Long Term Focus
Considering the dynamic growth of the industry, vision and conviction are required for the journey of an Executive Housekeeper to a General Manager. Creating talent for this journey depends on recognizing the right place, right time and the right opportunity. The onus of attaining success is shared by the Executive Housekeeper setting out on this journey and the Management.
The skills required to be developed are not gender specific. Imbibing a madness to method approach using the prior experience of detailing, scheduling, developing & modifying processes to overcome the chaos. Chaos on the one hand can completely break down planning but it also has the potential to create opportunities and achieve beyond expectations. Enjoying the constant change and surprises requires opening up of the mind and an altered mindset. Passion for excellence will add value to the newly developed skill set.
Timeless Teaching, Timely Training
Definition of training by Romiszowski A. J “Training is akin to following a tightly fenced path, in order to reach a predetermined goal at the end of it. Education is to wander freely in the fields to the left and right of this path – preferably with a map.”
The hotel’s core product, the Rooms Division, has to date, received limited attention in academic research. The curriculum is slow to change as compared to the rate of changes in the industry.
There is a marked lack of excitement in the students on Housekeeping internship. The briefing and debriefing in college and while on internship centres around skills only. The intern lacks the opportunity to observe the application of management inputs received in college. A negative approach of treating interns as grunt work, using them to fill the gap in the rota results in disillusionment and takes the student further away from considering Housekeeping as a career option. In contrast, the glamour of Food & Beverage, Food Production and Front Office have overshadowed Housekeeping.
Housekeeping has also suffered as a career option due to a high employee turnover rate attributed largely to job dissatisfaction, limited career development opportunities, lack of job security, poor work-life balance, poor remuneration, higher workloads. Attracting and retaining talent remains a major area of concern. Analysis of the management’s vision of the career growth plan of an Executive Housekeeper to a Rooms Division Manager and then General Manager, will create a change in mindset.
Proposed Solutions & Applications
A multi-pronged approach is the need of the hour to spruce up the image of Housekeeping by bridging the gap between education and industry. This could begin with the scrutiny of the current curriculum being pertinent, necessary or outdated. It is important that the academicians and housekeepers carry out this scrutiny together. This way the Housekeepers’ requirements will come forth and the industry will show the way to education. The curriculum followed in the institutions forms the building blocks for the future employees of the industry. The Housekeepers’ requirements will be expressed in terms of the desirable skills that need to be developed by the students and the knowledge they should have before they join the industry. Redesigning an outcome-based housekeeping curriculum will reduce the dependency evident today in making it relevant to times. A differently designed curriculum will to a large extent ensure standard delivery across various institutions.
The students will be able to visualize their career growth through this revamped curriculum. Their growth plan in the industry will entail strategic talent management and talent management practices resulting in talent retention. Constant conversations between education and industry will keep redundancy away from the curriculum. Similarly, housekeepers interacting with students regularly, while they are still in college, will help to inspire them and build passion. These interactions will encourage the students to consider and pursue housekeeping as their specialization. Similarly, on-campus placements are the platform housekeepers have to inspire students.
Internships are an integral part of the housekeeping curriculum. This is an opportunity for the students to put into practice what is learned in the institute. Internship is also an opportunity to observe the variations implemented by the industry, in keeping with constraints of time available, costs involved, staff required to achieve optimal standards of delivery for customer delight. At the commencement of the internship, it is important that the students are thoroughly briefed and also given a guiding document on what they need to observe and note during their internship.
Regular checks on what the intern is learning, what the hotel is training the intern on, along with course correction, if required, will ensure productive internships. Efforts taken to make the Housekeeping Management more visual to the interns will serve as an additional benefit. The time invested in training the interns, will help to create a bank of human resource enthusiastic to work and grow in the field of housekeeping.
Housekeeping has many facets. Where cleaning and maintenance remains to be the core, a Housekeeper’s functions include, decorations, layout, lighting, interior design, sourcing material, manpower scheduling & management, budgeting, laundry management, pest management and staff training to name a few. The significance and frequency in which each function is demanded is property dependent. Ideally, the housekeeping curriculum should be inclusive of all the functions. Also, housekeeping has expanded beyond hotels to well-ness, retail, transport, entertainment, and facilities management sectors. The approach to housekeeping differs sector wise and a different set of housekeeping skills will be demanded depending on the sector and function of housekeeping. A change in our approach to preparing students for Housekeeping is solicited.
A few examples of the change are:
• Demonstrating the difference between Hotel Clean and Hospital Clean in terms of measurement of cleanliness based on visual appearance and infection control through disinfection and increased frequency of cleaning
• Calculating the financial implications of placing an extra towel in a guestroom and its effect on inventory management
• Estimating the cost of laundering based on occupancy levels
• Comparing the cost of room cleaning to the revenue earned
Approaching internships in an experimental format rather than a skill-based approach will help in creating curiosity in the students. Intellectually challenging the students with real life examples in college and during internship will help create and sustain their interest level in housekeeping. Training in housekeeping is inclusive of, but not limited to skills. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the backbone of skills training. Ideally a departmental skill training should not exceed 20 minutes of practice per employee per session. Skills training should include ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the skill being imparted. The SOPs should be tailor-made to suit the brand standards requirements.