Report: The #1 Cleaning Challenges Wisconsin Schools (and beyond) are facing right now.

Studies have routinely shown that a clean environment has a positive impact on student attendance, performance, and a whole slew of other metrics that are increasingly important to the ways that districts are measured.
However, we keep hearing that in 2016 its harder than ever to keep schools clean. With partners and clients around Wisconsin we had a few theories about why that might be. Still, we wanted to see if we could figure out what’s truly making it difficult for people to achieve the results they want.

How We Conducted the Survey

So prior to the 2015 Midwest Facility Master’s conference we thought it would be interesting to do something interesting. We asked everyone in attendance what their #1 Cleaning Challenge is right now. And you answered!
We were blown away by the amount of responses and it was interesting to see how many common themes there were.
NOTE: Our goal was not to create a completely scientific study of this issue. We simply wanted to see if we could capture the pulse of those who have some connection to keeping our schools clean. Although we don’t think this makes this report any less interesting or valuable, please view this report as a reflection of that pulse and not as a definitive statement. In other words, don’t ask us what the confidence interval of the study is.

The Survey

As stated earlier, we had a few ideas about the major school cleaning challenges that people are facing, but we didn’t want to lead people in any particular direction or entice people to fill out the survey.
So first that means we didn’t offer any incentive to take the survey. No free iPads, products, or gift cards. Everyone who responded was only interested in helping to create this report.
Second, because we didn’t want to influence any of the answers we only asked one simple question:
“What’s the #1 single biggest challenge that impacts your ability to keep your school clean?”
After that we asked a few demographic questions to help us provide a better context for the answers we received. We’ll go over those questions / results later in the next section.

Who Responded

Thanks to all of our respondents we received a great mix of data points from both Wisconsin and Illinois, multiple district sizes, and a variety of roles and responsibilities.

District Sizes

Responses by District Size
Responses by District Size

Breaking down the respondents by district size we had an even mix that was fairly representative of the district size distribution in the State of Wisconsin and those attending the Midwest Facilities Masters conference.

Supervisory Responsibility

Most respondents had some level of direct responsibility for cleaning staff.
Most respondents had some level of direct responsibility for cleaning staff.

Overwhelmingly, to the tune of 79%, our respondents had direct supervisory responsibility for cleaning staff.

Budgetary Influence

Overview of respondents by budgetary influence.
Overview of respondents by budgetary influence.

Of all of the respondents, approximately half indicated that they had some amount of decision-making authority when it came to cleaning budget. Around 15% had influence on the budget and the other 35%, “other”, fell somewhere in between the two options or had a mix of responsibilities.

Common Themes

Thanks to all of the thorough responses we had a lot of great data to comb through. Once we started to look at the answers though we noticed three common themes.
1) Increased Special Events / Community Building Use
Time and again we heard that district facility use is becoming a 7 day / week, 365 day / year affair, “…including Christmas Day…” as one MFM attendee noted. This is a great trend for the community, but it can put a real strain on cleaning resources as the number of hours in a day hasn’t increased proportionally!
That means that tough choices are being made between doing a great job with the special event (nobody wants the superintendent to see a dirty floor at his daughter’s basketball game) and important day-to-day tasks such as disinfecting.
Of course none of that would be too much of an issue if it weren’t for the second major theme….
2) Staffing
During the 2015 MFM Conference we had three basketball hoops set up to represent the three common challenges we saw from the survey. As one attendee noted when he was asked which one of the challenges he was facing, he looked at his buddy and said, “I guess we should take this basketball and just jam in the staffing hoop!”
Can anyone of you relate to that? We’re guessing that you can because time and again we saw that staffing came up in people’s descriptions of their top challenge.
For some it was a lack of funding or support for additional staff needed to cover the square footage they are responsible for on a daily basis. For others there is the support for additional staff, but they are having trouble hiring and recruiting quality people. Finally, even those who have adequate staff are dealing with the issue of covering planned FMLA and Vacation time with substitute staff.
Putting together our first two themes we ended up with the third theme that completes the circle…
3) Doing more with less.
With increases in special events, fewer staff, and smaller budgets, district facility professionals have been faced with the challenge of doing more work with less resources for some time now. Increased scrutiny around additional staffing requests, new equipment, and consumables means that even the process of finding relief can be a stressful one.
For example, a common thread among our respondents and booth visitors was that they’re having difficulty finding applicants at current starting wages. As we can attest from our commercial cleaning experience, recruiting great cleaners is more competitive than ever.
We have an entire recruiting department whose sole focus is finding cleaners and even they have had to rethink how we connect with potential recruits in order to support of staffing volume without compromising our hiring standards.
So with increased pressures on district professionals time and resources, it makes sense that this was a common theme among our respondents.
If in the past you were getting 200 applicants for a job and now you’re getting 20 (and not all 20 are great fits) these districts didn’t have to think about things like hiring and recruiting. Just posting a job was enough.
However just like staffing above, many times these departments do not have the experience or time to adequately justify these additional expenses even when they could provide great ROI through productivity and efficiency.

Giving you a plan to meet those challenges.

After reviewing all of the data from this survey, it could seem like there are some impossible challenges facing districts and those of you who are responsible for making sure our kids have clean and healthy learning environments.
However, we know that simply isn’t the case. None of these challenges are impossible and in the coming months we’re looking forward to sharing some unique solutions to each of the challenges listed in this report.
Some are as going to be as easy as changing out a product or two and others might have you rethinking the way that you’ve always done something. Either way, we’re excited to help connect you with some new ideas that and to play our part in keeping our schools clean.
Do you have a question about cleaning? We’d love to help you make great decisions.
The Report:
(Click here to download the full infographic.)

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