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Hotel Common Sense

“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for
Hotel Directors of Housekeeping

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by  Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, August 2006

Five months ago, I began a series of articles focusing on a challenge we all face in this global economy that seems to insist we move faster.

While I believe that many things can be accomplished faster and better, I also agree with the front page story of the December 26, 2005 Chicago Tribune that offered a most interesting headline: DOES ANYONE HAVE TIME TO THINK ANYMORE?

In today’s frenzy paced period of cell phones, text messaging, palm pilots and blackberry hand held devices that keep many people accessible and responding well beyond the ten hour workday, one wonders about the value of free “think” time any longer. 

While it apparently took me a few months to find the time to “think”, I came to an important realization. As much as we want improved processes and product, we also need to remember that we must keep the foundations of our efforts and our successes strong and vital.

To that end, the “Bakers Dozen” of Strategies series was thought of, contemplated and launched. It has been gratifying that the “Bakers Dozen Strategies” for various teams in hotels has been well received – in fact, the item submitted for each of the past several months series has been consistently in the TOP TEN MOST READ for this online service. 

My sincere thanks is extended to those who have agreed with the concept of keeping the fundamentals of our efforts intact and our successes strong and vital.

As a reminder of why the use of a BAKERS DOZEN, we often see a top ten list of ideas. The term "bakers dozen" arose when bakers started giving away an extra loaf with every dozen purchased to make sure the total weight of bread sold complied with the strict Weights and Measures Regulations which came into force at the time. Since then, the number thirteen has been referred to as "a baker's dozen". 

The first several columns offered strategies for:

While these are all important positions in hotels, there may be one position that is more critical to the guest satisfaction factor than any other.  I am referring to the person who is primarily responsible for the one item that shows up on every survey on what is important in hotels.

I apologize if it seems I am dragging this articles focus out some, but the goal was to get us to think, wasn’t it?  Who is that one person?

Following is the answer: 

A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Directors of Housekeeping

While I have more than 35 years in the industry, I have the good fortune to have as a friend and colleague an individual who is  well versed in housekeeping best practices.   Aleta Nitschke’, founder of the Rooms Chronicle, a former Carlson rooms' executive and co-author of MANAGING HOUSEKEEPING OPERATIONS, was gracious enough to share some of her thoughts on priorities. 

Her contributions are included in the strategies below.


Hotel Common Sense 

“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for
Hotel Directors of Housekeeping

By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
Submitted to Hotel On-Line – August 9, 2006

Top ten lists are often quoted or used to catch people’s attention, but this series has been expanded to be certain that no one is “short-changed.”   The number thirteen has evolved into what is called “baker’s dozen”.

Following is A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel Directors of Housekeeping

1. Learn to look at your hotel from an operational perspective as if you owned it.   The most successful housekeepers are those who take ownership of their property.   Directors of Housekeeping are critical to making the first impressions positive, whether it is in public space, the guest room or bathroom.  Housekeeping has responsibility for corridors, pool and patio areas, management offices, storage and linen areas, the laundry and many related areas.   Strong and successful housekeepers plan the work of the department effectively, using inventory control, setting standards and maintaining schedules. 

2. Honor the idea that the hotel guest is your guest, as if in your own home. While this has some parallels to the number 1 above, Aleta’s experience demonstrated to her that it was the sense of pride and hosting that makes a huge difference in whether someone has a job or a career. Particulars include:

  • Maintain your awareness of the property of the whole, even if it outside of your particular direct area of responsibility.   This includes parking areas, public areas, access points to the hotel and the all important curb appeal. 
  • Work with the other property managers (as opposed to “hiding” in the office) because it takes the whole team to create a great experience for guests. 
  • Effective directors of housekeeping show their pride by offering to assist senior management in other areas of discussion, even in some cases in the sales effort as appropriate.    Remember, EVRYONE SELLS should be a mantra for success and housekeepers regularly come in contact with vendors and others who need hotel services.
3. Know about the condition of the property from first-hand experience. Personally and regularly inspect every type of accommodation in your hotel.  This does NOT mean personally inspecting EVERY ROOM DAILY, but with some kind of rotation and scheduling.   Being aware of changes in the hotel can also help management to be better aware of potential problems. Aleta said she “always imagined that somewhere in the hotel there was a dirty washcloth hanging on the back of a bathroom door hook or over a shower curtain rod. . . and she didn't want someone else to find it first.”

