Talented staff – once you’ve got them, how to keep them.

Thursday, February 16, 2017
There’s no greater asset to a cleaning business than its people. Having searched for the right balance of skills and talents in your staff, like any valuable investment, they require attention and care to maintain the high standard of performance that they provide. Without it, your business would not be able to meet and exceed its customers’ needs and the expectations of their markets. 
However, finding and hiring the people you need is only the beginning of the task. To be sure of long-term success and stability, you also need a strategy that will enable you to retain the services of the people whose abilities become vital to your profitability and reputation. This is particularly important in the cleaning industry, which has a reputation for rapid turnover of staff, with all the additional costs and risks of poor continuity of service that this brings.
Responsibility, recognition and achievement 
Retaining key staff involves more than a generous reward package and offering a raft of incentives. The working environment and culture plays a significant part as well; your business needs to challenge and provide opportunities for talented people to shine, be creative and take responsibility.
Employee loyalty is driven by professional accomplishments and by the knowledge that what they are achieving is important to, and valued by, their employer. A business will gain because intelligent people feel secure and valued. Furthermore, they will use their abilities to influence, shape and create sales and marketing strategies that will give the business an edge over its competitors.
Historically in the cleaning industry, the deliberate and integrated practice of staff training and development has been limited. Now with changing attitudes and more competition, the value of continuous professional development is more widely understood and embraced. This is evolving into more than just having work experience to ‘move up a level’ but instead having access to new experiences, including a strong knowledge management culture. An increasingly digitised approach to business also means having to keep abreast of new ways of managing service delivery and administration. Nothing paralyses a business more than adhering to the ‘way we’ve always done it’. 
It’s also worth creating a clear path of advancement, therefore employees who have the talent and dedication move forward, playing a part in the company’s progression as well as their own. There’s nothing quite so frustrating professionally as a stagnant career. With this in mind, the reassurance of being promoted purely on merit and value to the company might encourage healthy competition between employees. It promotes a culture of wanting to excel, therefore the standard of performance is further raised in the pursuit of continuous improvement. 
It’s also worth sharing the company mission and goals with employees – let them in on the wider perspective on the aspirations for future development of the company. Being privy to this information encourages a vested interest in the big picture that they are helping to build. If it is a healthy organisation, with positive business goals and internal culture, contented staff tend to spread the word about their positive work experiences. This provides some free brand reinforcement about the company, it’s a win-win situation.
Transparency and accessibility
According to the Employers of Choice website, there are six key qualities that a company must have to attract the brightest and best candidates at all levels of the organisation. They are: 
1. Caring about people to ensure that they feel valued, respected and appreciated
2. Honesty and fairness to build mutual trust and respect
3. Open communication to make possible a positive, productive environment
4. Involving people to strengthen their commitment to successful outcomes
5. Coaching and assisting people to achieve their potential 
6. Ethical practice to reinforce belief in the organisation
It is no coincidence that some of the best-performing companies in the FTSE Top 100, are known for their dedication to their employees. One of the most successful elements of success include communication at all levels of the business to foster an accessible company culture. How often have we heard the expression ‘the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing’? Constant, regular discussion between managers and their teams and between people in different areas of the business is essential to make this happen; it helps to dispel the customary distance and grumbling that results from a lack of inter- departmental cooperation. If everybody knows everybody else, and is accustomed to working to common strategies, (for example, purchasing and production, or sales and customer services) is a great tool in the company cultural arsenal. It reduces the risk of internal division and helps to create a seamless, more professional service. 
Mentor rather than manage
Companies do well to discuss progress with individual employees. It encourages trust and loyalty to be open in their appraisals, acknowledging employee contributions and ideas suggested for the benefit of the company’s progress. 
Even those employees that show drive and initiative need mentoring, maybe more so than ‘managing’. Professional growth is better enabled by taking an active interest to help those employees realise their ideas and initiative to their full potential. When applied in tandem with goals and measurable targets, it provides a means by which the employees’ development can be gauged. 
Employees benefit in the long run if they care for and promote their employer’s brand, fostering awareness of the benefits and prestige of working for the company. If a company is widely respected as an ethical, fair and honest employer, the high calibre staff it needs for success will be found.
Talent retention is achieved by finding the right balance between managing employee expectation and performance, while knowing how and when to let them to spread their wings to their full potential. As employers, investing in a new team member brings with it the responsibility of protecting that investment and helping it to grow. Without support, motivation and positive input, your best employees may look elsewhere to share their talents.
This article was first published in Tomorrow's Cleaning.