HR Next Normal


Why HR should be invited to the table when selecting cleaning providers

The modern workplace fundamentally changed overnight. COVID-19 focused corporations on people and their health, safety and wellness more than any other event in recent history. With that focus, the HR function was elevated to new importance as guardians of people, brand and culture in a dynamic and uncertain people environment. Each of these critical facets of a corporation hinges on how each reacts to the challenge of COVID-19. HR leads the way in creating policies, driving action, mitigating threats and measuring status in an already disrupted workplace environment.

CRE and FM leaders must now work in close cooperation with HR teams because the post-COVID-19 talent agenda is critical for a company’s people, culture and brand. The decisions made in these areas will have long-lasting – positive or negative – effects on these three corporate characteristics. Critical decisions will relate to topics such as building capacity, screening and contact tracing technologies, use of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) and desired office cleanliness. In addition, entirely new employee safety policies will need to be hashed out for corporate travel, elevator regulation, PPE rules and so forth. These policies have immediate potential to impact people, culture and brand.


The selection of cleaning providers used to be a decision with very few ramifications. Now it is a critical decision for health, safety and well-being that directly affects people, culture and brand.


Forward-looking HR organizations will understand the direct correlation between cleaning and cleanliness and people, culture and brand. In the past, a misaligned cleaning provider may have caused some negative comments or complaints to the FM or Procurement departments, but they would never cross HR’s desk. Now, the worst-case scenario of selecting the wrong cleaning partner may cause direct or indirect new cases of COVID-19. As we know, this virus can have potentially devastating and long-lasting effects on people, culture and brand. Cleaning is now instrumental to employee safety. HR organizations should insist on being at the table when cleaning providers are selected – and they will want to follow up on progress and key performance indicators (KPIs).


At the table, each stakeholder brings their own needs and insight to selecting a cleaning provider. The CRE and FM team will bring all the specifications on the building e.g., the number of floors, bathrooms and break rooms. The Procurement team will bring insights about the supply market and benchmarks. The Health and Safety team will bring environmental standards and safety protocols. The HR team will have a critical role to be armed with people data and the organizational pulse. They must bring to bear the importance of vulnerable populations and risk levels, concerns about wellness and absenteeism, workplace concerns, the current level of satisfaction and how those elements influence employee morale and productivity.

How do we make it happen?

In close collaboration with HR, CRE and FM leaders can help ensure that HR is not only invited to the table where decisions about cleaning providers are made, but that the input from HR is valued across other decision-making entities as well. In making sure HR’s perspective is relevant and timely, there are three main elements.

1. Ensure that HR data is the single source of truth for people information within the organization and is brought to the table.

Hard data about people should be stored and managed using a human resources information systems (HRIS) platform. HR owns the platform and the data itself. What tends to be more scattered is the rudimentary people data – satisfaction levels, pulse surveys, engagement scores and others. Without centralized ownership, decision-makers may not be aligned on the “state of the people” and not have the required stratifications available to make critical people decisions impacting people, culture and brand. For example, can we identify the vulnerable segments of our organization? How do we adapt our health and safety communication efforts to micro-segments in the organization based on anxiety levels on coming back into the workplace?

2. Flip cleaning provider evaluation criteria on its head.

In the past, evaluation criteria tended to focus on the building – price per square foot, number of restrooms, number of floors, and so forth. With HR at the table, it’s time to shift the evaluation criteria to people – which supplier will provide the best health and safety assurance to our people, which supplier will provide outcome-based cleaning, which supplier will invest the most in training their own people in ensuring they do not become a hazard (wearing appropriate PPE, screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms and others). Selecting cleaning providers should be evaluated on the ability to protect end users against being infected with COVID-19 or other infectious diseases.

3. Recognize the change management challenge.

The days when procuring cleaning services was a non-event are gone. Questions will be raised and the process will be scrutinized. Then – when the right provider is selected – the real challenge begins. Change management and communication need to go along with the decision. End users expect visible, highly trained and well-equipped cleaning providers. It becomes vital to consistently inform, show and present evidence to the organization that the right choices are being made. In collaboration with CRE and FM, Health and Safety, Corporate Communication and the cleaning provider, HR needs to institute a regular change management cadence in which cleaning outcomes are continuously shared with the organization (i.e., outcome-based cleaning), where for example hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes are made readily available to support cleanliness outcomes and where behavioral changes are embedded in solid organizational practices (such as frequent hand washing).


With their elevated role and a dynamic and uncertain environment, HR professionals as critical stakeholders belong at the table when decisions are made that will affect the three vital corporate assets of people, culture and brand. Only by challenging past norms can true progress be made to put people at the center of corporate importance and maintain health, safety and wellness.

Download our free featured insights, The next normal in cleaning services, to read why HR should be part of the discussion about selecting a cleaning service provider.