Derailing the productivity train

Training is crucial to achieve consistently high cleaning performance and productivity. So, it’s disturbing that many managers and supervisors seem not to recognise its value, says James White, MD of Denis Rawlins Ltd.

The other complaint that’s often heard from senior managers is that people – and especially, the young – have an attitude problem. “They’re just not interested, no work ethic or pride in their work.”

That may well be true in some cases, but I think there is an attitude problem that stems from higher up the tree in many organisations, and it’s to do with training. The role and importance of training is undervalued by many – managers and supervisors included.

Training is not just essential to get the most out of your investment in innovative equipment and cleaning spend, as well as

Britain has a problem – aside from the political paralysis of Brexit, that is. And it’s a weakness that will continue to afflict UK PLC whether it’s inside the EU or out.

That problem is productivity. Ours has been lagging behind that of our economic competitors, old and new, for some considerable time. There are various theories for why our output per worker isn’t growing, but a core factor in driving productivity is investment.

This productivity challenge applies to the services sector as well as manufacturing and others, such as construction. So, it’s about investment not just in plant and equipment – and software and new technologies – but also investment in people.

For some time, we as a company have been beating the drum for investment in innovative and more effective cleaning equipment and techniques. That’s why we redefined ‘RoI’ to mean ‘return on innovation’. Not investment in new tech for the sake of it – but calculated spending based on measurable results, and the greater returns that come from more efficient and effective cleaning methods.

When this involves replacing a labour-intensive approach like hand mopping, then the boost in productivity – given that labour makes up the lion’s share of cleaning budgets – is significant. It’s a game changer in itself.

So much for capital expenditure, but what about the human capital? The people dimension of productivity is often overlooked, especially in our industry.

Cleaning faces its own particular challenges given our sector is characterised largely by outsourced, competitively tendered contracts, low-skilled labour doing what’s seen as menial work for low wages, consequent problems motivating and managing workers, and high rates of staff turnover.


ensuring consistently high standards; that’s why we offer free training on all equipment and processes we supply.

Another reason why training is so important is that it can motivate staff, contribute to the more professional service we all should be trying to project for our industry, and it boosts productivity too. And remember: it’s productivity that pays for higher wages.

Why do I believe that training is under-valued? Some companies clearly do understand the need for commitment to training and development at every level of the organisation, but it seems they are in a minority.

When training operatives, it’s essential to train the trainers and overseers too, if the impact on competency is to be sustainable. We encourage cleaning managers and supervisors to attend our training sessions, not least so they are able to induct new recruits in proper cleaning and equipment maintenance procedures.

Our trainers travel the country, often providing the training late at night or in the early hours of the day to fit in with cleaning schedules. When managers or supervisors don’t show for a training session – or can’t spare the time to stay – it sends a signal that they consider themselves (or other things) too important to be there.

If their superiors aren’t seen to be committed to training and nurturing the highest levels of competence, why should the cleaners bother?

It might be argued that if we charged for training, managers and supervisors would value it more. Perhaps. But training – in other areas too, such as hygiene testing – should be valued in its own right. And for its impact on cleanliness, morale, professionalism, return on innovation, and yes, productivity.

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