Rising affluence, globalization and technology are some of the key factors influencing changes in the growing hospitality segment and more so in the housekeeping department. ‘Remember… No matter how good your feedback is, you always start over with the next customer.’ This is certainly true for Housekeeping. At a time when guests value experiences over mere luxuries, and the business visitors look for a comfortable stay, the role of housekeeping is challenging. However, Is housekeeping prepared for challenges and changes? What is it that would make housekeepers and housekeeping more than what it is perceived today in Asia?
In the following article based on the 2nd International Housekeepers’ Summit discussions, Anuradha Khot, hospitality consultant, summarises the solutions shared during the sessions as a guide to hospitality housekeepers.
A TripAdvisor Online Review website has been quoted as saying that cleanliness in hotels is among the top ratings. Trivago too has said that “clean hotels garner more positive online reviews”. As research proves, it is clean guestrooms in a hotel that is paramount for the success of the hospitality business. Cleanliness is essentially the forte of housekeepers, but in the changing scenario, are hospitality housekeepers restricted to the cleaning function alone? Opportunities of global exposure to enhance skills, knowledge levels and experiences have given housekeepers the proficiency to lead Rooms Division Department and even head hotels in the capacity of a General Manager. However, the need for a clear roadmap for housekeepers to hone their skills to take up the new role is essential.
Where training was initially intended to develop personal leadership, now it is an essential skill to be garnered along with a list of others to scale the heights. Teaching to build a foundation and training for performance are essential to this process of growth. Technology assisting in communication, to technology as an essential tool to improve the management of Housekeeping was thoroughly explored. Nuances of Housekeeping procurement grew from being a contributor to maintain costs to being a facilitator to increase effectiveness and efficiency of the Housekeeping department. Last but not the least, sustainability contributing to the environment, the bottom line of a business and reducing costs of operation were proven as profitable approaches for a successful business venture.
Scaling Heights – Journey from Executive Housekeeper to General Manager
The decision to take up a divisional role or to specialise in housekeeping is dependent on the natural inclination of an Executive Housekeeper. The transition requires development of an additional bouquet of skills. Giving up the comfort zone of many years in the operational department and venturing into an uncomfortable zone heralds the beginning of this journey. This transition could also come in the form of moving from a fully operational hotel to the helm of an underconstruction property and then seeing it through the pre-opening phase. Proposed Solutions & Applications
A General Manager of a hotel is required to think like a businessman displaying quick and apt decisionmaking skills while handling a broad spectrum of complexities.
A good starting point for an Executive Housekeeper aiming for the divisional role is cross exposure in Front Office to gain first-hand experience in handling revenue, followed by holding the office of Rooms Division Manager. The Rooms Division Manager is responsible for the revenue (front office) and expense (housekeeping).
Further, cross exposure in Sales & Marketing will help in developing insights into various market segments being catered to by the hotel. Sales & Marketing handles guest expectations in a larger perspective of the market segment. There is a positive correlation between value for money related to guest room facilities and customer retention. The key learning outcome of this cross-exposure is on developing financial prudence.
People skills are required in both the roles, that of an Executive Housekeeper and a General Manager, to deal with the continuous dynamic situations; but with a difference in the approach to communication. The focus of a General Manager is revenue, whereas that of an Executive Housekeeper is to present the product— guest rooms & other hotel facilities, tailor-made to guest requirement. The detailing carried out in a Housekeeper’s role to offer unique solutions comes naturally even on graduating to a General Manager.
Insights into all operational departments is essential while being groomed for the position of a General Manager. An exposure to different departments like Food & Beverage, Engineering, Finance, Sales & Marketing and Human Resource results in greater understanding of departmental functioning and brings about better interdepartmental co-ordination from the General Manager’s position. A General Manager is required to ask the right questions, be logical, listen to answers and offer course correction if required to reach the goal. This journey builds a macro perspective from the micro detailing which is the primary way of working at Housekeeping.
Key skills an Executive Housekeeper should focus on developing when paving the way to be a General Manager are:
• Financial prudence – ways to drive revenue along with excellence
• Cost Control (for the profit) v/s Value Proposition (for guest delight)
• Gauging market requirements & fluctuations – to develop a proactive approach
• A mindset to empower the team and focussing on the larger picture
Initiating the career conversation about filling the skills gaps is the Executive Housekeeper’s prerogative. He or she must also earn the confidence of the management so that they are willing to make the investment and take the risk for the change in the job role. A good intent and right platform to initiate the transition itself indicates an equal opportunity.