Having recently attended the annual Housekeeping Forum – a symposium in my hometown of Toronto that brings together GMs, executive housekeepers and HR managers from the city’s top hotels – I can firmly say that this eponymous department is a perpetual source of operational challenges.
The leading housekeeping concern that I keep hearing from hoteliers is staffing. While there has been a lot of noise made of recent about safety alert devices (SADs) and chronic injury prevention, the broader issue is that this department, for most properties outside of the luxury segment, is struggling to cultivate a deep-benched team. Many properties are prevented from tackling long-term projects because they are bogged down by short-staffed periods, shift changes, overtime and so on.
As I see it, though, we aren’t doing enough to make this particular line of work rewarding over a long stretch of time. Housekeeping can be grueling, monotonous and often demoralizing after years of cleaning the same rooms shift after shift. Without widespread changes, this department will continue to suffer from high turnover rates, unnecessary onboarding costs and the establishment of new government enforcements, like those previously mentioned, which attempt to address the fundamental problems from another angle.
If we are to truly mitigate our staffing issues then housekeepers must now be given the chance to benefit from continuing professional development (CPD) programs that are encouraged in other departments. It’s a simple matter of making sure that they know we value their contributions and that there is a structured approach to upward mobility within the organization.
For this, I would stress that, in addition to its direct advantages for CPD purposes, training is also a valuable motivation tool to keep current teams largely intact. If it is deployed as a means to both strengthen current teams and to encourage others to join the labor pool, then there is a tremendous potential for long-term cost savings.
Training itself can be quite the undertaking in terms of managers’ and supervisors’ time as well as any fixed costs for setting up these initiatives, all of which is extremely difficult to justify in the first place because there often isn’t a lot of directly quantifiable ROI for CPD programs that function below the executive level. Luckily, modern technology and automation are here to help rein in training costs.
Online curriculums that offer a full compendium of training videos are a great start to help offload most of the initial resources involved in new worker onboarding – costs that can be especially frustrating for hoteliers when associates leave while still in this budding phase of their employment.
Ultimately, by deploying some form of CPD at your property, you can work to change the perception of housekeeping so that it is no longer a line of work that only draws in candidates who desperately need employment. It should be one where people ‘want’ to commit long-term and ongoing training is a great first step towards this goal.