Cleaning - the Overlooked Industry

Cleaning - the Overlooked Industry

By Alf Nathoo BA, Msc(FM), MBIFM, FMCMI, MBIC

We Facilities Managers often overlook the contribution of the cleaning industry and the value of this important FM service. According to one report, contract cleaning (outsourced) generates total sales of an estimated $155 billion globally each year. A report by MarketData Enterprises estimates the current cleaning market in the US at $78 billion. With an estimated 77 billion square feet of commercial floor space in the US, the report estimates a potential commercial cleaning market of $115 billion in the US alone! A recently released report by the British Cleaning Council reveals some other interesting information about the cleaning industry.

The cleaning industry in the UK:

While we do not have such statistics for our region, the trend in the industry is global. The contribution of the cleaning industry is impressive but it still remains a low skill, low morale and low paying industry. Cleaning is also generally not a formal, regulated or a recognised industry with a few exceptions like in the UK. Very often cleaning services are out sourced and FM Managers do not get involved in cleaning staff HR, compensation or welfare issues. However, Facilities Managers can play a vital role in improving the image of the industry and help ensure that the workforce in the cleaning industry have the required skills/qualification, are adequately paid and have the respect that they deserve.

What can we do:

  1. Is your cleaning function an in-house function or outsourced?
  2. What qualification or skill level do you ask for when either employing cleaning staff or in your outsourced contracts?
  3. Have you set a minimum pay and benefit standard for cleaning staff for both in-house and outsourced contracts?
  4. What can you do as a Facilities Manager to improve the morale of and respect for your cleaning staff?
  5. Can you as part of your Corporate Responsibility (CR) or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) help improve the social and economic status of your cleaning staff through initiatives like education and skill improvement programmes?

In the words of philosopher Laozi, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, Facilities Managers need to take the first step in recognising the contribution and value of the overlooked cleaning industry.