Hotels range from luxurious and often sprawling properties to small budget ones which are restricted in terms of space. While cleaning smaller areas may seem to be easy, there is a drawback of being unable to use mechanised cleaning due to space constraints. Relying on domestic tools and materials for cleaning may not be a disadvantage, but not having trolleys that carry supplies wastes time and energy in the cleaning process. Larger hotels are able to use mechanised cleaning. However, here the concern is with the number of staff required to man all areas and the training required for mechanised cleaning. In both types of properties, the difficulties of cleaning due to constructional design would exist. In smaller properties, the space saving design creates areas that are difficult to access for cleaning. In the larger properties the area to be covered may be larger and widespread but more often than not, design is more aesthetic and less practical in terms of cleaning and maintenance. While curves may be aesthetically appealing, they require detailed attention while cleaning. In some of these cases, outsourcing seems to be a possible solution.
While outsourcing of housekeeping solves many problems, one needs to be prudent about selecting the contracting company. Negotiating and co-ordinating with the outsourcing company are exigent tasks. With the wide range of services that may be required and the availability of these services from a large number of outsourcing companies, there are no formulae for success, only instinct developed through experience and awareness.
In most cases, the materials and cleaning agents are the best products which can be made available in the budget allocated. The entire approach to maintaining the stock of these chemicals changes when there is cost-cutting. Ordering of supplies is put on hold and cleaning staff do not get the necessary chemicals when needed. A great deal of time is wasted by operational staff in obtaining these supplies. This s a cause for frustration and over a period of time, staff resort to short-cuts in performing the standard cleaning procedures. If this becomes a regular practice, no amount of training can bridge the gap of what it is and what it should be. “There is no question of propagating cleanliness as an essential factor in the housekeeping of hotel and then stepping back on the practices in order to cut costs,” says Marie Nadkarni, Director-Housekeeping, Radisson-New Delhi. “Any responsible hotel that has taken the onus of maintaining cleanliness and protecting environment cannot resort to cost-cutting of cleaning supplies and advocate wrong practices.
“Such a practice of reducing stock or buying economical products which are not as per standards, not only hinders the quality of service but sends a very wrong message to the housekeeping staff.” On the one hand, housekeeping staff are trained to consider the customer as a priority and perform beyond expectations. On the other hand, by cutting cost, reducing cleaning cycle, using sub-standard products… sub-standard performance is advocated as an accepted norm. These two are contradictory messages that would hamper the confidence of the cleaning staff.
“As a leader, one cannot come back to the staff and expect them to maintain standards at a later stage when the going is good. There has to be consistency and not compromise where cleanliness and hygiene are concerned. Above all, every hotel has to keep in mind that they are dealing with people who go by what we teach them and hence, there has to be absolute clarity.”
Housekeeping being a labour intensive department, it is important to recruit the right kind of staff. Quite often the personal profile of a prospective candidate and the profile required for the job may not match and the choice made is not of the perfect candidate but of an individual who is available, in the hope that training will bridge the gap. At every level in the housekeeping department, the job demands long hours and strenuous work. Certain tasks might even be physically dangerous. Added to this is the fact that the job is a mundane one and unlikely to attract those who are interested in projecting their image via their job profile and designation. Serious thought needs to be given on what can be done to provide dignity of labour in this area of work.
An executive housekeeper of a hotel is not only maintaining the premises and ensuring cleanliness and hygiene but is also involved in the procurement of major high tech equipment/machines for the department, choosing the right linen and designing uniforms… he or she is a business manager in a way. With specialisation in housekeeping and grooming in the rooms division, a major revenue earner for any hotel, a well-educated executive housekeeper can rise to become the GM of a hotel too. There are few who have achieved this feat in this industry.” – Maria Nadkarni