Industry Leaders Forum: Lauren Micallef, Oceania Manager, ISSA

What were the highlights for 2022 for ISSA?

A stand-out moment for the industry was the ISSA Cleaning & Hygiene Expo. After two years of postponements, it was great to see the show go ahead in Sydney.

The event brought people together again, with attendees wanting to meet face to face with industry peers and view new market products and services from our largest number of exhibitors to date.

The show saw a 25 per cent increase in attendees, with companies bringing more staff than normal to the event so these employees could sit in on workshops and see and hear from industry experts. These learning opportunities will be crucial as part of efforts in 2023 to strengthen teams and drive companies forward.

The expo also coincided with the INCLEAN Excellence Awards, which showcased innovative and progressive products within the cleaning and hygiene space. A record number of registrations for the awards underlined just how much research and developments was invested into products and services during the pandemic.

The ISSA Cleaning & Hygiene Expo will return this 1-2 November 2023 to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

This will be our first show in the state of Victoria since 2019. Already more than 60 per cent of exhibitor space has been sold and we believe this show will be the biggest Expo to date. The INCLEAN Excellence Awards will once again return and coincide with the event.

This year, ISSA Oceania had our first company in Australia, residential and commercial property cleaning services provider, Sebastian Property Services, achieve the highest level of Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) certification – CIMS Green Building (CIMS-GB) with Honours.

Through third party validation CIMS GB offers a company the ability to distinguish themselves from the market, demonstrate their professionalism and commitment to cleaning excellence.

In 2022 ISSA Oceania also launched our Member Benefits program, powered by Supply Clusters, which offers benefits regardless of a company’s size or sector of the industry.

The program offers our members significant rewards, savings and strategic assistance across 30 common expense categories established to support members in streamlining their operation, boosting profits and managing spend across their business. We will continue to promote this initiative in 2023.

What are ISSA’s priorities for 2023?

Supporting our members will be the focus again this year, along with ISSA’s overarching purpose of promoting the cleaning and hygiene sector, as the association celebrates our 100-year anniversary.

Throughout the year the association will be highlighting people, products and brands from around the world who have helped us reach this important milestone, and those moving ISSA and the industry forward into the next 100 years.

The association is looking forward to hearing back from their members on industry icons within their organisations, past or present as well as innovative products and brands that have helped to transform the industry.

As the cleaning industry emerges from COVID-19 there is still a significant desire and need to embrace knowledge development and training.

ISSA Oceania’s online webinars and workshops continued to remain very popular during 2022, and we expect that to again be the case in 2023. Sessions on costings, pricing and tenders have been in high demand, with businesses seeking to be more profitable, competitive and efficient.

The desire to remain abreast of the latest trends and developments was also felt across both our international and local media.

ISSA Oceania’s INCLEAN publication experienced a 55 per cent increase in digital subscribers in 2022, highlighting the growing significance of the cleaning industry and the broader markets’ desire to remain informed about the sector. We expect to see this continual momentum moving forward into 2023.

A key theme that has been present across the publications and has gained traction throughout the pandemic is how we need to clean for health and the vital role our industry plays in infection prevention and management. We need to continue the momentum gained during this unique period into 2023 and beyond.

This will be a key message focus for ISSA and GBAC (Global Biorisk & Advisory Council – a division of ISSA). Both online training and certification as well as GBACtv global updates will continue to address the latest human health, infection prevention and control topics. Last year leading professionals updated our audience on the latest COVID variants, monkeypox, indoor air quality, tripledemic: flu, R.S.V & COVID and more.

Locally our association will also need to balance global trends and local needs. We will ensure that local membership continue to have updates and support material on issues like government budget review summaries, minimum wage and superannuation updates and other local business and industry related topics.

What are some of the challenges the market is facing? 

A number of challenges from the past few years are likely to be on the radar again in 2023. Chief among them is the shortage of workers in an industry that has relied heavily on immigrant workers in the past. Hopefully, we will start to see an improvement in this area as overseas students and workers return to Australia in greater numbers.

The truth is that many domestic workers are exhausted after a gruelling period during COVID-19, and high turnover rates are an ongoing issue. Bringing on new staff requires an investment, but it’s a positive investment, and I would encourage business leaders to make a commitment to staff training because it is a proven way of improving operational performance and keeping staff.

Managing costs and budgets is a perennial challenge, and that will be no different in the year ahead. In this sense, ISSA’s Value of Clean tools will be more important than ever. They include infographics and return-on-investment calculators that allow cleaning contractors to justify their cleaning budgets in an easy-to-follow way.

These tools have been highly valued by our members during the past 18 months, in particular, and enable cleaning businesses to move conversations with their customers beyond pricing.

Looking to 2023, I would also urge companies to be dynamic, and by this, I mean embracing innovation and any new ways of doing business in an effort to get a competitive edge.

What opportunities do you see for the cleaning industry in 2023?

COVID-19 has put the spotlight on the industry and created enormous opportunities for smart players and people in the sector.

One area that is sure to be a big talking point is environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies, which ties in closely with sustainability.

The INCLEAN Excellence Awards highlighted the emergence of new environmentally friendly products, while the social and governance elements of ESG will also be increasingly important as cleaning companies and facility managers commit to ethical and community-focused projects and practices. All companies need to review their ESG approach and make sure it is up to speed.

More broadly, the cleaning industry should ensure that it continues to build on the branding and reputational gains that it has made during COVID-19. Cleaning has clearly been identified as an essential industry in the health and hygiene space and the gains of the past few years should not be lost.

What do you expect to be the big trends of 2023?

Inflationary pressures will continue to be an issue in 2023 as geopolitical and economic forces drive up power, fuel and general running costs.

Responding to such budgetary challenges is essential, along with managing ongoing supply-chain bottlenecks. Companies will need to continue to reassess budgets and review costings.

On the ESG and sustainability front, sourcing alternatives to plastics and more sustainable packaging options will be a critical differentiator for cleaning businesses and facility managers.

As mentioned, training programs will be a vital element as companies prepare themselves for the future.

Falling behind industry trends and competitors is not an option, and well-trained employees give companies greater capacity to succeed. Training is also one way to address staffing issues – if you have great people in great positions, it helps the individuals, the team and the company.

In addition to aiding companies in keeping staff informed, companies will also look at other methods to highlight their professionalism and differentiate themselves in the market. Company certification

What factors loom as the keys to success in 2023?

This cleaning and hygiene industry is very passionate. Over the past 24 months, leaders have been able to draw on that passion to support their internal staff and keep them motivated and productive.

Moving forward, they must be able to maintain that drive among a cohort of staff who may be tired and burnt out as a result of COVID-19. Supporting staff, therefore, will be crucial to success, as will be the ability to examine different ways to go to market with products while generating strong tenders.

At the same time, businesses will have to diversify and distinguish their offering from the competition. All eyes will be on business leaders as they try do this while simultaneously addressing pricing scenarios in a highly complex trading environment.

INCLEAN is published by the Intermedia Group on behalf of ISSA.

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