Sharing the Secrets: Effective Training

As members of the cleaning profession, we know it is not as easy as it looks. Like doctors and nurses, we are responsible for the health, image and overall care of the buildings we service. When you look at it that way, it is easy to see why training is so important. As with any other profession, it is imperative that workers understand the most efficient, effective and safe way to perform their jobs.

By developing a standardized cleaning program, you will ensure that all your cleaners can fit specific tasks within a prescribed time and quality level of performance. Of course, there will be slight variations based upon individual differences, but in almost all cases, major variations in time and performance will be traced back to the trainee/employee not following the procedural guidelines.

This brings up a very important point. If everyone in your organization is trained, and therefore cleaning the same way, it is easier to predict the amount of cleaning time and the level of quality you can expect. In other words, good training leads to a more efficient and effective operation.

Cleaning Industry - Effective Training


Before you start training employees to your system, you need to have a system. Many operations have a different cleaning system for each building, and in some cases, for each cleaner. This makes training to a standard extremely difficult, if not impossible. You need to get everyone on the same page and remove the guess! work by implementing a system that is standardized throughout your operations. Refer to the previous chapter for the specifics of standardizing your cleaning operations.


Now that you have developed your standards, it is time to teach the process to your cleaners. The people who expressed amazement at what I taught were not the only ones guilty of assuming. Those of us who have worked in the cleaning field for many years may also assume that certain knowledge is intuitive. The reality is, you cannot just teach someone to ‘clean a room’. You need to teach each individual task and procedure.
Following the standards set up in Chapter 15, let’s walk through the steps for training your cleaners how to wipe off a table and other horizontal surfaces.

First, you are going to teach your trainees the proper chemicals and equipment that is used for the procedure. A note here: both for proper training and the safety and efficiency of your operation, chemicals should be clearly labeled and regularly stored in the same place. When teaching the process, do not just tell trainees where you got the chemical and equipment. Take them into the storeroom, for example, and show them what spray bottle to use, where to find it and how to fill it from the dispenser in the custodian’s closet.

Now you are ready to teach the procedure. This is where the ‘don’t assume’ becomes most important. Everything from how to hold the cloth to what hand to hold it in must be explained and demonstrated. For how to a wipe table, it would go like this:

Step 1: I am going to show you how to fold this cloth. I folded it this way so that it is flat and I can fold it over this way when the first side gets dirty.

Step 2: Always hold the cloth in your stronger hand and the spray bottle in the other hand.

Step 3: Stand close to the table and near the center.

Step 4: Spray the table three times with the neutral cleaner.
Spray. Spray. Spray. You may require more spray for the first wipe.

Step 5: Start wiping by first moving your cloth around the edges of the table, like this. Next, move your cloth to the end of the table and wipe back and forth until you reach the other end.

Step 6: Now, go to the next table.

Remember the cleaners will be listening to you and watching you demonstrate at the same time. Make sure your actions match with your instructions and make sure you are demonstrating the procedure exactly as you want it done.


While teaching, I used a concept of mastery and revision that I continue to use when training new cleaners. When there is a specific procedure trainees need to master, some will master it quickly and, for some, it will take longer. Most new cleaners will not master the procedures of a task simply by watching you model them. The next steps are providing guided practice, allowing for independent practice, then evaluation.

Guided and independent practice allows the cleaner to work on mastering the procedures. Evaluation shows what steps the trainee has not mastered or what steps the trainer did not explain properly. I think of it as a ‘loop’. You loop around and revise until the cleaner masters the procedures.

In training to wipe a table, you will start by modeling the steps for your trainees, showing them exactly what to do, while explaining what you are doing. The next step, guided practice, is where the trainee demonstrates the cleaning process that you just modeled. In other words, they clean the table while you watch. The first time through they do not need to be perfect, but you should encourage them to do the cleaning process as close as possible to the way you did it. Therefore, you can make corrections, if needed. You should be respectful of the cleaners, but also firm. Always remember you are looking for standardization of the cleaning process. Guided practice may be as awkward to the cleaners as it is to you. Never reprimand unless someone is being totally uncooperative.

