Engaging an ageing workforce

Training and communication are key to engaging an ageing workforce, explains Rubbermaid's Daniel Balas,

Training and communication are key to engaging an ageing workforce, explains Daniel Balas, national account manager – Rubbermaid Commercial Products.

Ask any environmental services manager about what keeps them up at night and the answer will most likely be: keeping great staff!  Employee engagement, safety and retention are top of mind for any business where turnover is high and staff prefer to simply leave rather than voice concerns to supervisors.

In the cleaning sector, the work is physically demanding and employees are especially susceptible to repetitive strain injuries. It’s a sector where many workers are older than the average worker and speak English as a second language.

To avoid injury, organisations are now investing in new, more ergonomic and safer technology that makes a huge difference. But training about safe practices is fundamental so staff know how they can avoid injuring themselves and use equipment correctly.

Investing in your staff means more than providing the basics. People feel valued when they are part of the organisation’s success and can see the efforts to provide the best tools, training, support and ongoing feedback. For older employees and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, it’s important to find ways to connect and communicate appropriately and effectively.

When it comes to training, older employees are more likely to engage in a face-to-face education style, visuals with demonstrations or a hands-on approach. A digital training model may suit people in remote locations or people who are confident with a smartphone or digital device.

The intangible advantage that comes with taking time to show someone how to operate a new piece of equipment or step them through a new process is priceless – people know they are valued and can see the investment being made to ensure they are up-to-speed.

The commercial cleaning sector has an ageing workforce. Empowering an ageing workforce needs to be sensitive to the generational and cultural expectations of people who grew up before the digital age accelerated and technology became commonplace and second nature.  Everyone learns differently, so training needs to be flexible to match the end user’s learning style. Not everyone is comfortable with a digital online style of training and communication.

To fully support change, people need meaningful information, hands-on training, user manuals, quick reference guides, high touch point posters and time to adapt that aid the transition to new technology. A genuine and dedicated focus on developing confidence through appropriate and ongoing education is vital.

Everyone needs time to become confident and comfortable with a new way of working. Whether it’s a new IT system or a new cleaning system, changing the way people work and the steps involved can be met with resistance and create challenges for an organisation in terms of productivity, costs and team morale.

Reviewing programmes at regular intervals plays a critical part in staff training, they help you recognise and value your team members creating a culture of open communications. Outcomes of effective performance reviews are beneficial for both staff and business. Also, considering staff feedback, setting up goals and agreeing on outcomes will show organisation’s commitment to meet staff needs.

Workforce acceptance and confidence is crucial otherwise the business goals of workforce productivity, increased cleaning efficacy, lower water usage and improved WHS outcomes cannot be fully realised.

Providing all stakeholders with effective and meaningful training can be the difference between success and failure for a new system implementation. Education and training should be a top priority and an ongoing process, not a one-off ‘set and forget’ task. When staff are engaged, confident and comfortable with a process improvement, the facility will reap the rewards.


This first appeared in the March/April issue of INCLEAN magazine. To subscribe, click here

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