The cleaning industry in New Zealand is worth more than an estimated $1 billion annually, and the value is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.

What’s great about the industry is that any person from any walk of life can become a professional cleaner as long as they receive proper training. What’s even better is that the pay is also quite competitive. After getting some experience, cleaners in New Zealand can earn more than the basic salary.

With great pay and potential for growth—especially when you consider franchising—it’s no wonder that there are almost 40,000 people in the profession. From native-born Kiwis to immigrants, there’s no shortage of cleaners in the country.

Speaking of immigrants, however, there are some cases where the language barrier can interfere with work. Many non-natives are proficient in English, but there are also those who aren’t. This can present a problem when it comes to ensuring the efficiency, effectiveness, and safety of everyone on the job.

In short, commercial cleaning companies would do well to invest in overcoming language issues. Not only will this prevent any miscommunications, but also help maintain the quality of your work.

Here are some ideas to help bridge the gap and break language barriers in commercial cleaning:

ESL Training

ESL or English as Second Language training is one of the most effective ways to put workers and employers on the same level of understanding, no matter the industry. Of course, ESL training can take a while; some programmes can last up to 6 months, while more intensive ones are often longer at about 12 months or so.

As a business owner, you’re expected to shoulder the cost of the training; expect to pay at least $400 per week of training. It’s a little expensive, to be sure, but it can be better for your company in the long run. You can look into getting a tax discount, if you want to file free ESL training as a fringe benefit. Ask a tax consultant regarding this.

Go Bilingual

While your cleaning staff is learning English, what do you do? You don’t wait until they’re able to communicate more easily; rather, you find ways to get your message across. As such, it can be a good idea to learn the basics of whatever language your workers speak. This way, you can be more time-efficient.

Go the extra mile, too, and prepare training materials in two languages. Consult an expert, of course, so nothing gets lost in translation. Doing this also saves you time in the future, if ever you decide to hire more non-native workers in the future. It’s also a sign of goodwill from you that you’re willing to meet employees halfway in order to understand them.

Practise Immersion

If you want to speed up the process of learning the language, immersion through daily conversation can help a lot. Talk to your employees in English but be prepared to translate into their language for clarity. This can help ease them into understanding both technical terms and day-to-day words.

Use Tech

Admittedly, learning a new language can be a challenging endeavour. The good thing is that there are plenty of technological tools that can help make it easier. From janitorial software with multiple language options to free translation apps, there are many ways you can take advantage of technology to make learning a language easier.

You can also gamify language learning to make it more fun! There are plenty of free yet comprehensive language services websites and apps you can visit and download. The key is to find one that you and your employees both find easy to use and intuitive.

Use Colour-Coded Equipment

At the beginning of your language training, when you’re still getting the hang of things, using colour-coded equipment can help a ton. Purchase differently coloured microfibre cloths, brooms, mops, and such. Then assign them to separate areas, say orange for the kitchen, green for the bathrooms, and blue for general spaces like the reception desk. You can also colour-code depending on the hazard level, with red as dangerous and green or blue as safe.

For more clarity, you can supplement colour-coded equipment with pictures. With proper labels or signs, it would be easy even for non-English speakers to figure out which is which. The key is to find a system that works for you.

Of course, it will also help immensely to remember the second and third points: using two languages and immersion. While you’re providing the tools and equipment to your employees, try to communicate with them using English and their native language. This can help ease them into speaking a new language without losing their confidence.


In any industry and profession, one of the most important things is communication, in which language is a crucial facilitator. If you want your operations to succeed, it’s best to ensure that everyone understands each other. Follow the tips mentioned above for some straightforward ways in breaking the language barrier in your commercial cleaning business.