Always follow guided practice with independent practice. At this time, you can leave the training area or move to an area where you can still see everyone but where your presence will be less conspicuous. Some employees may be uncomfortable around you. Others may feel self-conscious and make mistakes they would not make on their own. Still others have different learning styles and this gives them a chance to work out the process on their own. The complexity of the task and how quickly cleaners pick it up will usually determine how much independent practice is needed.


It is unrealistic to think that all of your cleaners will reach an optimal level after the first training. The evaluation is a way for you to document where they are now and gives you the information you need to follow up on specific individuals or groups.

I like to evaluate using a five-point scale.

1: Employee has not been trained on this procedure.
2: Employee has been trained on this procedure.
3: Employee has been trained on this procedure but needs more practice.
4: Employee is capable of performing this procedure.
5: Employee is capable of training others for this procedure.

Of course, knowledge-based training, like ‘Right to Know’, would only be evaluated on the first two criteria. The five-point scale is for training that involves cleaning procedures.

Neither you nor your employees should see the evaluation as a punitive measure. It is simply a feedback tool for the cleaner and the management team. It shows where on the scale a particular employee is at, at that particular time, and allows you to better allocate training resources to the employees who need them. It also improves efficiency by recognizing the employees who are able to perform specific tasks well. For example, if you had a weekend project that required someone who was capable of extracting a carpet, the evaluation records would allow you to select the appropriate employee.


People learn in different ways. Some people are auditory, which means they learn best by listening. Others are visual and they learn best by seeing. Still others are kinesthetic. They learn best by doing. As a trainer and as a boss, understanding your cleaners’ individual learning styles will make you more effective.

If you have the time, it is always better to allow employees to experience and practice whatever skill you are trying to teach. Hands-on experience is almost always the best option and it works well for all learning styles. Sometimes, though, time is limited, or there are too many trainees for everyone to get the chance to practice. When that happens, try to mix the visual and auditory presentations together. If you cannot show them the actual supplies, chemicals and procedures, show them pictures so that visual learners will understand as well. If you are training them without any materials at all, make sure to ask clarifying questions as you go—like, “what type of cleaning chemical should we use for this task?” or, “what type of personal protective equipment is necessary for this task?” Have your trainees repeat instructions or concepts back to you. Auditory learners, especially, sometimes appear not to be paying attention. Asking questions will ensure that they understand.

Trainers and bosses need to be effective communicators, with the ability to create a non-threatening environment for the employees. They do this by listening, accepting ideas, sharing information, showing interest in others and expressing appreciation. This results in employees looking forward to training and being more cooperative on the job. Unfair comparisons, avoidance and outright rejection of ideas results in antagonistic and uncooperative employees. Good trainers are like good managers. They monitor information during the training session, identify problems that may arise and solve them.


As your business grows, you may find that your plate is too full to do all the training yourself, or you may want an additional trainer to help out. Whether you appoint someone already on your staff or hire someone new, as with any position in your organization, having the right person in the right position is essential.

As the cleaning manager, you have determined the system that will work best for your organization. A trainer needs to be an advocate for the management team and the standardized system. Appoint or hire someone who is enthusiastic and will comply with your organization's agenda.

Keep in mind that whether your trainer comes from inside or out! side the organization, this person will need time to develop the necessary skills and even more importantly, will need time to train. A trainer will need some structured time to perform and practice training skills, which involves more than just knowing the procedures and how to model them. For example, the trainer position might entail seventy-five per cent cleaning time and twenty-five per cent training time. Make the commitment to training and to your trainer. The short-term loss of revenue will result in a long-term gain in productivity, quality and business.


If knowledge is power, a lack of knowledge is a lack of power and is the source for most of our cleaning problems. It may be convenient to blame our problems on a bad attitude or lack of quality employees, but the results are the same—the job does not get done the way we want it to.

A training program that is based on a standardized system will make your job easier and your operation more efficient over the long run. Take the time to get a comprehensive training program started in your facility and watch the level of appearance, production, pride and profit climb.

Knowledge is power. Give it to your employees with training.

THANK YOU again for reviewing our materials. We look forward to partnering with you in the future.