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Housekeeping in hotels today has become a complex and multifarious activity, changing from being perceived as a non-revenue generating operation to being considered as the face of the organisation. All this is possible only when the housekeeper is well trained. Are housekeepers given that importance? Here is what some in the hospitality sector have to say:

Need to Invest in Housekeepers

Avril Sule
Hospitality Educator and Trainer

 

 

 

Chetan Shah
Faculty – IHM Mumbai

 

The history of housekeeping reveals that the role of managing accommodation was played by the ‘innkeeper’s wife’. Even today, the lady of the house takes on this role in pensions, B&Bs and accommodation facilities that are managed by families. In a large scale operation, however, the role of the housekeeping department is far more complex due to the multifarious activities involved. It is essential for housekeepers to possess a span of efficiency that covers a wide range of knowledge, skills and behaviours.

This quite simply means that a good housekeeper is not born, but is trained to be one. Unfortunately, most of the hotel companies do not understand this or if they do they tend to undermine its importance. The perception of housekeeping as being a non-revenue producing department prevails and the selection, recruitment, and career growth of the housekeeper is, in most cases not given any importance. The person who plays a pivotal role and can manage to create a difference to the image of the entire hotel is brushed aside with a ridiculously low salary, budgets allotted being as minimal as possible and expectations to run the show being pegged at a high level of excellence.

Interaction with a number of housekeepers has provided a better insight into the world of housekeeping in the hospitality industry. There have been major fundamental changes in the operation of the department in terms of mechanization, chemicals being used, the facilities and amenities being provided. Despite this, there is no change in the profile of the person who manages and controls these functions. The backbone of the hotel has no support and no say in matters that could lead to better management and operational effectiveness.

The management seems reluctant to invest in housekeepers. There is adequate evidence to prove that housekeepers are the most under-paid employees and the most over worked staff in any hotel. A high attrition rate at the operational level of housekeeping staff is common and what is even more surprising is that they leave the hotel just for a meager raise in salary, offered by another property. Employing new staff creates serious problems in complying with standards and keeping cost effectiveness in place.

Perhaps the most difficult situation is when the head of the housekeeping department leaves the organisation. It is difficult to find a replacement, as the second-in-command has not been trained to bridge the gap and his/her career path lacks the preparation for any future prospects. In most of the properties, it seems that a person who settles for low emoluments would be employed rather than a person who has the expertise and the required knowledge. As a result, while HR projects their efficiency in getting economical managers, the operations suffer and it takes time to reverse the damage done to the hotel. There could be multiple problems happening simultaneously, but more often than not, these are overlooked.

While singing this Somebody Done Somebody Wrong song, one must admit that as a result of repeating this mistake several times over, a few organisations are now desirous of making the wiser decision. Having realized that this practice is a crucial dysfunction, organisations are now becoming more aware of the competence that they could project by investing in the right person for the job and creating the kind of loyalty that will sustain superior standards and cost effectiveness.

 

Training Saves Expenses

Kunal Roy
Senior Executive Housekeeper
Kuramathi Island Resort – Maldives

Indeed this is the bitter truth of housekeeping in Hotels! In almost all the hotels that I have seen in India and in Maldives currently, even if a Food and Beverage manager oversees operations in only one or two restaurants in a resort or if a chef has just one main kitchen to look after, he is paid a lot more. In many cases, the deputy in these areas earns more than the executive housekeeper, who might be looking after 100 rooms.

The notion that anyone can clean the room and maintain cleanliness standards continues to exist in people’s mind and they fail to realise the technicalities of the task. They do not understand that an efficient and trained housekeeper can save unnecessary expenditure, build reputation and assist in increasing the life of the property. A half-baked person, in a bid to experiment and save his reputation can implement some quick-fix solutions. This may seem good in the short run but will destroy the property over a period of time. This in turn will increase the cost to the management. By investing just 5-10% of that cost in training, proper talent can be developed and retained with competitive remuneration.

 

Face of the Hotel Industry

Parineeta Jaiswal
Housekeeper
Trident, Jaipur

With changing times and rising standards, housekeeping and housekeepers have gained substantial significance in the hospitality sector. What was often referred to as the back of the house, has significantly risen to become the heart of the house and the face of the hotel industry. While delivering fine dining services and creating exceptional gastronomic experiences have always been the measure of an ultimate hotel experience, creating the moment of truth by showcasing the intricacies of the hotel has emerged today to become the epitome of a memorable guest experience.

What is fine dining without the correct ambience or a hygienic surrounding? What is guest experience without the right blend of colours and hues, or the calming fragrance in the air? What is good sleep without the right linen or comfortable interiors?

These and many more realisations over the last few years have made organisations see the importance of good housekeeping practices and exceptional housekeepers, who by their expertise transform guest delight to guest WOW. Increasingly, organisations have started investing in training individuals with the right passion and fire to learn to ensure that the same standards are maintained across the hotel and multiple hotels in the chain.

The inputs of a housekeeper are as important as that of any other decision maker in the organisation. There is no disparity in terms of facilities, emoluments, rewards and recognitions and training and development plans. They have an equal say in decision making and very often come up with better solutions owing to their deeper insight and knowledge of larger areas in the hotel as their role is not limited to certain sections or division. Housekeepers have gone beyond just being providers of impeccable rooms and public areas to actually becoming the contact point for obtaining the right resources for a better output. From suggesting improvements to sourcing the right vendors, to obtaining the best rates, to the prompt delivery and spontaneous implementation, the housekeeper of today definitely has his/her hands full. From being a monotonous job with set tasks, the learning curve has undergone an immense change while building the overall personality of the present day housekeeper.

However, the challenge remains and the best results will still be attained through individual interest that is generated while keeping the larger interest of the organisation in mind. While a lot of organisations are still known for the food and beverages, the highlight of the hour is definitely a good product that remains to be the reflection and baby of a good housekeeper. No wonder when we look around today, we see that some of the best General Managers across hotel chains have been brilliant housekeepers in the past. The bottleneck is abolished, the path has been created, the journey has begun and there’s definitely a beautiful road ahead.

Time to start thinking

Praful Maru
Director
Trainergy Corporate Solutions

Having been a recruiter, trainer and operations personnel, I have noticed during campus selection that no more than 15% of the students took interest in making housekeeping a career. There is a lack of growth opportunities in this department, as only a few have actually made it to Operations Head position. It will be a long time before Indian hotels look at a Housekeeping Manager at par with other HODs both functionally and compensation wise.

Housekeeping has for some inexplicable reason been perceived as an expense-generating department and not as a core department or business function. Frequently, the management undermines the importance of having a trained and experienced housekeeping head, to avoid HR cost.

The operational level housekeeping staff, in most cases is equivalent to a utility worker. If this continues, a situation will evolve where facilities management in a good property will be unable to match brand expectations. It is time to start thinking differently and give Executive Housekeepers their due.

 

Making a big difference

Sheila Rawool
Executive Housekeeper
The Fern Residency
Mumbai

Although housekeeping is a non-revenue producing department, a housekeeper can make a big difference on the GOP, by controlling expenses and maintaining assets within the allotted budget. One must realise that the housekeeper should be well trained and experienced to handle and maintain the entire property. It is also the responsibility of the executive housekeeper to equip the second-in-line with managerial skills. This is often forgotten while recruiting the executive housekeeper.

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