Why motivation matters

OCS ANZ managing director Gareth Marriott looks at the issue of frontline staff retention and strategies to stop the flow.

OCS ANZ managing director Gareth Marriott looks at the issue of frontline staff retention and strategies to stop the flow.

The retention of frontline team members is a continual challenge facing our industry, with the subsequent cost of high turnover rates including the loss of experience, knowledge and relationships built over time.

High turnover rates also have the potential for customers to start losing confidence in our ability to service their requirements, perhaps even questioning how staff are treated. There is also the risk – perceived or otherwise – that customers themselves incur costs from the need to continually orientate and induct new employees onto their site.

Studies across the USA, UK and Australia suggest the cost to replace a frontline staff member in the cleaning industry varies from 10-30 per cent of their annual wages.

In isolation, the cost may not seem that significant, but over time, it can quickly and easily skyrocket.

The commercial cleaning industry in Australia employs about 156,000 people and is worth more than $7.9 billion annually.

In New Zealand, the same sector is worth more than $1 billion annually and employs more than 30,000 people.

OCS ANZ employs around 5500 people, accounting for more than 15 per cent of the industry in New Zealand, and is currently strongest in the fields of aviation, retail, education, healthcare and government.

Research by New Zealand industry body, Building Service Contractors New Zealand (BSCNZ) in 2015 showed the average turnover of cleaning staff within a 12-month period is 23 per cent.

In Australia, that figure traditionally sits between 35 per cent and 40 per cent.

Figures on both sides of the Tasman show that a quarter of all building cleaners are aged between 45-54 years, with a large proportion of them being women.

The general profile of a frontline team member includes a lower level education/qualification, English is often not their first language, either entry level/first job, close to retirement or a new migrant.

The research also highlights a number of challenges facing the cleaning industry in retaining quality team members.

Of particular note were:

  • Age
  • Appreciation from clients on the vital role staff perform
  • Keeping them engaged
  • Treating them fairly
  • Other industries are more attractive.

To reduce employee turnover, we’ve put strategies in place to provide a healthy, motivated culture.

Thank Your Cleaner Day

In 2015 former BSCNZ CEO Lillian Small launched the Thank Your Cleaner Day™ campaign, to raise the importance, profile and awareness of the industry.

Thank Your Cleaner Day has since gained global support with other countries and includes US, UK, Spain, Belgium, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Australia.

Cleaning is one of the most important industries in the world, yet most of the people undertaking this important work are invisible. Every day tens of thousands of skilled, hardworking cleaning staff are onsite to ensure premises are hygienically clean and safe for the next working day.

Thank Your Cleaner Day™ recognises the hard work cleaners do and lets them know they are valued and appreciated. In addition, the campaign drives better standards, enhances client engagement, brings value back into the industry and has a positive impact on the community.

With the majority of our frontline team members working outside ‘normal’ hours, this is a great way for OCS, as their employer, and our clients to recognise the top job our cleaners do.

Client recognition goes a long way in helping to retain team members, and relationships between client and contractor is improved not only on this special day, but every day.

Training and development

Training people is one of the most important aspects of many businesses, yet it is often overlooked.

For us to meet our clients’ expectations and objectives we invest in and nurture talent, as well as encourage collaborative teamwork.

In our business, clients are extremely varied and diverse – from shopping malls to airports, and government agencies like the police. Therefore, training has to be comprehensive, specific, and measurable in order to best meet the needs of both clients and our workers.

Giving staff the opportunity for personal growth through training and education is a powerful tool in helping to retain valued team members.


OCS ANZ has developed a mantra of “Everyone who needs to know, knows.”  This recognises that employee needs are always evolving, as is the way they receive information.  It also ensures that we’re communicating effectively to the right people.

In every communication, staff must always be shown respect and be heard, in order to show they are an important member of the team.

It’s also important to break down the barrier between corporate management and frontline teams.

The best people to advise management are its team, and by taking our executive meetings out of the boardroom to sites across Australia and New Zealand, staff are engaged and on board with decisions.

Staff newsletters also help get the company message across, but social media is where we are finding real cut through in reaching the frontline.

Facebook is hugely relatable to our team and it gives us the opportunity to share ‘people’ stories nationwide and communicate quickly when needed. We have also found this to be a great tool for recruitment.

Safe work environment

A safe work environment is paramount for OCS ANZ and also an employee retention lever. We have a number of tools we use when auditing sites for health and safety and includes senior management performing on-site checks with frontline supervisors. Employees value a safe place to work.

We all want our businesses to grow and having quality people is key for that. Knowing what your clients want is just as important as knowing what your team members want, and retention will happen if you can get these two things right.

Recruiting new team members to fill frontline, supervisor and management roles is more effective if you have stable and committed team members that can be deployed as a first priority and then augmented with new talent.


This first appeard in the July/August issue of INCLEAN magazine. 

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