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Blog : Room to change


Room to change

MJ Flanagan talks about the importance of housekeeping within the hospitality industry and the key issues facing this valuable role.

Whenever I speak to hoteliers they talk about occupancy levels and average room rate achieved, events and F&B. And often when I attend meetings with them the GM, FD and other senior managers will be present; it is rare to have the head housekeeper in attendance. Yet with all hotels the occupancy rates and guest retention is dependant on the ‘non – negotiables’ - those factors that will make or break a guest stay. During a recent values session for a well known hotel these were identified by all the team members as: comfortable bed, clean room, everything working, great shower, WIFI, warm friendly service, deliver on the promise and problems solved efficiently without any fuss. Although food and drink features highly it may not be a deciding factor on a guest’s stay, if the other non-negotiables were in place they may well stay but not eat in.

So it was a pleasure to address the Springboard Room to Change conference last week, which focused on the issues facing housekeeping and how we can deal with them. The speakers ranged from Jonathan Raggett from Red Carnation Hotels - who spoke of the need for GM’s to incentivise their chambermaids and use their knowledge to build profiles of guests in order to tailor the room layout, magazines and extras to suit the guest. He also spoke about the need for managers to go back to the floor and remind themselves just how tough it can be for our housekeeping departments to turn rooms around and deal with late checkouts.

Philippe Rossiter spoke about the origins of the Institute of Hospitality which is firmly rooted in the housekeeping department as it was originally called The British Housekeepers Association: which highlights the fact that the very heart of our industry is based on rooms. Philip Newman-Hall from Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons showed his disapproval in the fact that so few GMs had attended the conference yet housekeeping was a fundamental part of a hotels success by ensuring consistency.

People 1st and Maritz put some research behind the facts showing us that when questioned, Hospitality students did not see housekeeping as a route to GM and less than 1% were thinking of entertaining a career in hospitality via the housekeeping department. In addition with migrant workforce falling those people available to take up the cleaning and chamber maiding jobs are in limited supply, yet People 1st believe we will need to increase the numbers working in hospitality by 208,400 by 2017.

The most inspiring speaker of the morning was Ann Britton – executive housekeeper for the Jumeriah Carlton Tower, intelligent, engaging and very glamorous. She regaled us with stories of her career and showed how diverse and challenging the role of the housekeeper can be in ensuring that all areas of her department run smoothly. Housekeeping is not just about ‘bogs and brushes’ it involves all areas of strategy, sustainability, politics, HR and huge financial acumen: her budget was £1.7m. This shows how much of a contribution housekeeping can make to the bottom line in terms of cost savings, department efficiency and guest satisfaction.

I summarised the day by identifying the issues facing the industry at present which we established were:

- The need of education to keep housekeeping on the curriculum

- The perception of Housekeeping needs to change

- GMs and boards need to use their housekeepers more effectively, making them part of the decision making process

- Managing a diverse workforce

- The importance of training and development within the department, particularly supervisors and leadership skills

We drew up a series of actions which could be worked on by Springboard, industry bodies and the delegates themselves to resolve these issues. Anne Pierce reminded us that a similar conference was held many years ago to highlight the issues facing the chefs in the industry and how there have been some real advances over the years. She wants Room to Change to have the same effect but explained it would take years, not a just few conferences and a couple of months.

The industry is each and every person that works in it and together we can make a difference and change the perception of housekeeping, and therefore the availability of a sustainable workforce. Housekeeping is not just back of house they are the backbone of the house and consequently need to be developed and engaged accordingly.

To get more information log onto www.roomtochange.springboarduk.net

The brand new learnpurple learning bite ‘Don’t lock me in the linen cupboard’ – performance management tips for housekeeping supervisors and managers will run on the 22nd September 2010 call 0207836999 for more details.

We would love to hear your thoughts on housekeeping and any ideas to address any of the key issues highlighted by this interesting conference.

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