With constant pressure to maintain service levels and ever-rising client expectations, the contract cleaning sector is a fiercely competitive market. The added pressures of Brexit, and squeezed profit

margins, threaten to stifle the industry’s growth. Here, Jan-Hein Hemke, MD of Facilicom UK, discusses the challenges the sector currently faces, and shares his thoughts on how to weather the storm.

be disrupted, and prices of imported raw materials and goods could soar.

Increasing goods and labour charges put significant pressure on profit margins. With staff wages accounting for a significant proportion of a cleaning company’s operational outgoings, rises in the national minimum wage could hit the bottom line hard when combined with increased operational costs.

Turning challenges into opportunities Although rising costs sound problematic, signing up to paying a fair wage can actually be beneficial for business. As one of the first national contract cleaning providers to sign up to the Living Wage Service Provider Recognition Scheme, we have seen first-hand the positive impact that this can have on an employee’s wellbeing and commitment. In turn, it increases their loyalty to your business, supporting the retention of staff and improving service levels, ultimately helping your business to grow.

Brexit concerns The cleaning industry employs more than 500,000 people in the UK alone and many of these are EU nationals. In fact, a recent ONS study showed that around 25% of cleaning staff in the UK don’t have British nationality. Their hard work and commitment are extremely important for the resilience of the industry.

However, there are major concerns that Brexit could have a detrimental impact on the labour market, particularly if restrictions are imposed on migrant workers entering the UK. Companies that rely on non-British nationals could find themselves with a smaller workforce, and may also struggle to secure new employees. Only time will tell whether the government will continue with EU free movement as part of a new trade deal. If it manages to retain the current agreement, the damage may not be as significant as we fear.

Rising costs Another impact of Brexit could be restrictions on the movement of goods. Theresa May stated that she was keen to maintain trade between the UK and EU, but with her successor now in place, we can’t rule out a no deal Brexit. If we leave without a deal, the supply chain could


We may not be able to predict exactly what a post-Brexit industry might look like, but we can ensure that we equip our employees with the skills to adapt and thrive in the ever-changing market. To make sure we can consistently exceed client expectations, we gear our training to both the operational excellence and the social aspect of the job. We offer each of our colleagues coaching in ‘Hostmanship’ - the art of making people feel welcome.

This training goes above and beyond the basic skills required to deliver the job. It enables our teams to add significant value to our clients. Good Hostmanship encompasses aspects such as customer care, quality, friendship and hospitality. It begins with a welcoming and open attitude to the people and situations we encounter, and can be as simple as assisting with directions, running the reception desk, or even just offering a friendly smile.

By developing and honing colleagues’ interpersonal skills, a caring, yet professional, approach is introduced to our work. In return, colleagues are more motivated and committed to their tasks, have a better understanding of a client’s needs, and are more likely to be proactive, rather than simply doing the minimum amount of work required.

If we can make our cleaning teams indispensable, by training them to deliver added-value services, we can safeguard contracts and protect our business, during what may be a turbulent few years.

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