Tackling Employee Turnover

Slow the revolving door with a systematic approach

Co-authors: Jim Harris, Sr. and Jeff Merrihew

In an industry where turnover rates can exceed 200 percent, the associated financial and organizational challenges are known all too well. The daily trials of coping with staff openings, while ensuring service quality compounded by the demands of recruiting and training new staff, can place a heavy strain on any organization.

High turnover brings with it the burden of replacing employees. The process of finding possible candidates and then qualifying, interviewing, screening, and onboarding, is both human-resources intensive and costly.

All newly hired employees need training. Once initial training is complete, new hires still require time to become familiar and confident in their duties and environments. During this period they are less productive and frequently have a higher deficiency rate. Until the new hire is up to full production, this lower performance places increased workload on existing staff, which can compound the turnover rate as staff becomes frustrated and fatigued.

These historical organizational demands can be minimized through the use of high-performance systems. The structure and standardization fundamental to a successful high-performance cleaning system are effective in limiting staff losses and easing the management of losses that occur. Let’s look at a few ways that having a well-defined service delivery system can help.

Reducing Turnover Rates

Job gratification can play a leading role in retention, providing staff the opportunity to achieve success. Appreciation, personal development, advancement, and accountability are factors that can greatly enhance job satisfaction. These factors are believed to be effective in motivating staff—a principal that is supported by psychologist Frederick Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory.

Disorganized and chaotic service environments usually do not offer motivational opportunities; rather, they can quickly provide frustration and dissatisfaction leading to increased turnover.

The use of a well-documented cleaning system with clearly defined standards provides the structure necessary to enhance job performance, leading to decreased turnover through motivators. Standards within the system define expectations plainly; this universal understanding allows staff to be held accountable for the performance of required work. This accountability provides the opportunity to succeed by meeting the clearly defined standards.

Repeated success provides for feelings of appreciation and value, which frequently lead down a path toward increased personal development. The same system and standards also provide the road map to follow towards continued personal growth through advancement opportunities and ongoing motivators.

Effectively Managing Turnover and Onboarding

Turnover is an inevitable part of our industry. The bulk of positions are entry level or second jobs. However, turnover must be effectively managed to maintain quality of service and budgetary responsibility.

The establishment of a high-performance cleaning system can ease the demands associated with bringing replacement staff to optimal productivity. This is accomplished by limiting assigned tasks for greater proficiency. In a high-performance cleaning system, such as team cleaning, duties are separated into like groupings and assigned to specialists. The service areas are then broken down into clearly defined sections, allowing for balanced workflow.

All performance information is documented on job cards. The job card provides each specialist with detailed instructions: areas to service, tasks to perform, when to perform the task, and how long it will take. So what will this do to reduce the demands placed on an organization by turnover?

First, the grouping of like tasks to specialists reduces the number of tasks a new staff member must learn. For example, when dealing with zone cleaning, one staff member may need to learn 20 or more individual tasks, while when dealing with team cleaning, a vacuum specialist may only be required to learn four or five tasks before achieving full productivity in a very short period of time.

Second, the job card, which serves as a guide, is the instruction sheet and the map that guides each specialist through his/her assigned duties. Rather than new staff guessing what needs to be done, the best path to follow, or requiring an experienced staffer to guide the way, the job card precisely sets the path.

Third, the new specialist is supported by a well-designed system with checks built in to prevent tasks from being overlooked or missed.

Investing in a Process

The benefits of utilizing a well-structured, standardized cleaning system to combat the challenges associated with turnover are apparent. Organizational time and effort invested to develop or refine your service delivery system will payback handsomely as the demands from turnover go from an unmanageable monster to a well-defined organizational process.


Jim Harris, Sr is founder & CEO of Concepts4 cleaning consultants. He can be reached at jim@teamcleaning.com. Jeff Merrihew is a Senior Consultant & technical advisor with Concepts4 & can be reached at jeffm@teamcleaning.com.

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