The key to improving employee retention in the janitorial industry is mentorship and training.

Through a wide variety of mentorship and professional development programs, employees will discover that janitorial work is more than just a “dirty business.”

Is there a need for more mentoring in the janitorial work industry? This is a question business experts in this field have been asking for years. Cleaning may seem like a dull activity that you wouldn’t look twice at, but in reality, it’s a business with hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue annually. Which means that people need it, search for it, and benefit from it regularly.

So, why is coaching and formal mentoring the workforce in this field not more popular? Isn’t this a field that goes through constant changes and there’s always a need for improvement?

As John C. Maxwell said, "One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.". So why are coaching and mentoring programs in the janitorial sector such a rare topic?

Is Janitorial Work a Dirty Industry?

Cleaning is a dirty industry. It's one of those things you do that makes everything else look great, but not you. It's no secret that there's a stigma attached to the job of a cleaner and society doesn't appreciate enough the people who do their dirty work for them.

Although janitorial work is messy, the work itself can be quite satisfying. Think about the last time you wiped all the visible dirt from a surface.

Even today, some home owners feel guilty for hiring a residential cleaner because the owner feels shame for being behind in their housework. It is this stigma that prevents people from appreciating the work cleaners and janitors do and their important role in society, which is providing a sanitary environment and more free time.

This situation naturally increases the demand for role modeling and supporting the people in this industry. The rate with which employees on such jobs burn-out is also mind-blowing. And while in most cases an increase in the salary and a shift in the duties is enough to motivate a staff member, cleaners who have no prospects of getting any of these are doomed.

Professional Development Programs for Janitors and Building Cleaners

Working for an Australian cleaning company, I can confidently say, adequate training and mentoring is crucial for the proper professional development of everyone within the cleaning industry. Like most unpleasant and "dirty" jobs, cleaning other people's homes and messes aren’t everyone's piece of cake and have its own specifics.

Cleaners and home maintenance services providers have to take into consideration local laws and regulations, they need to follow strict procedures, and let’s not even mention the difficulties the current economic conditions add to this already complex matter.

The staff turnover rate is huge in this industry, and building strong mentoring relationships can help solve that problem and provide the janitorial field with quality employees who love their work and do their best to improve their skills.

Use Mentorship Programs to Build Employee Trust and Professional Learning

If you think it's just the cleaners, you are wrong. There are so many jobs out there that are considered "dirty", "unpleasant" and "ungrateful". When your employees do the nasty stuff no one else does, like cleaning or burying people, they are on the receiving end of a lot of grief, ingratitude, hostility, and other unpleasant emotions.

If you have employees who suffer any of the above mentioned, consider some of the following activities. An increase in salary can lift their spirits up but sometimes isn't enough to help them solve the issues they face. This is where you need to come up with other incentives, such as:

  • Offering coupons, discounts, or gift cards to the employee's favorite restaurant.
  • Special training sessions organised in your office buildings.
  • Paying attention to the career goals your employees have.
  • Providing professional development opportunities for your most qualified employees.
  • Building strong relationships between mentor and mentee within the teams.
  • Motivational and inspirational speeches.
  • Ask your staff to brainstorm a list of their own incentives, they will be your greatest source of inspiration!

Check out the three most popular mentorship approaches suitable for the cleaning sector below:

On-The-Job Mentorship

Although janitorial work is messy, the work itself can be quite satisfying. Think about the last time you wiped all the visible dirt from a surface.

Occasionally, organise mentoring sessions and training that will help empower your employees and motivate them on their job. Remember that the mentor-mentee relationship will evolve as your new employee moves from new hire to veteran cleaner.

In the beginning make your employees feel competent enough to carry a job by themselves. Later, boost their confidence and make them feel appreciated through the time you spend together on personal and professional development.

Team buildings

Every once or twice a year, organise a team-building with games that stimulate conversation and closeness between team members of your company. I have noticed it’s important for teams in the cleaning and janitorial business to work like well-oiled machines. When our team receives a compliment from a customer, it usually emphasizes the great team-work our staff displays.

You don't want your employees to arrive at an address grumpy about the fact they have to work with a particular partner. This way, they won't perform as well, the client will notice something's not quite right, and you won't be happy with the result either. So, team buildings not only help you spend a good time with your employees outside of work, it allows you to observe their interactions with each other and help them build trust and grow as a team.


These can be as formal, or informal as you want them to be. I personally love it when we get-together after work over a few drinks and everyone is encouraged to share his/her experiences in the past week. We share hilarious stories and some nasty details of the jobs, some successes and some failures. What's important here, is everyone gets the chance to unload and unburden.

As a group, we are able to acknowledge we are not alone and that we all have sucky days - but we always manage to get through it. We laugh it off, share experiences and good practices and forget about the unpleasantness.

Types of Mentors in the Janitorial Industry

As you may know, mentorship means different things for different people, depending on their personalities and professional experiences. Some people deal well on their own and don’t need any supervision, while others feel more insecure at the beginning and are more comfortable to be monitored closely and advised when needed.

This is why the role of the mentor is very flexible and needs to be adjusted to the needs of each particular employee. There are a few general types of mentorship roles categorized in most books. They are:

One-on-one mentoring

This is a traditional mentoring model, where one mentor and one mentee agree to work together to help the mentee develop and improve their professional skills, learn new techniques, and reach the top of the field. In this type of mentorship, the mentor has more experience and acts as a guide and advisor during the professional development journey.

Peer mentoring

Although janitorial work is messy, the work itself can be quite satisfying. Think about the last time you wiped all the visible dirt from a surface.

Peer mentoring is a group activity, where individuals of similar age and experience gather to learn together and mentor each other. It includes brainstorming sessions, practical exercises, solving real-life problems and sharing what you know with your fellow co-workers. There are no strict rules on who is the mentor and mentee because both parties give and take knowledge.

Group mentoring

This mentorship style includes one experienced mentor working with a group of mentees. This is the most often chosen method for cleaning businesses because building cleaners often work in teams and need to be well-coordinated and familiar with each other. Group mentoring helps reach more people for the short term, which is perfect for bigger companies which rely on teamwork.

Reverse mentoring

The term is self-explanatory here. Reverse mentoring includes junior employees mentoring senior ones. Usually, one-on-one mentorship models have the potential of reversing, because young minds are full of ideas, and sometimes more inexperienced people provide unique points of view which can be very helpful for the work process. The reverse mentoring program makes this process more formal and gives it meaning.

Virtual mentoring

With remote work becoming more popular lately, virtual or distant mentoring is gaining a lot more importance for business and professional development. It’s usually used to train remote teams and employees located in different cities, but with the current conditions, the applications for this mentorship type will be endless. There is even plenty of mentoring and janitorial inspection software being developed to help businesses navigate these needs.


A company culture that promotes these practices will manage to keep its employees motivated and happy for longer. It's obvious that most of your employees won't retire while working for you, but you can always come up with things that will help make their days more productive and less stressful as well as make their time with you worthwhile.

Follow this link to learn how to use janitorial quality control software to mentor your employees.

Blog post by Jane Wilson

Jane Wilson

Jane Wilson is a mum, a blogger and a senior marketing specialist from Melbourne. She represents the local branch of Fantastic Cleaners, a licensed cleaning company, which provides a wide range of services.