Training for retention: secrets to keeping employees today

March 19, 2022 in Hiring, Hiring & Training, Training

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by The ZenMaid Team

The following article is based on a presentation given by Sharon Cowan at the 2021 Maid Summit, hosted and organized by ZenMaid.

About the presenter 

Sharon L. Cowan, CBSE is a 30 year veteran of the industry and the former CEO of a multimillion-dollar regional commercial and residential cleaning company. Sharon grew her company using her background in business development, strategic planning, national corporate leadership, and education.  Sharon sold her company in 2000 to pursue coaching and consulting globally. To read Sharon’s full bio, please visit her speaker page

In today’s article

Today, we’ll discuss what effective training looks like and how training helps retain staff. We’ll also explore what qualities an effective trainer should have and what to look for when selecting a trainer. So, let’s get started!

The biggest problems facing maid service owners today

Some of the biggest problems maid service owners are facing today include issues in human capital management, how to recruit and attract the best-qualified applicants, and hiring.

How do we make hiring decisions that will get the best possible people and guard against making those panic hires who will leave you in a heartbeat? And then once you have them hired, how do you keep them? How do you train them to stay? For now, we’ll focus on the role that training plays in keeping good people – not only new hires – but current employees as well. 

The importance of retention in a tight labor market cannot be overemphasized. It’s a key element that’s necessary for your business growth. Today, maid service owners are pulling out all the stops to find, recruit, and hire new people: coming up with signing bonuses, paying really well or better than average salaries, creating reward programs, and so on. 

Unfortunately, they often neglect to update their training program. Or worse, they don’t even have a complete system and process for training. This is a huge problem because effective training is vital to employee retention!

Let’s face it: when we’re in desperate situations, we make bad hiring decisions. Today’s labor market encourages maid service owners to make desperate, sometimes poor hiring decisions. We’ve all been there. 

How to avoid bad hiring decisions

If you have high turnover and new hires are leaving you quickly, it could be a combination of poor hiring choices and a weak training program. This is the cycle of doom when it comes to bringing on new employees who will stay. So, let’s break that cycle with a different type of hire!

Start by being really honest with yourself to answer these questions:

  1. How do you currently avoid bad hires? 
  2. Who tends to leave your business quickly?
  3. Do you hire the same kind of people you’ve always hired who leave you after a few days or weeks?
  4. When this happens, do you change what you were looking for? 

Pay incentives

Are you just taking any warm body that can walk and talk at the same time? Again, we’ve all been there in desperate situations!  But if you want a different result, you need a different strategy. Perhaps a different profile of employees with higher pay incentives?

Which is better: leaving money on the table because you don’t have the properly trained staff, or canceling and rescheduling services to existing customers? This isn’t a plan for success. 

Or, are you leaving money on the table by lost customers because of poor quality brought on by high turnover and poorly trained employees? 

According to ISN, the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of lack of training. The number two reason is not feeling part of the company. 

The hiring market is extremely competitive right now; we’re all vying for the same few employees. So, the incentives you offer new employees must be solid and cutting edge.

The cost of turnover

The cost of employee turnover is high. It can be up to $1,000 to hire a new employee, including the cost of training, administrative costs, etc. 

Take the time to figure out your employee acquisition rate and what it’s costing your company every time someone leaves and get your average cost. 

To learn more about the cost of employee turnover and how to improve your onboarding process, check out Jean Hanson’s four tips in our free ZenMaid Magazine!

The solution for employee retention

The solution for employee retention starts with a plan for recruiting, a process for training, and a retention plan. Your plan needs to be more than a concept. It needs to be structured, written out, executed, and enforced. Though that may sound like a lot, it doesn’t need to be overcomplicated; keep it as a basic, repeatable operation for your business so it can be used for every new hire. 

Now let’s dive into eight strategies for retaining employees. 

Recognize that retention starts with recruiting

First, we want to recognize that retention starts with recruiting. That’s where it all begins when hiring the right people. This is the first mindset shift you’ll need to make before taking on any other step.

Identify applicants who will stay based on their job history

Next, identify the applicants who have a solid job history, meaning that they haven’t bounced around excessively. Have they only stayed in a job for a few months at a time? Those are not the kinds of applicants who are going to stay with you. Look for the candidates who’ve stayed for eighteen months or more.

