A transition to ‘People and Culture’ is needed before HR can benefit business  

An internal barometer of a cleaning company’s capacity to be flexible and to grow, and compete in changing markets is the strength, viability and professionalism of its people. Human Resources acts not as a personnel function but as a 'People and Culture' team influences with success both up and down.

Mark-PortraiBy Mark Helps*

In a low margin competitive industry a typical conversation between a CFO and CEO goes as follows:

The CFO asks: “What happens if we invest in our people and they leave?”

To which the CEO responds: “Well what will happen if we don’t invest in our people and they stay?”

 The Finance question is: “can we afford to spend money on our people?”

The CEO statement is: “you cannot afford not to”

An internal barometer of a cleaning company’s capacity to be flexible and to grow, and compete in changing markets is the strength, viability and professionalism of its people. Human Resources acts not as a personnel function but as a ‘People and Culture’ team influences with success both up and down. It is part of the business contributing to bottom line growth; not just a slave to pens and paper.

The cleaning industry like most is an industry that operates sometimes on threadbare profit margins and the temptation for cleaning companies and cleaning consultants to downplay the ability of a competent Human Resources team (I prefer the new title of ‘People and Culture’) to make value adding contributions is often forgotten.

Many cleaning companies ignore their own customer service sales pitch and run an internal function stuck in a 1960s reactive, personnel proscriptive time warp. The personnel function has modernised from the old days to a professional HR unit and now furthermore to a value adding People and Culture team. And it is the emphasis on culture and people that can turn a business from being a poor performer to an organisation staffed by motivated employees that in turn become your best sales representatives.

Some cleaning companies think they are excluded from such strategic needs when in fact the absence of such strategic internal functions help businesses lose credibility and ultimately market success.

Cleaning is a people business and HR should be at the top end of having skills and resources to influence both management and employees to achieve improved productivity, to reduce disharmony and disputes and to be at the forefront of change and modernisation of the workforce. This is needed in order for the cleaning company to stay competitive in a ruthless commercial world.

The modern ‘People and Culture’ team is a function that knows the business, understands the commercial challenges and motivates staff to achieve better performance and greater loyalty to the firm. HR policies, performance management systems, recruitment, employee relations, workers compensation, health and safety and organisational development are all facets of a broad generalist ‘People and Culture’ team focused upon organisational success and the alignment of corporate values and objectives.

Ideally cleaning companies should have a certified business management system and an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system in place that are re-certified each year. These business systems create the foundation for the business to structure and manage business units, accountability and ensure duties and tasks are completed across the board to best facilitate business requirements.

All companies should provide structure and guidance. All staff should be issued with clear and concise paperwork and expectations of their role which is regularly reviewed. Regular communication with key staff and management ensures this structure is maintained. In the cleaning industry, there is an issue with English not being the first language and this clear and concise communication with all staff give the cleaners the best start to their positions and ongoing, which in turn ensures the best result for the business in regards to customer service.

Companies should also consider a staff engagement program that consists of tenure recognition, acknowledgement of performance; also consider a ‘partnership’ with a charity that includes a staff volunteer program so that your staff’s interaction with you and your company is just not about the work.

Invest in events and benefits that employees will brag about to their friends. You will instil a sense of pride in the company. Consider having regular or random lunches that bring all staff together on all levels. Publicly acknowledge all staff that work above and beyond the call of duty.  Having cleaning staff that are rewarded and recognised from top management creates a wonderful culture.

A happy and productive employee is one that feels valued and recognised. Spending time with staff, giving guidance, boundaries and clear expectations encourage quality performance. Promote your company values, displays these across the office and have management talk about business principals in verbal and written form often.

Staff must be encouraged to participate and contribute to discussions in relation to culture and make it clear that culture is part of their performance reviews. This encourages accountability not only for their day-to-day duties and achievement of operational aspects of their role but that they have a responsibility to the business in relation to culture.

The aim is to make your business stand out from your competitors. To achieve that, you have to help your employees stand out. Your staff is your most valuable asset, and your team will keep adding value once they feel your loyalty is as strong as theirs.

Employers must utilise and embrace ‘People and Culture’ policies to better their workplace, be more involved with their staff, which in turn promotes loyalty, and better workers by default helps your bottom line. Because as we all know, when it comes right down to it, this is a people business.

*Mark Helps is managing director at Consultancy Helps, www.consultancyhelps.com.au 

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