4. When recruiting people, pay attention to the “human” resource role: balance “high touch” and “high tech”.   Recruit and select people wisely.  Encourage your General Manager to pay competitively or better and lead in incentives.  As Director of Housekeeping , recognize your team regularly with “thank you’s “and expressions of appreciation. Retain the champions by whatever it takes to keep them.  Give them the training to succeed and then share in their successes with incentives and the chance to be part of a very cohesive and proud team.. 

5. Maintain and increase training. This is crucial in housekeeping. The development of the staff to the point where room keepers can be completely trusted to finish their jobs with “pizzazz” because they take pride/ownership in their rooms should be a goal for everyone . 

  • There is no excuse today for inadequately prepared or untrained housekeeping and laundry  staff.  There is enormous training support available at very low cost online from the major brands and a wealth of support from CDs, books, newsletters and the internet.  When running high occupancy, many managers claim to be “too busy” to train. When occupancy is flat or declining, cutting ongoing training to “save money” will really cost more as it will drive the good staff to consider leaving and the loyal customers to the competition because it appears you don’t care.  Remember  “the only thing worse than an untrained staff that leaves, is an untrained staff that stays to service your customers.”
  • Today’s successful and confident director of housekeeping will also embrace technology in training. Use of computers and training DVDs should be the norm. 
  • Recognize and address the language challenge if appropriate to your market, even to the point of getting your hotel to pay for your learning of a new language to improve your effectiveness.
6. Share the professional expectations provided to you from ownership and or management clearly with all members of the staff.  Newcomers to the industry sometimes imagine huge profits when they compare their hourly wage with the rooms’ rates paid by guests. Those of us who have been in the industry for more than just a few years realize that profits and losses go in cycles, and that it is important to share the realities of the cost of doing business at all levels. All staff should understand the total costs of ownership, including support staff such as engineering and sales, franchise or royalty fees, management company fees, the concepts of debt service and more.  Make those expectations understood, explain the value and rationale to all staff and be certain these expectations can be measured fairly. 

7. Hold regular one-on-one sessions with all direct reports in this department, including the laundry. These sessions should not be formal “reviews” but guide posts to reinforce positive actions or to correct a potentially dangerous course of action.  When I first started doing these more than 20 years ago, the 1st time was awkward because people were “gun-shy” or afraid of  hidden agendas.  When it becomes apparent that these are honest dialogues, they sessions evolved into the opportunities to clear the air on potential problems.

8. Constantly assess time management.  The 80-20 rule of priorities and value remains true much of the time.  80% of our problems often come from 20% of the rooms or staff.  Research why things go smoothly and replicate that success.  The question needs to be not are we doing things “right”, but are we doing the “right” things correctly? 

9. Work with the front office management to capitalize on forecasts for long term efficiencies. Operating budgets are usually approved by the ownership or Management Company in a remote location and the housekeeping budget is tied to occupancy.    Working with the front office however,  allows effective directors of housekeeping to plan for deep cleaning in slower periods or to replace capital items on a schedule that does not interfere with periods of high activity. 

10. Master the art of inventory controls.  There are many inventories to attend to, including :

  • Linens and appropriate par levels
  • F&B materials
  • Pillows and furniture
  • Uniforms
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Guest Supplies
  • Guest Loan items
Properly addressing the ordering, receipt, use, storage and security of these (and other) items is a financial necessity.

11. Study, embrace and insist on proper safety and security. Room and laundry attendants regularly deal with an array of chemicals.  While most may be initially in the proper containers and concentrations, care must be maintained to continue to use them accurately and safely.