Provide a clear path for advancement

Provide a clear path to how an employee can advance both financially and in their career. When you hire someone new, do they know when they’re going to get the next raise? Do they know how they can advance with their career? Are there opportunities for them to move forward? Let them know that during the hiring process so they can stay motivated moving towards a goal.

Provide ongoing training and education

Ongoing training and education for all employees is the key to success. Things will change in your business – cleaning practices will change, bad habits will form, and clients will change. Keep your staff updated and optimized with ongoing education. 

Be transparent and open

Have an open-door policy in your company so employees feel heard. Have a clear understanding of what your company goals are, what your mission statement is,  and what your core values are. Communicate your goals, mission, and vision to your team often. Make certain that new hires are on the same page with your company culture.

Related to this step, you might enjoy this article on How to build a cleaning company that people want to work for

Offer attractive benefits

We often think of a benefit as costing the company a lot of money, but that’s not necessarily the case. When done well, benefits can lead to a higher level of employee satisfaction. This means they’ll stay with you longer and reduce your turnover. 

Leverage technology and artificial intelligence

Keep your employees equipped with the latest technology. Whether it’s handheld digital devices or the technology used in the office, new technology tends to make your employees (and your) job easier. It makes them feel that they’re part of a progressive up to date company.

Looking for an all-in-one tech solution for your cleaning business? Try ZenMaid for free!

Be prepared for reasonable turnover

Turnover in the cleaning industry can be as high as 400%, with 200% to 400% being the average. As we mentioned before, take the time to know what your turnover rate is. Be prepared and come up with strategies to overcome it, especially if your turnover rate exceeds the industry average.

How to create an effective training program for your maid service

The first priority is to develop a structured, written training program. The strongest programs incorporate classroom-style learning with on-the-job learning. 

We want to develop trainers who show results with experience and accountability. Additionally, we want to develop trainers that have the necessary skills to manage employees. Keep in mind not everyone is capable of being an effective trainer. 

All too often, we hand a new employee a mop and bucket and then put them with a person who hasn’t been prepared to train. This is not fair for the on-the-spot trainer, nor is it a good training strategy.

Job descriptions

Make sure to have job descriptions for each position in your company. Train your new hires using those job descriptions as a basis for your expectations. The trainer also has to be skilled at training, teamwork, and have an understanding of how everyone works together as a team. 

Whether you have a solo model or a team model, your employees need to recognize that they’re all part of the team and the family of the company. 

Culture and attitude

You can always hire an attitude and always train on skill. The attitude is the most important piece that a new hire brings to the job. Sure, you’ll need every new hire to become technically skilled, but that can be accomplished during training. 


We touched on this before, but as a reminder, all employees need retraining. Keep ongoing training and education as a regular part of your team’s schedule. This aids in employee retention and keeps everyone engaged and feeling welcome. 

Include team-building exercises in your employee retention. More specifically, implement rewards and appreciation. Believe it or not, reward programs work! They make the difference with retention and show your appreciation. 

Check out this article to learn more about employee rewards and incentives. 

Update your materials

Finally, it’s important to keep an updated employee handbook and other materials. Every piece of information given to employees should be reviewed at the end of every year, with changes made as necessary. Though it’s tempting, don’t let them sit on a shelf for five years to one day find that you have some very dated material.

To wrap up

Remember; your training program is the basis of your success! If it’s not strong and consistent, your ability to grow diminishes. Prioritize creating a strong, systematic training process; one that gives quality and consistency of performance for all of your employees. 

If you found this article helpful, might like these recent articles:

How to Train Your New Cleaners for Success From Day One

How to Create a Company Culture People Want to Work for with Diane Daniel

3 Maid Service Employee Incentives You Can Implement TODAY to Keep your Staff Happy and Productive

Jean Hanson: 4 Tips to Improve Your Employee Onboarding

For more resources on how to grow and perfect your cleaning business, check out the replays from the 2021 Maid Summit, hosted by ZenMaid. The summit featured more than 60 presentations from other maid service owners who shared tools and strategies to help you achieve the highest levels of success in your business. 

To hear Sharon Cowan’s full talk from the Maid Summit, click here


Amar is the founder and CEO of ZenMaid Software, Inc. He started and ran Fast Friendly Spotless, a maid service in Orange County, CA. With the help of customized software to automate work he successfully operated the service in under 30 minutes per day. He created ZenMaid scheduling software to help other maid service owners do the same.

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