The importance of Hospitality services lies in the fact that the overall impression created by any hotel is based to a large extent upon the perception about its cleanliness. The Housekeeping Department determines whether guests are comfortable during their stay and whether they will wish to return. It also wields one of the most powerful marketing tools – WOM advertising. Statistics reveal that guests rate cleanliness as the top priority when making a choice of the hotel. Avril Sule, a veteran in hospitality training and Associate Professor at the Sheila Raheja Institute of Hotel Management, traces the changing perspectives of hotel housekeeping.
The level of rooms to staff ratio are justified by the fact that it is difficult to find trained staff and even more difficult to retain them once they have been trained.
– Sonia Mital
The organizational chart of the housekeeping department indicates a set of levels that exists in the hierarchy. A flat structure in the hierarchy makes for quicker upward and downward communication and is less rigid, thereby promoting a better team spirit. In larger organizations with multi-level designations, the formal communication channel may actually impede sending and receiving of messages. At lower levels, certain categories of staff perform tasks across many areas. For example, a houseman may work on several floors and report to more than one floor supervisor which may create a gap in the completion of task or an uncertain work schedule. The day-to-day co-ordination of departments is often filled with strife when it comes to cleaning check-out rooms and releasing them to the Front Office. Back-to-back occupancy frequently coincides with shortages of cleaning staff. Yet another departmental conflict exists with the engineering department where a pending list of maintenance tasks to be completed seem unending, requiring continuous follow-up.
The staff ratio is dependent on a number of variables such as the type and area of spaces in the hotel and the extent of the facilities being offered. Indian hotels known for their outstanding level of hospitality, have a far higher staff ratio than their western counterparts. Says Sonia Mital, Executive Housekeeper, Ramada Powai, “It is essential for hotels to research and rationalise their room to staff ratio. Properties ought to consider hotel size and match it with the appropriate quantity of manpower. Five-star hotels observe a room to staff ratio of about 1:2, while four and three-star segment hotels average at 1:1.6 to 1:1.75. On the other hand, the ratio for upscale luxury hotels in India remains quite high. They still operate on a ratio of 1:3 to 1:4.” These levels of staff ratio are justified by the fact that it is difficult to find trained staff and even more difficult to retain them once they have been trained.”
Option of outsourcing
One main housekeeping problem is how to get people to do the tasks properly. In order to deal with this, the Indian hospitality industry which was once perceived as a protected fortress, has recently opened its doors to the trend of outsourcing of few of its operations. Although this could be a solution for a labour intensive department like housekeeping, shifting the focus to getting quality work done without labour implications is not an easy switch over. After all, outsourcing companies are intended to allow client to focus on their core business. In a hospitality organization, keeping the place clean is the core business. Outsourcing provides a better economic balance to the housekeeping department where there is invariably a high level of staff turnover. Also, there are always those tasks like façade cleaning, horticulture and pest control that are best left to the experts. Architectural design can be a challenge to making outsourcing the only option.