There should be training given and follow up checklists provided for linen rooms, housekeeping carts, using equipment and the laundry.

Government regulations, such as OSHA or state/provincial guidelines, must be posited and followed.

Specific security practices should be considered, reviewed, discussed and constantly monitored.   Housekeeping staff may be working in isolated areas and should be trained in the best ways to provide cleaning services safely.  Reasonable Care should be identified and practiced.

12. Embrace the Brand Standards and Suppliers.  A majority of hotels in the US today are part of a brand, and the trend is growing globally.   The Director of Housekeeping should learn what the brand’s requirements and expectations on housekeeping services and programs. 

  • Have you, as the Director of Housekeeping, explained to your staff your brand’s expectations and standards on housekeeping services ?
  • Do you take the time to work with your GM to understand the brand’s supply programs and preferred suppliers that likely have great pricing and delivery options?  If there is a better local price or distribution, have you made certain those products effectively do the job? 
A WORD TO INDEPENDENTS - if your hotel is not part of a brand,  your local hotel association will likely know of qualified programs or products 

13. Know your budgets, costs and results. Housekeeping usually employs the largest number of people in a hotel.  The outstanding housekeeping managers are those who are able to often obtain higher compensation for their staff by effectively reducing turnover and managing their total budgets while exceeding guest expectations. 

Budgets need not be a mystery and most caring general managers should be pleased to share that portion of their operating budgets because it helps everyone.
 


Think Tank 
Questions of the day

These questions are offered to stimulate discussion about the way we do business.  There is not necessarily only one “correct” answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations.  Consider using these or similar questions at staff meetings encourage your team to THINK!

Topic 

“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel Directors of Housekeeping
  1. How do you recruit for new staff?  Is there a plan or do you accept whoever walks in?
  2. Do you schedule your long term projects with the Front Office Manager? How are your projects  planned ? When? By whom? 
  3. When was the last time you had an open forum with your laundry crew and listened to their suggestion on how to deal with problems?
  4. How much of your budget do you prepare? How often do you compare the results of the income statement with the budget?
Feel free to share an idea and contact me at  John.Hogan@bestwestern.com anytime and remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or of Best Western International. 08/10/06 
All rights reserved by John Hogan. 
This column will be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.

John Hogan, Ph.D. CHE CHA MHS is the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for Best Western International, the world’s largest hotel chain.  Best Western International has more than 4,200 hotels in 80 countries and is one of the worlds most established and recognized hotel brands, founded in 1946 in California.

He serves on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity including the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the AAHOA Education and eCommerce Committee and is the Best Western liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.

His professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He is a Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE), a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), a Master Hotel Supplier (MHS), and a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and his Ph.D. in International Business and an MBA via Distance Learning from UNW.    He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor for 20 years, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independents hotels.  Prior to joining Best Western International in spring of 2000, he was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He has conducted an estimated 3,000 workshops and seminars in his career to date.

He has published more than 300 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from HSMAI www.hsmai.org , www.SmartBizzOnline.com,   www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is working on his 2nd book – The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Contact information:  Aleta Nitschke, CHA  Founder, The Rooms Chronicle, 866-Read TRC http://www.roomschronicle.com , an@roomschronicle.com

Contact:

Dr. John J. Hogan, CHA MHS CHE 
Director, Education & Cultural Diversity 
Best Western International -
THE WORLD'S LARGEST HOTEL CHAIN ® 
6201 N. 24th Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85016-2023 
Phone 602-957-5810; 
fax 602-957-5815
john.hogan@bestwestern.com


"...we all need a regular dose of common sense "
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Also See: “8. A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel Front Office Managers / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / July 2006
“A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel Sales & Marketing Professionals / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / June 2006
"A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel General Managers / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / May 2006
“A Bakers Dozen” of Ideas for Hotel Management Company Executives / Hotel Common Sense / John Hogan / April 2006

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