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Amal Nanayakkara, Human Resource Consultant

Have you ever wondered as to how some countries become richer, dynamic and futuristic, while some others seem to lag behind with lost opportunities. The cynic within us will tell that the prosperity is due to exploitation of the minority. A few others may think that it was due the hard work of the individual, while a more simplistic explanation will tell you it’s only because of the weather and yet another may say it’s the age of the nation. It is none of these.

The difference is the attitude of the people, moulded and modeled for many years by education, moral responsibility and a culture, of learning, understanding and improvement. A culture that respects the rule of law which has been established as a standard to be productive, efficient and sustainable wherein a majority abide by the rules. Like rules that are perceived as important to the betterment of an organization, SOPs serve the same purpose in the Housekeeping department.

Some of these include
• A sense of responsibility
• The respect for laws and regulations
• The love and pride of work
• The will to be productive.
• Punctuality.

The crux lies in respecting, accepting and adopting SOPs and allowing SOPs to guide, advise and manage our departments.

The Irish saying, “A new broom sweeps clean; but an old broom knows the corners”, says it all. It’s all about enthusiasm and experience.

The purpose of a SOP is to provide detailed instructions on how to carry out a task, so that any employee, can carry out this task correctly, every time. The 4 crucial words here are, Detailed Instructions, Any Employee, Correctly and Every Time.

Why would these 4 words be the most crucial and significant? An SOP contains the essential ingredient for success of a laid down rule and its implementation which in turn makes a success of its objectives.

The first of these words, the ‘Detailed Information’, is fundamental in understanding a SOP. How detailed should instructions be? how informative should information be? A simple task of wiping a table top may have among its 6 tasks, the use a damp cloth. If instructions could be detailed enough to describe damp to an employee, that would be descriptive. The value of a SOP would depend much on its detail.

The 2nd point would be, ‘Any Employee’. Who would Any Employee be? Any employee will be any staff who may not necessarily be of the department but of another department; who may be on cross training or assisting. He may need to understand the jargon and the details of a SOP, to complete the task. This completion needs to be to the expected standard and efficiency.

The 3rd point is a crucial word – ‘Correctly’. As familiar as we are with the word correct, the dictionary has a staggering 28 meanings and similar words. Truthful, spot on, appropriate, acceptable and precise are some of the more interesting and descriptive words. How correct is correct? Can correct be improved upon or is correct the last word? Why is correct, correct? In the context of an SOP, correct is a temporary phrase and is time bound. With the change of technology, taste, likes and needs or even a style of management, the SOP too may change and with it the correctness. A SOP is constantly evolving, it needs updating and keeping with the times. Such an updated SOP reflects the commitment of management to the implementation of standards in the establishment.

As responsible persons in Housekeeping we have often wanted to ensure that our linen is washed well and is white. But how white is white? To a standard request by any house keeper to ensure that the sheet is well washed or pure white, an analytical staff may easily ask how white is white. How important is it to be correct in the context of your job? The understanding of the word ‘correct’, may lose its significance sometimes… the room boy who does 18 rooms needs to ensure that in the given period of 8 hours of work that all the tasks that needs to be accomplished is completed in a short period of 26 minutes. Considering that the cleaning of a room has a collection of 12 main tasks which in turn gets divided to a staggering 96 sub-tasks, a simple task of bed making and cleaning of the toilet may be the most time-consuming. Therefore, even a few seconds is of significance.

Our 4th word may be the most important of all, ‘Every Time’. Six Sigma, is the internationally accepted measurement of error. However, much as we know as to how we got it correct, it will be of interest to know what went wrong, in order to have it corrected!

In spite of excellent SOPs a margin of error may occur due to factors beyond the control of the employee and the realms of management. Noise, ventilation, poor equipment and inadequate information will be obvious reasons but there would be others that may be overlooked. Motivation of the individual, sound frame of mind of the worker and a sense of pride in work may not be detailed in a SOP, but to reach an error free task, such areas too may need to be thought of. In order for them be totally effective, having supportive management which will look beyond the SOP to the human element cannot be over emphasized.

A well-written SOP will facilitate training. Having complete instructions helps Trainers to ensure that nothing is missed and also provides a reference resource for trainees. The best SOP is one that accurately transfers the relevant information and facilitates compliance with reading and using the SOP.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are issued to specifically instruct employees in areas of responsibility, work Instructions, appropriate specifications and required records. SOPs outline procedures, which must be followed to claim compliance with principles or other statutory rules and regulations. Procedures can take the form of a narrative, a flow chart, a process map, computer screen printouts, slide presentations, film clips or a combination of all or any other suitable form. Whatever the form, they must be written in appropriate, effective style with no ambiguity.

All businesses benefit and operate at a higher efficiency when they have SOP’s in place. Due to the competitive and quick-paced nature of the hospitality industry, Hotels cannot afford to ignore tried and true SOP’s. Everything from how to enter a guest room, to how the bed is to be made needs to have its own procedure.

SOP’s Enable Your Hotel to Operate as a Well-Oiled Machine

Consider your own experiences within the hospitality industry – when you go out to dine, which restaurants do you prefer and why? When you yourself stay at hotels and resorts – which do you prefer and why? Think about your bad experiences… why was it such a miserable experience? Because their SOP’s are terrible, and the people working there couldn’t care less. Having terrible SOP’s is just as bad asthemnot being implemented or not having them at all. Your hotel can, and will, operate as a well-oiled machine once every single efficiency and process is developed, adopted, and put into place. Your resources and reputation are at stake, two things that a hotel can never afford to lose.

[box type=”shadow” ]Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are issued to specifically instruct employees in areas of responsibility, work instructions, appropriate specifications and required records.[/box]

SOPs have the ability to Offer Guests an Experience

Another crucial reason why SOP’s are necessary deals with the guest experience. Why are Ritz Carlton brands successful and highly sought after? Because guests often know the exact experience they can expect to have, and it’s a consistently great one and a fundamentally important aspect is the fact that it is consistent. Having streamlined processes, decor, and hotel offerings, provides comfort and familiarity for the guests, enhancing their experience and increasing the chance that they will return. Guests who become partial to a brand of hotels, are also more likely to be vocal about their support, which will all contribute to your word- of- mouth advertising. SOPs often help in this endeavour. Some brands have perfected this system so remarkably, that guests will even go as far as planning vacations around the locations of properties included in the brand.

In a chain of hotels, one of the biggest challenges in quality control. How can you ensure that every single property is providing exceptional customer service and running at optimal ability? The answer certainly lies in the SOP’s. SOPs detail the regularly recurring work processes that are to be conducted or followed within an organization. They document the way activities are to be performed to facilitate consistent conformance to technical and quality system requirements and to support data quality. SOPs are intended to be specific to the organization or facility whose activities are described and assist that organization to maintain their quality control and quality assurance processes and ensure compliance with governmental regulations.

If not written correctly, SOPs are of limited value. In addition, the best written SOPs will fail if they are not followed upon updated and corrected. Therefore, the use of SOPs needs to be reviewed and re-inforced by management, preferably with the assistance of the direct supervisor. Current copies of the SOPs also need to be readily accessible for reference in the work areas of those individuals actually performing the activity, otherwise SOPs serve little purpose. The individuals who actually use the SOPs need to be consulted on how best the SOPs could be revised, such revisions need to be periodical and supported by the management. SOPs are the foundation of successful operations- a fact which is often overlooked.




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