ISS and PwC shift perceptions to improve employee experience in the cleaning industry


In the cleaning sector low wages, low morale and feelings of invisibility are pervasive. This even translates down to the uniforms cleaners wear, with workers saying this is a way of ‘marking out cleaning operatives as separate and different from the rest of the workforce. However, such challenges are opportunities for growth and progress, as demonstrated by ISS. It decided to take action to address these challenges by providing inclusivity, dignity and equal opportunities for its cleaning staff, or ‘placemakers’ as the company calls them. In doing this, the mission was to drive up staff engagement, improve team wellbeing and position their employees at the heart of their operations.


ISS introduced numerous initiatives targeting problems faced by their teams daily. These measures, ranging from pay rate adjustments to career development opportunities, aimed to revamp the cleaning industry’s perception and stigma. The driving force behind these changes was the introduction of Wellbeing Audits for all Placemakers across the entire PwC UK portfolio of offices. This was an impartial and confidential way to shed light on issues such as shift timings, break structures and other workplace conditions that needed urgent attention. Redefining language by referring to cleaners as ‘housekeepers’, introducing new career roles such as housekeeping associates to encompass all areas of the housekeeping service and provide a sense of value and purpose, and deploying certified training programmes from the British Institute of Cleaning Science were other significant steps. ISS also developed an enhanced pay rate scheme and redesigned employee uniforms in collaboration with PwC One team, using ethically sourced fabric made from recycled plastic to help reduce the harmful effect of disposable plastics on the environment.

“By integrating a people strategy and emphasising social value, ISS has successfully challenged prevailing industry standards, forging an inclusive, rewarding environment for its ‘Placemakers'”



By adopting a people-centric strategy, ISS managed to achieve remarkably high staff favourability and retention rates. It also reduced its turnover rate to 9.6% – significantly below the UK average turnover rate. The social value generated by these initiatives was another significant accomplishment, demonstrating tangible evidence of ISS’s commitment to its employees. Using a tailored framework created with the National TOMs calculator (Themes, Outcomes and Measures) ISS can accurately demonstrate and report to its clients quarterly and has implemented social value as a KPI. In 2022, its first calculation of social value, it returned a near 7 figure sum.

Its employee net promoter score was +98 for the first quarter, greatly exceeding the national average. Other positive outcomes included significant volunteering contributions, improved mental health circumstances and several team members receiving awards and recognitions. All these outcomes have underscored the importance ISS places on its workforce, its wellbeing and dignity and the continuous drive to challenge and improve industry standards.