The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

‘Let’s Face it, Our Industry Needs To Work On Its Appeal’

‘Let’s Face it, Our Industry Needs to Work on its Appeal’
15 February 2022
 

The cleaning industry is facing a recruitment crisis and it needs an image change, says Dominic Ponniah, CEO of Cleanology.

Cleanology employs over 500 people, providing professional office and commercial cleaning services and property maintenance across London and Manchester.  It’s also an accredited Living Wage employer and a member of the Green Organisation. Ponniah has been nominated as Entrepreneur of The Year within the service industries category in London and East of England, in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2020.

 

Image

Picture: a photograph of Dominic Ponniah. Image Credit: Cleanology

 

The Image of the Cleaning Industry

 

Obviously, the suit and tie brigade will argue that there’s no need to change, but those of us on the sharp end of recruitment are seeing the shape of things to come. The fact is young people are not attracted by our image. And many businesses in the sector are not helping.

The situation was brought home to me recently when Cleanology recruited for a key management role. We interviewed a number of excellent candidates and, while they liked our sustainability, diversity and wellbeing initiatives, I was taken aback to hear five of our applicants say, “I like the company, but the industry isn’t sexy enough.”

Industry figures back this up. According to the British Cleaning Council’s 2020 research, the cleaning, waste management, landscaping and facilities management sectors are set to generate 93,000 new jobs by 2024. However, 29 per cent of vacancies were hard to fill. Cleaning and facilities businesses know that our industry offers great opportunities for progression and competitive pay, so how do we improve our image?

 

"It’s not just about faces in the right places, it’s also about embracing more modern attitudes. Banks, law firms and brokers have all adopted more casual, modern dress, and young people expect a more relaxed approach. This doesn’t mean a fall in professional standards, but a more up to date way of doing business. If we want to attract top-grade young people – with all their enthusiasm and imagination – then complaining that people have left their ties at home will only drive them away."

 

Diversity Improvement Needed in FM

 

The first canary in the mine is diversity. We live in a diverse society, yet this is not reflected in business. According to the McGregor-Smith Review (2017), one in eight of the working-age population are from an ethnic minority background, yet these individuals make up only six per cent of top management positions.

The Parker Review (2016) found that just 85 of the 1,050 director positions in the FTSE 100 are held by directors of colour. Similarly, only 29 per cent of FTSE 100 directorships, and 27 per cent of FTSE 250 directorships are held by women. At Cleanology, we are proud to buck the trend, with a board of seven that includes three women and three BAME directors, but it only takes a visit to one of our industry events to see that the cleaning and facilities sector is lagging behind even wider business when it comes to diversity. In a sector like cleaning, which employs so many BAME and female staff at ground roots, it’s really time we upped our game.

 

Casual, Modern Dress and Leaving the Ties at Home

 

It’s not just about faces in the right places, it’s also about embracing more modern attitudes. Banks, law firms and brokers have all adopted more casual, modern dress, and young people expect a more relaxed approach. This doesn’t mean a fall in professional standards, but a more up to date way of doing business. If we want to attract top-grade young people – with all their enthusiasm and imagination – then complaining that people have left their ties at home will only drive them away.

All this isn’t to say we’re getting everything wrong. Cleaning and facilities management is a great place to be if you are a graduate looking for higher than average pay and great progression opportunities. We have had cleaners and supervisors, with little spoken English, progress to become managers and directors. There’s nothing 'unsexy’ about that! Whereas in the fashion industry, with all its perceived glamour, unless you’re like Naomi Campbell, many roles are based on low pay, long, unsociable hours and menial tasks.

Our biggest challenge is a perceived lack of glamour. But if we shout a bit louder about all the benefits, and work harder to address our shortfalls, we might find the industry becomes a more vibrant, diverse place for us all.

Picture: a photograph of a person cleaning a surface with a cloth and spray cleaner. The person is wearing a protective glove. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Article written by Dominic Ponniah | Published 15 February 2022

Share



Related Articles

World FM Day 2022 – Leading a Sustainable Future 

ThisWeekinFM spoke to several leaders in the FM and built environment space to find out what World FM Day means to them.   Watch the...

 Read Full Article
300 North Partners With Uptree to Promote Young Talent in FM

300 North, the FM recruiter, is partnering with Uptree, a careers education and work experience platform championing diversity, inclusion and equality for all. Uptree...

 Read Full Article
Spotlight Interview – Jenna Pollock

Jenna Pollock is Divisional Director at ABM, responsible for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Jenna has 16 years of experience in the FM industry,...

 Read Full Article
The Problems With Recruitment in the Security Industry

Like many industries, security is currently facing a recruitment crisis. But why is it happening and what can be done about it? Elizabeth Smith, Head of People &...

 Read Full Article
Spotlight Interview – Circular 1 Health

Circular1 Health is a revolutionary testing service company, born out of the COVID-19 crisis, which has responded to critical businesses that need to remain...

 Read Full Article
BCC to Outline Proposals for New Cleaning Sector Apprenticeship

Cleaning and hygiene sector employers, training operatives, providers and assessment organisations are being urgently encouraged to have their say on proposals for an...

 Read Full Article
Spotlight Interview – Shumon Choudhury

In this Spotlight Interview, we speak to Shumon Choudhury, a Residential Property Manager at Lendlease, based in London. Shumon has over 15 years of experience...

 Read Full Article
The British Antarctic Survey – Is this the Coolest Job in Facilities Management?

Most tend to think of facilities management as a job sector based in hospitals, large office buildings or universities – but some FMs work in the coldest and most...

 Read Full Article
The Staff Shortage Crisis – Recruiting and Retaining Cleaning Staff

Amidst national staff shortages in the UK, cleaners and domestic staff are some of the most in-demand. In the week of 23-29 August, there were a total of 1.66 million...

 Read Full Article
How FMs Can Inspire the Next Generation of Talent

As A-Level results are published, the FM sector has an opportunity to capture the interest of the next generation of young leaders. Elizabeth Smith, Head of People...

 Read Full Article