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How to Keep and Motivate Low Paid Staff

An ex-Premier League Manager once struggled to emotionally connect with his football team. They were under-performing, and their results were suffering. There was no loyalty, and no ‘need to achieve’ among the team. He was quoted as saying “How do I motivate 11 millionaires?” And it’s a fair point. Equally, with low paid workers, a similar scenario exists but for the opposite reason.

How do you motivate lowly paid staff, when market forces dictate their salaries?

Low paid workers have to be motivated to do more than just show up and go through the actions – or else they’ll jump ship at the promise of an extra 20p per hour.

Our task at Spotless Commercial Cleaning is all about keeping the cleaning staff engaged and on board. Our clients want great cleaners who will stay for years. And it’s good for us as employers.

Cleaners chat on the buses, and they compare notes. It’s actually a great recruitment ground. We want our staff to say “Yes, you should work at Spotless, they’re good to their staff”.

So what do we do at Spotless that makes us different and helps to motivate our staff?


Here are 5 tips for keeping and motivating low paid staff:


1.    Let them ‘feel the love’

The temptation among cleaning companies is to view their staff as commodities. But when you show warmth and appreciation to them, it changes everything.

Cleaning staff have been used to being treated as a number, with a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude by their employers. So when they are treated with respect and courtesy, they’ll immediately respond in kind.


2.    Give recognition and reward

Three Directors in Spotless were originally cleaning staff, but came through the ranks to take charge of multi-million pound divisions.

Along the journey of their many promotions they were recognised and rewarded. This happens many times every day in Spotless.

Cleaning staff often get unfairly blamed when things go wrong, and quickly berated for poor cleaning standards, but rarely praised when they do a good job.

Don’t ‘walk by’ without stopping to pass the time of day, smile or say hello, no matter how busy you are.

A word of recognition, a simple awards system, or a mention in the monthly newsletter, go a very long way to motivate your staff.


3.    Show gratitude

Genuine, heartfelt gratitude is a great motivator. Never underestimate the power of ‘thank you’.

Research from Francesca Gino, from Harvard Business School, has even demonstrated what she calls the ‘gratitude effect’: “Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviours…”


4.    Consistency is important

Cleaning staff are quickly deflated if their employer is inconsistent with processes and instructions.

A fair and safe workplace, where they feel they are free to express themselves respectfully, and know they will be taken seriously, is of paramount importance.


5.    Don’t let them down

For long term trust and motivation to thrive, the employer needs to follow through on their promises, and keep their end of the bargain. Every time, without fail.

Wages must be correct. Or if they are not, they must be quickly remedied.

Cleaning materials must be in place when asked for. Holiday requests must be responded to quickly. And when they need someone to stand up for them, they must trust in your leadership to support them.


Other good motivators worth mentioning…

Offer employees who have 100 percent attendance some kind of gift, perhaps a Christmas hamper or a gift voucher; make sure that staff can see the impact of what they do for the client; and, where possible, give staff some flexibility about how they work.

How well do commercial cleaners motivate their employees?

The cleaning industry has progressed a long way in the last 20 years in terms of Employment Law and Health and Safety. But have we progressed as far in our motivation and management of staff?


Staff retention levels at Spotless are significantly higher than at other cleaning companies. Our cleaning employees stay with us for an average of 3.8 years and managers for 8 years. We always aim to be a great employer.Those companies that embrace these values positively will discover that having people who work with pride and passion is a powerful, new differentiator.

Find out ,more about Spotless and our values and culture.