Projecting janitorial staffing needs for service providers

January 2018 – Janitorial costs are rising rapidly, and many service / outsource providers are looking for options to control costs. Since janitorial costs are driven primarily by labor costs, service providers and outsourcers can use janitorial benchmarks to develop staffing projections for:

  • Review of staffing levels
  • Bidding on new projects
  • Client justification of existing staffing levels
  • Showing the need for additional or reduced staff
  • Minimizing bidding on existing projects / extending the contract period.

In many locations the minimum wage is increasing which has a direct impact on the cost of janitorial labor. There are many industry “rules of thumb” for the ratio between labor costs and materials but for most janitorial service providers the cost of labor is around 90% and the cost of materials and equipment is about 10%. To provide acceptable service you need to manage the materials component of the contract effectively but managing the labor component will have a much greater impact. Here is how benchmarking can help.

All good, high quality, benchmarking services should provide a module to benchmark staffing levels at a high level. At a minimum, you should be able to benchmark total janitorial staffing levels. If you try to get more granular you quickly learn that most organizations can not readily report their staffing by specific activities such as carpet cleaning, furniture cleaning, or window washing. That is because many janitorial service providers perform them in house or contract them, but they don’t typically track them at the activity level.

Let’s learn what we can from benchmarking at a high level and see the benefits. We have used examples from FM BENCHMARKING to illustrate how easy the process should be and this approach will allow you to obtain the key output reports in the minimum amount of time.

First, focus on what is most important, namely that janitorial labor represents about 90% of the costs—so, benchmark the total staffing profile. Good benchmarking comparisons need to be made with a relevant peer group. For a quick analysis, we create a chart showing the area cleaned per worker of a good peer group (see Figure 1), which displays the area cleaned per worker for office facilities.

Figure 1 – SF (000) cleaned per worker
Filters: Type of facility (Office)
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING (Query Edition)

Figure 1 allows you to see at a glance how well your facilities are staffed compared to other office buildings. There are 342 buildings in this peer group with a median staffing level of about 20,000 gross square feet cleaned per worker and a first quartile performance of 21,000 gross square feet cleaned per worker. Notice how flat the chart is for both the second and third quartile. Half of the group in this sample falls between about 18,000 and 21,000 gross square feet cleaned per worker. The significant variation is in the first and fourth quartiles; if we had applied additional filters, we would see that we would reduce some of that variation. By looking at and comparing similar types of facilities, you will be able to make intelligent “data driven” decisions.

The usual “next step” is to total the square feet cleaned and staffing level at your facility and divide them to determine the square feet cleaned per worker at your facility. Let’s assume the size of your facility is 250,000 GSF and the janitorial staffing level is 15 workers. This produces a staffing metric of 16,667 gross square feet cleaned per worker, which would place your facility in the fourth quartile. This then becomes an opportunity for the outsource / service provider to look carefully at the staffing levels and possibly reallocate some resources or review the service frequency.

Articles are based on data from FM BENCHMARKING, which until the pandemic had been the online benchmarking tool for facility managers and CREs. Data tracked by FM BENCHMARKING includes cost and labor data as well as best practices for more than 95% of typical facility costs. For questions about benchmarking, please contact Peter Kimmel on LinkedIn. Peter was one of the principals of FM BENCHMARKING and now is consulting in the industry.