FM companies enriched with the recent software, technology and asset maintenance programs are now capable to provide comprehensive cleaning and room services at the desirable cost models. The economies of scale that FM firms deal with, allow them greater flexibility by being able to offer a fixed rate per room to its clients. That doesn’t end the hospitality industry’s concerns while outsourcing FM, where sustainability lies in the long term profits with an ultimate objective to satisfy its guests beyond their expectations.
The recent economic climate has led hotels to explore the possible options to reduce operational cost, including the adoption of outsourcing FM, which the hospitality sector has hitherto been resisting. If outsourced, it will help cut unnecessary costs and attention from FM, but then there are certain expectations that must be fulfilled to retain the brand value.
Sonia Mittal, Executive Housekeeper – Ramada, Powai comments, “In my opinion, outsourcing janitorial services is a strategic business decision with many great benefits. You can gain a competitive advantage by outsourcing commercial cleaning, because it saves your time and resources, enabling you to grow your business and outshine the competition. It all comes down to a simple goal: making your business more efficient. It is the responsibility of the owner or the controller of the contract to make sure the company is getting what it is paying for.”
With inputs from Industry, Clean India Journal addresses the gaps that an FM service provider must bridge to void the expectations.
The prominent question is of accountability. Will a third party worker carry the same accountability as a hotel’s janitor does? Manish Jain, Executive Housekeeper, The Lalit-New Delhi disagrees, “The biggest roadblock is the outsourced team’s integrity and honesty. Constantly changing faces in the FM service provider’s team lead to nightmares and immense amount of productive time being wasted in familiarization.”
In hospitality, gesture based service does matter. A janitor has to ensure that guests must not be affected in anyway. FM service providers do not train their staff ‘how to behave with premium guests’. Therefore, their staff will not be able to provide the turn-down services in the same manner as provided in a five star hotel. Pran Raina, Executive Housekeeper, ITC Grand Chola, says, “FM companies usually employ people from diverse background of work experience which sometimes creates a clash between understandings of actual expectations of the hotel. It happens because since they are not from operational backgrounds, they fail to relate to the demands and intricacies of the job, their company is hired for.”
Different hotels have different brand values which get reflected through their workers. A third party worker won’t be able to reflect the brand value through his/her work owing to the lack of the localised training. Adding to this, Pran says, “While it’s true that outsourcing FM services reduces management time and efforts to recruit the staff and their training for the services but it has its own constraints.
The high end ‘five star’ hospitality sector needs specific set of skills, qualification and personality. It becomes challenging as sometime FM companies, even the reputed ones, often fail to provide added skills and profile matching as per hotel’s expectations. Manning all the areas which is of prime importance to the hotel is not always well understood by the FM company management. High demand, uncompetitive market and high attrition rate make it difficult for FM companies to maintain the agreed manpower, thereby leaving hotel management to worry about manning of areas. However, due to its cost effectiveness and less inventory management directly by the hotel; some hotels are opting for outsourcing. High demand of skilled labour in this high demand industry is a challenge for Hotel HR as well.”
By outsourcing, one loses the direct control over the staff serving the guests and hence a direct command. In hospitality sector, one has to deal with unexpected number of guests. Srimanti De, Housekeeper – Maidens Hotel, Delhi points out, “Outsourcing needs better supervision from the management to ensure consistency. The quality of employees engaged is a concern as we do not have absolute control over those employed. The ownership of work also is comparatively less.”
While some of the three star properties have already started outsourcing the FM services, ‘four and five star’ hotels still feel that yet they are yet to find the right service providers to fulfil their expectations which are high. Manish avers, “I would expect the service provider to be glued on to the requirement not just related to the daily operations but also to training needs of his team, the innovations related to cost control in the industry and the integrity & honesty matrix.”
Sonia says, “You need to be clear on what your cleaning standards are to be – to meet your customers/guest expectations and how to define those standards in evaluating vendor pricing and the contract compliance follow-up on meeting those standards. Although the hotel business is different than public schools, the cleaning methods are similar and integration of contracted services into your overall operational model is just as important.”
Perceptions need to be changed. “In hospitality sector since education & communication plays a vital role in better workforce, the personnel engaged have to match the criteria laid down by the brand in terms of grooming and attitude. The company should take complete ownership of getting a background check of all employees as there is a perception that people who aren’t on the payroll are a security issue,” says Srimanti.
Not only that, highly skilled, multilingual workers are desired to work with flexibility. Pran avows, “One needs to have a complete understanding of organization standards and procedures, and compliance to same. Skilled, trained and well groomed staff, back up staff ready for immediate replacement, low attrition and active involvement with on site staff, compliance to all legal mandates, like on time distribution of salaries and adherence to hotel’s schedules and processes are the mandatory requirements which
an FM service provider must be capable of.”
Merging the Gap
FM service providers are aware of the concerns and industry expectations and some of them have already stepped into the business. The accountability, ownership and training concerns can be addressed with a collaborative approach to void the gap. “I think it is extremely important to consider the outsourced employees as our team and to integrate them with the hotel employed team members from housekeeping as well as other departments. At Ramada Powai, nobody thinks of them as outsiders and we are all simply “the housekeeping team,” opines Sonia.
To counter the lack of appropriate training, Srimanti comments, “Government of India has spearheaded a training programme for the hospitality sector known as ‘Hunar se Rozgar’ where any high school graduate can enrol in a six week training module in a hotel in housekeeping services and Food & Beverage service and an eight week training in kitchen and bakery operation where they also get a fixed stipend paid by the government. This gives them an opportunity to learn hotel operation and increases the pool of workforce available. There should be more training avenues available for weaker section so that they get trained and can look for other avenues.”
Starting with the least important areas
If not the complete, outsourcing can be in parts. “FM services is a boon when it comes to specialized tasks like facade cleaning and floor grinding/ polishing, as these areas are least guest contact areas and need a very specialized set of people,” says Manish.
Sonia avers, “In a bid to cut costs, hotels have stepped up to outsourcing services. Till recently, only a few services, like security, landscaping and some maintenance and housekeeping were being outsourced. With competition heating up leading to a shortage of trained manpower, hotels are being forced to outsource activities related to reservation and MIS reports, accounting, payroll & HR functions. Thye are outsourcing areas of operation where they do not possess core competence.”