Industry Leaders Forum: Bridget Gardner, Director, HPC Solutions

How was 2020 for HPC What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

Despite talking about pandemic preparedness in conferences and training courses over the last few years, nothing prepared me for the impact of this coronavirus. But along with the challenges, 2020 certainly brought some incredible highlights and opportunities.

A personal highlight was being interviewed on Channel 10’s The Project talking about the unsung heroes of COVID-19. Working with the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to develop the Coronavirus (COVID-19) cleaning guidelines for workplaces was another achievement I’m proud of.

For 20 years I have been researching and advocating for evidence-based cleaning for health. It’s been really gratifying to be able to use my knowledge to help the industry and the wider community this year.

For example, when COVID-19 reached Australia back in April, Government information was confusing and even conflicting and there was an urgent need for practical advice.

So, after multiple requests for advice from cleaning companies, I decided to write the Guide to Cleaning for COVID-19. The guide is supported with a suite of seven procedures and tools for putting COVID-Safe plans into practice and is now up to its sixth free update for users.

To be honest, the biggest challenge for me this year has been managing the increased training and consultancy workload and the often-urgent nature of these requests.

What will be the immediate focus for HPC in 2021?

The immediate focus for HPC Solutions in 2021 will be launching our exciting new micro-learning training app, Clean for Success, to add to our three HPC Solutions packages. This is such an innovative system. It got delayed due to COVID, so I’m really excited to be releasing it at last.

How would you rate the industry’s response to the pandemic?

That’s an interesting question. I would have to say very mixed! On the positive side, I saw a renewed focus on the workers who do the cleaning, rather than the software and product innovations that has dominated the story over the last few years.

There’s been a palpable sense of pride in their frontline workers from many cleaning companies, and real concern for their physical and metal welfare.

Judging by the number of Guides we sold, I would say most companies wanted to do the right thing and make sure their cleaning was effective.

Unfortunately, we also saw a rise of ‘COVID cowboys’ – opportunists with zero cleaning industry experience or qualifications, advertising dangerous practices and often charging exorbitant fees for doing so. Such exploitation has been very disappointing as it undermines those that are doing the right thing have earned their ‘stipes’.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the industry over the next 12 months?

The focus on wellbeing and occupant health will continue to be a priority in 2021, however, the biggest challenge for cleaning companies will be dealing with cleaning budgets that have already been spent. We may also see ‘virus fatigue’ with the imperative for continued vigilance and increased high touch point cleaning dropping-off.

A more fluid use of buildings will be another challenge for the industry. Many people will still want to work from home and use workplaces in shifts, and organisations are reducing their office footprint.

All of this will flow-on to cleaning schedules and I anticipate that contracts will start to demand flexible, reactive pricing. Cleaning companies will need to use scheduling software that can respond to the activity in the building.

This is a pivotal time for the cleaning industry. We have a window of opportunity to build on the momentum created by COVID-19 and awareness about the importance of cleaning. HPC Solutions is seeing a renewed interest in skills and training.

Facilities managers are asking about what cleaning qualifications should be specified and what training cleaners should be given. Just look at the appetite for TGA registered disinfectants effective against COVID-19. There’s a real desire for transparency and validation – around both price and methodology.

The challenge will be to educate the building occupier about the extra cost of training, supervision, IT systems and cleaning for infection prevention.

How has the pandemic changed consumer attitude and behaviour in respect to hygiene and cleaning standards?

There has been a huge shift in community attitude. The invisible has become visible. Before COVID-19 I don’t think many people knew what a high touch point (HTP) was, now everyone is an expert! So it’s definitely time to start a conversation about cleaning standards, qualifications and even licensing frameworks to legitimise quality companies and the work cleaners do. Watch this space …

What is one issue the industry should urgently address in 2021?

There’s a lot of fear right now that now needs to be managed. People need confidence that your cleaning products and processes can keep them safe.

But looking like a hero, waving a disinfection gun over every surface of the building, is not the answer. If your client thinks effective cleaning can only be achieved via a product, then the service industry has nothing to sell.

Knowledge is the best antidote to fear and the most effective way to demonstrate your authority and value.

Educate your customers with facts about how well your targeted and proven methods of cleaning and disinfection will mitigate the risk of infection. And promote the value and professionalism of your services via your trained and skilful teams.

What additional advice or guidance do you have for the cleaning community now and after the pandemic?

I predict that the current focus on COVID-Safe cleaning will extend to all aspects of occupant health and wellbeing in 2021 and beyond. High performance cleaning will mean doing more with less, through smart, sustainable, and efficient practices and proven methods.

Investing in the training of your cleaners and supervisors and retaining these skills and IP in your organisation, will be critical.

That’s actually the premise of HPC Solution’s programs: to empower your supervisors to teach your cleaners to deliver high performance cleaning, with step-by-step visual cleaning manuals, e-learning apps and train-the-trainer resources, all customised to your company’s best practices. Pride in cleaning is back again in 2021.

This article first appeared in the January/February issue of INCLEAN magazine

Read the original article here.

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