Industry Leaders Forum: Matt Marsh, Sebastian Property Services

Matt Marsh, Managing Director, Sebastian Property Services

How was 2021 for Sebastian Property Services? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

2021 was a challenge to keep staff motivated and navigating an ever-changing landscape, we were even more so challenged in staying consistent with our business plans but with these challenges, we experienced many highlights that make us a stronger cleaning company for being able to:

  • Navigate changes quickly, to support and educate our clients.
  • Retaine a large majority of our staff through effective communication, training.
  • Provide a positive experience for our clients in being able to consistently deliver our services.
  • Increase employee training for improved awareness.
  • Highlight the need for more advanced equipment.
  • Highlight the need for our eco-conscious cleaning
  • Improved communication and education for our clients.

Is there an achievement that you’re particularly proud of from the past 12 months?

At Sebastian Property Services we are focused heavily on following best practice and as part of that this best practice we have taken direction and attended many webinars from ISSA including around COVID-19 Compliant cleaning. This has allowed us to implement strategies that are cost effective and achieve the desired results needed for our clients.

Sebastian Property Services also are proud of taking a pro-active approach to mental wellbeing at work and at home, by investing on online workshops (in person when allowed) and training delivered by Holistic Growth Solutions Consultancy services.

We had very high retention rate in staff, they educated each other in doing wellbeing checks with themselves and our clients. This had an overall positive effect on productivity and found our team were able to quickly adapt to a changing landscape and educate our clients on COVID safe cleaning and plans.

What will be the immediate focus for Sebastian Property Services in 2022?

The immediate focus of Sebastian Property Services in 2022 is to take the learnings of the last few years, the education programs delivered to our team and passing these on directly to our employee’s stakeholders and clients.

A significant part of our focus in 2021 has been to become the first cleaning company in Australia to be accredited with the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) and Certification Program. CIMS applies to management, operations, performance systems and processes.

Compliance with the standard demonstrates an organisation is structured to deliver consistent, quality services that are designed to meet customers’ needs and expectations. It sets forth processes, procedure and supporting documentation proven to be characteristic of customer driven organisations.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the wider industry in 2022?

Staffing, productivity, and safety.

Staffing – Commercial cleaning companies will spend a significant amount of time and resources hiring their employees. The more turnover a cleaning business experiences; the more costly hiring is to become. Staff can literally make or break a commercial cleaning business, so hiring the right employees, with the right onboarding and training will be vital ensure retention.

We believe that staffing is going to be the biggest challenge, our ability to staff up and down has become very challenging. Sebastian Property Services are looking forward to welcoming international students and working visa holders back.

Productivity The industry has seen a major shift in customer expectations when it comes to cleanliness but to ensure commercial cleaning companies can remain profitable, without impacting our service or service efficiency, we will need to focus on investing in the right cleaning technologies and improve cleaning service delivery models.

Safety – Slips, trips, and falls are the most common types of issues in the commercial and industrial facilities, the responsibility sits with the cleaning staff, as we return to higher occupancy of buildings consistent training is going to be biggest challenge.

Sebastian Property Services has for some time now implemented weekly toolbox talks and regular training to ensure that safety is always at the forefront of our cleaning staffs minds when carrying out their daily cleaning duties.

How has the public’s expectations of ‘clean’ changed as a result of the pandemic?

While COVID-19 has taught everyone the importance of cleaning surroundings, people have become a lot more sceptical and demanding about the cleanliness of the spaces they work, live and frequent in.

Cleaning needs to be more visible; clients and visitors find it more reassuring to see touch points disinfected between interactions. Our client’s feedback to us that this leaves a positive impression and shows that health and safety is being taken seriously.

What impact will these new expectations have on BSCs, in terms of cleaning standards and processes, in 2022?

As we emerge out of COVID lockdown, the expectations will be very high, cleaning companies will always ahead of the game and management, filtering down learnings to the cleaning staff, it will be important that everyone in the company is on the same page.

Sebastian Property Services sees the CIMS accreditation being vital part of supporting cleaning standards and processes in 2022 in delivering the right level of quality services to our clients.

What is one issue in the cleaning industry that you would like to see addressed?

Greater government engagement and support regarding our labour force, encouragement of our labour force, support for labour complaint providers in general addressing the needs for cleaning suppliers, so we can meet the client requirements, and finally relaxing of the rules of international permit workers to address staffing shortages in the cleaning industry. . .

Looking ahead to 2022, what advice would you give to fellow leaders in the cleaning industry? 

Put people first, ensuring that employees are property training and equipped to handle the changing landscape and invest heavily in their wellbeing.

The ability to remain agile is going to incredibly vital in 2022. Being prepared to adapt, allow, and respond to government and hence client needs is still paramount.

Using the right technology, software and cleaning management processes are all going to be vital in keeping the lines of effective communication open with clients and a good service outcome.

Finally, as an industry we now have a unique opportunity to engage with government and clients as to how we deliver as a cleaning industry, what we need in the way of government support to do so, including how we educate and upskill our teams.

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

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