online training

Harnessing the power of video

Use of online medium as training tool can help reduce worker turnover
Friday, October 9, 2020
Bob Robinson Sr.

Why is it that in the 21st century, mops and buckets are still being used to clean floors despite the fact that these tools are not the most effective?

It’s because of the high turnover rate in the contract cleaning industry. The revolving door of employees prevents building service contractors and facility managers from implementing more modern cleaning methods and technologies, even though they know it could make buildings cleaner and safer while saving millions of dollars.

Negative impact of falling numbers

Employee turnover is the rate at which employees leave a company and are replaced by new hires. For years, building service contractors in the U.S. have experienced turnover rates as high as 300 and 400 per cent, according to the National Service Alliance. This means a single position may need to be filled with three or four different people in the same year, which equates to hiring a new employee every three to four months. While there are no similar statistics available in Canada, it is expected that the numbers are comparable.

Most building service contractors today no longer have the time, nor the ability to afford, the more traditional classroom and one-on-one training programs they once employed. In some cases, all a contractor can do is trust that a new hire has been adequately trained at another company to perform cleaning duties. The takeaway is that the lack of proper and effective training is one of the key reasons the professional cleaning industry has a revolving door of workers.

Even when building service contractors make time to train staff as a group or hire outside help to do so, they often encounter challenges. These include conflicting work schedules that make it hard to schedule training for all workers, language barriers, different learning rates, and reluctance to learn new cleaning methods or use new cleaning tools and equipment.

When training is insufficient, workers often return to old cleaning methods, ignoring what they have been taught. If new cleaning equipment has been introduced, it ends up becoming janitorial closet “artwork,” parked in the back and not used again. On occasions when the “artwork” is utilized, it may not be done so safely or properly. Ultimately, the opportunity to learn updated cleaning methods, which can reduce costs and improve worker effectiveness, is lost.

Tap into the online training portal

To turn this situation around, a different way of thinking is necessary. Thankfully, the internet offers some solutions.

Online training videos provide a powerful resource for the cleaning industry. This enriching medium can be used to train workers in a comprehensive way that can be referenced again and again at any time or place, including on job sites where tasks are to be performed by simply mounting a mobile device to cleaning equipment.

Multiple reports have shown the effectiveness of online videos. One study of business students with highly varied academic abilities and motivation found a large percentage who watched these videos received several learning benefits, including improved topic understanding, better grades, and greater ease of learning. Further, the results revealed that “weaker” students were especially helped, with significantly reduced course withdrawal rates.

This last point is important. In the cleaning industry, course withdrawal rates can be interpreted as cleaning worker turnover rates. So, effectively, if students continued with the course as a result of training videos, the same can be true of cleaning workers staying on the job.

The study, published in the Journal of Information Technology Education, also found that a statistically significant number of students used the videos as a helpful tutoring resource. They liked that they could replay segments of the course and stop the lecture to better understand the content. Students also appreciated that they could skip topic segments they already knew, which in effect adjusted the training speed and topics covered to match their individual learning pace and interests.

The cleaning industry has made several changes over the past decade. When pressured to improve worker productivity and reduce cleaning’s environmental impact, new equipment was introduced to streamline cleaning tasks and new cleaning solutions and procedures were implemented to become eco-friendly. Now, the industry is asking for ways to reduce employee turnover. Onboard training videos may prove to be just the answer.

Bob Robinson Sr. is the CEO and president of Kaivac, developer of the No-Touch and OmniFlex Crossover cleaning systems, and serves on the board of ISSA.

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