escalated worksite enforcement. In 2017, former ICE Acting Director, Thomas Homan, instructed the Homeland Security Inspections unit (HSI) to potentially quintuple worksite enforcement actions in the following year, targeting both employers and employees.

The organization followed through with this commitment. Investigations more than doubled in a few months. By the end of U.S. fiscal year 2017, ICE had conducted 1,360 audits, opened 1,716 worksite investigations, and made about 300 arrests. Businesses were ordered to pay US$97.6 million in judicial forfeiture, fines, restitution, and $7.8 million in civil fines. In comparison, just in the first seven months of fiscal year 2018, ICE opened 3,510 investigations and initiated 2,282 I-9 audits.

In Canada, there is growing awareness of labour trafficking and the exploitation of undocumented workers. Much of this can be traced to the number of so called “recruiters” and “immigration consultants” who earn millions each year by charging predatory illegal fees to workers with the promise of a job and perhaps permanent residence in Canada. As complaints about illegal hiring practices and the violation of employment standards rise in provinces such as Ontario, so do demands  from those in government, business and labour law for increased penalties directed at employers that violate the law. (Don’t be one of these!)

4. What systems and processes are in place that guarantees some kind of quality assurance?

A minor correction to how something is cleaned is an easy fix, but what if there’s a serious issue with the overall quality?

Ask about processes in place that monitor how the services you are paying for are being done, and the consequences if something has not been completed properly. This is usually reflected in the channels of communication established right from the beginning. You need to know the names of the facility manager, and the person responsible for how quality is being monitored. It is also recommended that you ask about the following:

  • Checklists completed at the end of each day for work done and inspected for quality
  • Cleaning schedules that indicate when and who completed the tasks
  • Inspection reports and audits that are provided either weekly or monthly to show all the various areas of the building and the work that was completed
  • Change in supervisory staff so you know who to contact if there is an issue

Are you ready to outsource your cleaning vendors? Fortunately, there are ways to separate out companies that are cutting corners in ways that could negatively impact your business.Yes, it might mean that you pay slightly more, but you’ll see the results in higher quality of work and consistency of the service.

At Kleenway our goal is to improve productivity, reduce liability and create a better environment for you and your stakeholders. If you’d like speak to one of our team members about our commercial cleaning and janitorial services please call 1-888-638-5587 or email [email protected]