CIMS (short for Cleaning Industry Management Standards) is an ISSA-run certification that awards effective, efficient cleaning teams. Certified teams have to meet a long list of criteria across a range of areas, from quality systems to health and safety.
We’ve talked to teams wondering if CIMS certification is worth it, what the benefits are, and what they need to do to prepare. To help answer those questions, we called up Lance Witschen, a CIMS assessor and president of 1Class Consulting.
What is CIMS?
ISSA’s CIMS program certifies that your cleaning organization is running efficiently and effectively. Unlike APPA’s CEFP certification, which applies to a individual person, CIMS certification applies to the organization itself.
Lance Witschen, a CIMS assessor and president of 1Class Consulting, says that completing the CIMS certification process helps teams run their business better.
“If you’re operating a business, you should want to operate that business with the best practices out there,” Lance says.
He says almost all the teams he works with “want to make sure they’ve got all their ducks in a row to actually run their business in the most efficient manner possible, and still provide meaningful service to their clients.”
The CIMS checklist
The (very detailed) CIMS certification checklist is broken into six sections:
- Quality system: This includes a clear definition of cleaning service requirements and a written quality plan.
- Service delivery: This covers a written service delivery plan and purchasing procedures.
- Human resources: Topics under this section include human resource policy, hiring practices, site-specific orientation, executive development, management training, cleaning personnel training, training format and language, security, and a documented timekeeping/payroll system.
- Health, safety, and environmental stewardship: In addition to regulatory compliance, this includes having an organization policy/environmental management system.
- Management commitment: In addition to clearly defined mission, vision, and values, topics in this section include, planning, responsibility and authority, a communication plan, and risk management.
- Green buildings and service: This final section is only graded if the business passes the first five standards. It covers a written green cleaning policy, custodial effectiveness assessment, purchase of cleaning products and materials, powered janitorial equipment, entryway systems (matting), and solid waste management (recycling).
Value to customers
CIMS certification tells your customers (and potential customers) that you run a tight ship. Even if they aren’t sold by the certification itself, well-run businesses tend to attract customers in the long term. CIMS helps make sure you’re checking all the right boxes.
Of course, that statement runs contrary to a common frustration for cleaning businesses: Clients that just want the lowest possible price.
Lance says that while price does matter to customers, they are also interested in value. “Low price doesn’t always guarantee best service,” he says. “You want to get what you’re paying for.”
Of course, not every client will understand this. However, in the long term, a well-run and effective organization usually wins out.
For example, Lance worked with one cleaning team that was under-bid by another business. Even though the facility manager was happy with the team, the organization decided to go with the lowest price.
But the story didn’t end there.
The new cleaning team was sloppy. The facility manager started tracking the time she was spending following up with them and getting mistakes fixed. Then, she showed her organization how much the new team was really costing . . . when factoring in her hourly rate.
It turned out to be more expensive (in addition to being a bigger headache with poorer results) to go with the “cheaper” new team.
They hired back the original cleaning business. Quality for the win!
(Later, we’ll talk about how COVID-19 has also affected customers’ perception of cost, value, and effectiveness.)
Value to your team
An effective business is almost always more profitable . . . and it’s also a lot more enjoyable to work for, too. CIMS certification is really all about making sure your team is running well and has thought through all the important questions.
Lance says that the biggest tripping point for most teams is is having things documented. He might ask what they do for inspections or workloading, for example, and while that particular person might be able to answer the question, they can’t point to a specific place where it’s written down.
“They can’t show you, but they can tell you,” he says. “What’s going to happen when you leave? Who’s going to be able to get into your head and get all this stuff?
Additionally, the simple act of thinking through the process helps teams identify what’s “slipping through the cracks.” Lance says this is one of the biggest benefits of the CIMS certification process.
It’s also something a CIMS consultant can help teams with: compiling all those informal processes and disorganized documents into one place, to serve as your organization’s source of truth.
“If they haven’t worked with a consultant prior to me coming in as their assessor, then we have to have a talk,” he says. “I have to tell them, ‘If you want to do this, we’re going to go line by line, and you’re going to document everything.'”
Whether they do it with a consultant or on their own, Lance says teams who go through that process “feel like they’ve really achieved something” by the end.
“They’ve tightened their business up to the point where they can go out and solicit more business and be confident in what they’re doing,” he says.
How COVID-19 changes things
Lance says that since they advent of COVID-19, customers are “looking at their cleaning services completely different than what they used to . . . it’s elevating the industry.”
“The cleaning service is no longer unseen,” he says. “Customers are paying more attention to what the cleaners are doing and how they’re doing it — whether or not they’ve really got the disinfection programs that they say they’ve got.”
That’s where having a documented, methodical process in place becomes really valuable.
Lance says people want to know more than just the disinfection process; they also want to know it’s actually working. “You can do that a number of ways: the ATP inspection method, swab testing, fluorescent gel testing.”
That’s where a tool like OrangeQC comes in handy: to regularly track measurements of cleanliness and assure customers that your program is effective.
The verdict? CIMS is worth it for teams committed to being the best.
“If you want to be among the best of the best, then you should have the best practices going on,” Lance says. “If you’re serious about your business, that’s the kind of motivation that should drive you to do CIMS.”
If you’re unsure whether you want to start the certification process, we recommend downloading the CIMS certification checklist and seeing what you already have in place. Beginning to look over those points, making sure you have a process, and pulling together the right document is a great place to start.
Going through the formal process is definitely valuable, however. The assessors are there to catch blind spots, make recommendations, and ensure your program really is among the best of the best.