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Total Quality Management

Nair asserts that upgradation is continuously happening. Each product is getting continually refined based on customer experiences, with constant interaction between housekeepers, the quality team and the vendors. This 360 degree feedback enables vendors to upgrade their products to suit different sectors.

Many housekeepers are already following the tenets of Total Quality Management. Tracking Key Performance Indicators enables them to use data to convince their GMs about their successes or their requirements. Particularly in the Middle-East, where employers pay for the transport, stay and other needs of every employee, TQM has helped rationalise the workforce.

Speaking for Vietnamese housekeepers, Quang says: “We really face problems when one guest checks out late but the next one wants to check in early. We often need to recruit people from other departments to help the housekeeping staff. TQM helps us maintain our standards.”

Dasanayake says that high staff turnover is an impediment in implementing TQM, as each new member needs to be trained in it. Orientation itself takes time. “We can implement anything”, he claims, “but it is maintaining it that is the challenge.”

Laundry as revenue

Traditionally, laundry has been viewed as a service department, not a revenue generator. Hemaprabha’s hotel has an inhouse laundry, but in 12 years, they never thought of capitalising on it. Now, they also process laundry sent from outside. Their management is very happy, since housekeeping has become a revenue earner rather than a savings department.

Digitisation Automated laundries, in which chemicals are added in the proper dilution according to the size of the load, are in vogue, since a single click can do the job of what earlier took many people

Automated laundries, in which chemicals are added in the proper dilution according to the size of the load, are in vogue, since a single click can do the job of what earlier took many people.

Imran Mohamed narrates: “We completely change all linen once a year. So all linen needs to be of a quality that will last for 365 days, accounting for high-occupancy periods, without fading or shrinking. And if a damage audit needs to be done, we don’t rely on Excel sheets. One click, and the report is generated”.

Manpower management

Mohamed’s property has brought duty rosters, payrolls, employee of the month nominations, disciplinary action records and commendations all online. If an employee resigns or is terminated from one property of the chain and applies at another, the system will flag his application.

The age-old problem of staff retention remains. Hemaprabha says that she uses promotions, increments and career development charts to help motivate staff, but still loses many team members, often to more attractive departments in the same hotel.

Since Bengaluru’s airport is located on the outskirts of the city, Nair’s team provides basic human comforts like transport and food to the housekeeping staff. They also motivate the staff by explaining how their work contributes to the first impression of India for international guests, and how they are contributing to nation-building.

Not all hotels face staff issues. Kashiram’s resort chain has had team members who have been with them for 20-25 years. They started off as room attendants or laundry attendants and are now executive housekeepers. People are moving away from the belief that one cannot grow within housekeeping.

Outsourcing

Many outsourcing companies are coming up, which are giving competition to in-house housekeeping teams. These outsourced workers are contract workers with no job permanency; the person who comes to work at the property on one day may not come on the next day. Hence, consistency is affected.

Shukla is a proponent of outsourcing certain specialised jobs: “For example, if I have an internal team of marble polishers, they have a limited amount of work. But if I outsource the task, I can get someone to come, say once a fortnight; I save 14 working days, as well as money that I would have spent on machines and chemicals. It is a win-win scenario”.

He cautions against outsourcing all tasks, though. Since many contract workers are freshers, it can take months to train them, after which the outsourcing company may place them at a different site–a waste of time and energy for the hotel.

According to Hemaprabha, at the end of the day, there is no substitute for your own staff. “You need to have employees who can talk to guests from the heart. Even a small team can be fully motivated and empowered.”

Training

Training is now based on a needs analysis, as well as the level of the employee in the hierarchy. Gone are the days when someone was blindly expected to do his job. For example, a janitor should know how to clean a wash-room a certain way, as well as the repercussions of not doing it that way.

Hemaprabha sends employees for training in other departments as well as to other hotels, since it helps open their minds. Nyoman Sugiarta, Chairman – Indonesian Housekeepers’ Association says that in his country, they have training programmes and seminars every month, where they invite the main speaker to share his experiences.

Hemaprabha aptly sums up the present conditions in which housekeepers have to work when she says: “When the market fluctuates, we need to have the flexibility to move with it because if we stay rigid, and don’t bring innovation, we will be left behind.”

The housekeeping sector is changing in leaps and bounds; as guest expectations continue to rise, hoteliers become more and more quality-conscious and the influx of smart technology for efficient operations grows into an avalanche. It will be interesting to see where the sector stands just one year from now, at IHS 2020.

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