In 2008, we had just been awarded the janitorial services contract for 35 police precincts and support facilities across the Greater Toronto Area. The proposal process had a mandate for the successful proponent to achieve the “CIMS certification within 6 months of contract award”. It was through this process that we were first introduced to the ISSA’s newly established Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS). Over the next few months, we worked diligently in going though the process and documenting all that we needed to achieve this goal. In June 2008, we became one of the first janitorial companies in Canada to not only to achieve the CIMS and CIMS – Green Building certifications but achieve both ‘with Honours’.
In the 15 years since first achieving the CIMS Certifications, we’ve often been asked “What is CIMS?” “What is the value proposition?” “Why is it important?”. After 15 years of conversations, proposals, and information sessions, we decided to write a blog that answers those questions for our past, present, and future inquirers.
Let’s start off with what the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) is:
The Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) is the first consensus-based management standard that was created for facility service providers and applies to an organization’s management structure, performance systems, and processes. It should be thought of as a framework to help facility service providers develop customer-centric organizations. Compliance with the Standard demonstrates that the organization is structured to deliver consistent, quality services. The CIMS-GB certification demonstrates an organization operates with Green Cleaning Policies, Products, and Principles. As well as the capability to assist customers in achieving LEED EB: O&M points and offers customers assurance that the organization they select is prepared to partner with them in the LEED process. (Abbreviated from issa.com)
The Standard is administered by International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), the leading trade association for the cleaning industry worldwide, with more than 10,500 distributor, manufacturer, manufacturer representative, building service contractor, in-house service provider, residential cleaning, and associated service members. ISSA, a not-for-profit association founded in 1923, prides itself on being the leading association for the cleaning industry worldwide. ISSA administration ensures that there is no commercial bias to any group.
As of last count, there are over 340 companies globally with either CIMS or CIMS-GB Certifications, approximately 90% of those in North America. For more information, as well as a company directory you can visit the CIMS Website.
So why is this certification important?
Beyond the fact that it demonstrates an organizations willingness to learn and improve, there are three key aspects of the CIMS Certification that should be important to you.
Sound Processes and Policies
You cannot achieve the CIMS Certification without having sound processes and policies in place. Everything from your Customer Service Standards, KPIs, Green Cleaning Processes, and even Succession Planning. CIMS is not strictly for your cleaning operations. CIMS Certification applies to our organization as whole, to ensure we are not just great at cleaning, but we are great at operating and building our business.
While most companies have processes and policies in place, following and enforcing them is easier said than done. For processes and policies to be successful and effective, the entire organization needs to be aware of them. That’s hard. You need to build systems to ensure everyone in the organization always has access. You also need to ensure your leadership teams are communicating them clearly and consistently. To achieve CIMS, you cannot simply say you have these in place, as you are independently audited through the ISSA with physical documentation and interviews with employees inside the organization. From leadership to management, down to the front line, everyone must be aware.
Regarding processes and policies, CIMS also helps remove your blind spots when building these out. Going from a small business to a medium, or a medium to a large, usually takes a different skill set, or a different set of processes and policies. It’s tough to know what works for large organizations when you’ve been a medium sized business for most of your life. By having the ISSA and the CIMS Network at your disposal, you have resources available to you to help you vet your processes and policies before your audit, as well as have a sounding board for new ideas. Removing your blind spots is crucial for maintaining CIMS as your organization grows.
We take great pride in our transparency. We always have. But it’s hard to really demonstrate how transparent you to a prospective customer if they don’t know you or have worked with you before. CIMS solves for this.
What more can you do to demonstrate you are a transparent organization, than letting an independent auditor into your offices to review your operations, finances, accounts, etc.?
Every two years, ISSA sends an independent auditor to our offices. That auditor spends time touring our accounts, interviewing customers and employees, reviewing financials, verifying operational KPIs and standards, scrutinizing leadership plans, as well as a litany of other measurable criteria. And we provide access to this information with pride. When you ask, “why is CIMS important?” we want you to think of this. Because you should prioritize partnering with organizations that operate transparently.
The simplest answer to “Why is CIMS important?”. Because it proves that we do what we say. When we tell you that we have airtight Human Resources Policies, we mean it. When we tell you that our Operational Processes are built to be proactive rather than reactive, we mean it. When we tell you we strive to be the Greenest Cleaning Company, we mean it.
So, when we submit our proposals to you for new opportunities, we will still include all the processes, policies, and procedures so you can review them for yourself. But our CIMS and CIMS – GB Certifications should serve as a guarantee that we check all your boxes, and then some.
We have been audited 6 times over the past 12 years, and every time we pass with a near perfect score. We don’t just achieve this for one or two locations we clean. We achieve this company wide. 300+ locations. So, you can rest assured knowing that when we tell you we do something, we do it.
There are a few other reasons why the CIMS and CIMS – GB Certifications should be important to you, but we will save those for another blog. For now, we want you to better understand the value CIMS brings to you, and why you should work with companies that have the CIMS and CIMS – GB Certifications. Over the years we’ve met with countless companies across Canada, the US, and Europe, many with CIMS Certification and many without. We can confidently say that the companies with CIMS Certifications all seem to share similar traits, and exemplify similar commitments to transparency, service excellence, and process improvements. This is what CIMS is, and this is why CIMS is important to you.