Keep Your Best Cleaners: Retention Boosters for Your Cleaning Company

Published on November 2, 2017

Want to boost your cleaning company’s employee retention?

Imagine a slow trickle of water. It’s going down the sandy beach toward the ocean.

How hard is it to redirect that water?

It only takes you a few minutes to dig a moat and redirect it or force it to pool.

Now imagine a stream, flowing down a mountainside toward a huge lake. We can build a dam or blow up part of the mountain with dynamite and redirect the stream’s flow.

Regardless of the scale of your retention problems, we can fix them. This article will show you how to build a dam to greatly increase employee retention in your cleaning company:

3 Steps to Boost Your Employee Retention

There are three simple steps to retaining the best employees in your cleaning business.

1. Hire the Right People

We want to make sure our source is unpolluted before we start working to keep people. A bad employee’s not worth keeping around.

Check out the seven biggest hiring mistakes cleaning companies make and fix any holes in your hiring process. When you hire correctly, it makes keeping the right people much, much easier.

In general, you want to hire for attitude NOT experience. Anyone can learn to clean. You can teach anyone to clean. You can’t teach a bad employee to have a work ethic or to not steal, etc.

Interview Red Flags:

  • They don’t want you to contact references or don’t give any.
  • They can’t give a plausible reason why they left their last job.
  • They speak negatively of former employers (one day they might be talking about you).

By limiting your pool of new hires to quality candidates, you’ll greatly cut down on the number of people you have to fire because of poor performance.

2. Make Your Company a Place People WANT to Work

This is an issue of culture and every company will be a little different.

But… there are some strategies every company can employ:

Be a Coach, not a Manager

Encourage employees regularly, try to adopt a coaching relationship with employees. Celebrate successes and approach failure as opportunities to improve.

This helps remove the “management versus employees” culture that a lot of companies unintentionally create.

Think of your company as a team and yourself as a coach. You still exercise authority over the team, but a win for the company should feel like a win for the team. This means that company successes should be celebrated the same way you celebrate a game-day victory.

Make people feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. It’s not a job, it’s a mission.

You’ve heard marketing-talk of “selling the benefits, not the features.” That’s also how good owners “sell” working at their company.

Show new hires the difference you make not only in customers’ lives (reduced stress, happier homes, etc.) but also in the community.

Take up a company-sponsored volunteer project, encourage people to work with local charities, organize a food drive that everyone donates to.

Bring your team together, be a coach.

Give ‘em Perks

How do you make your employees love their job? It doesn’t have to be a pay raise. Perks are a great way to keep your cleaning employees loyal.

Examples include:

  • Use of Company Vehicles or Phone
  • Company-provided snacks or water
  • Paying for professional development
  • Paid time off, or opportunity for advancement.

Extra perks will help you attract higher quality candidates, and it will keep your current employees happy, loyal, and invested in the company.

You can also do spontaneous things that create a great culture:

  • Pick up lunch for a random crew, just make sure to cycle around to everybody, and eat with them.
  • Drop by and give out Gatorade or some other treat. This is a great way to make on-site checkups less ominous.
  • Organize karaoke night or go grab a drink with anyone who wants to go after-hours.

All of this helps connect your team as a team rather than just coworkers. When your people like each other and, more importantly, like you, they’re going to work harder and do better work.

Have “Open Door” Policies

Good ideas come from all over. Anyone is capable of producing an idea that’s awesome.

Remind your employees of that and keep your door (and your mind!) open to new ones.

If any employee has a volunteer opportunity that’s appropriate for the whole company, let them lead a team of volunteers to “Save the Whales.”

At Service Autopilot, David Martinez wanted to see other employees happier and healthier, so he started a weekly stretching session with the blessing of our management team.

The company provided yoga mats and some space for the stretchers to use.

This “open door” can extend past cultural stuff into actual workplace decisions. If a cleaner hears about a new product, you want them to tell you. What if it’s great and snuck in under your radar? A cleaner may realize that something “we’ve always done” could actually be done in a more efficient way.

Encourage employees to have ideas and to bring them to you.

You will have to wade through some silly ideas. That’s fine. It’s worth it when a good one comes along.

3. What is the Single Biggest Factor in Employee Retention for any Cleaning Company?

I wish I could tell you perks and culture were enough to keep around the best employees, but then I’d be lying to you and your retention rate would only increase a little and then you wouldn’t ever listen to me again.

Here’s the thing:

People work jobs to make money to provide for their families, support their hobbies, and build a future.

If you pay less than every cleaning company in town, guess what employees you’re going to have? The ones who got rejected by every cleaning company in town.

If your team is awesome (and they are because YOU trained them), they deserve to get compensated fairly.

Know that loyalty to you and liking you and their coworkers can only override their loyalty to their family for so long.

If you want the best employees and you want to keep them around, you HAVE to pay competitively. Bottom line, end of story.

Employees who can make $2.00 an hour more at another cleaning company WILL go make $2.00 an hour more at another cleaning company.

Employees are like clients. You have to find the sweet spot between what they’re willing to do and what you’re willing to do. If you can’t afford to keep good employees, you need to figure out what’s wrong with your pricing. You might need to raise prices to keep better employees.

When considering a raise to keep great cleaners happy, think about how much it would cost to replace them. It makes it a whole lot easier to spend a little more, if it means saving a lot.

Make Your Company Hard to Leave

Follow the advice in this article to create an environment that grabs ahold of great employees and doesn’t let go.

Coach your team so they like AND respect you. It gets the best out of them and helps alleviate the awkwardness of being “over” other people.

Create a culture that includes perks. Find the simple ways to improve employees’ daily lives with your company.

Finally, pay competitively. No amount of perks or respect or loyalty is going to keep an underpaid employee working with you. In fact, bad pay can DESTROY a great cleaner’s morale and turn them into a bad employee. Pay rockstars to keep being rockstars.

These three strategies will greatly reduce your employee turnover, and keep your best employees around much longer.

Related: Need an Employee Handbook? A Simple Guide for Your Cleaning Business


Cody is a copywriter with Service Autopilot. He was writing before he could read, dictating stories to his mom. Of late, he distills business principles and practices learned from his ever-increasing trove of books and his year with SA Support into digestible blog posts designed to provide maximum value to service industry business owners.


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