Labor shortage strategies; green cleaning

Clean Talk with Rose
By Rose Galera, CEH
Hawaii Hospitality Magazine, May/June 2007

Dear Rose,
Department managers at our hotel are asked to work on labor shortage strategies and/or solutions to solve the current problems being faced. Housekeeping is my area of responsibility and hiring of room cleaning attendants, which are hard to come by. What, if any, ideas or suggestions can you share in this area?
Short Staff Manager

Aloha SSM,
Along with many housekeeping managers, you are faced with the same dilemma, more so on the neighbor islands. There has been an increase, frequency and demand, in the job want ads for hotel, residential or commercial cleaners. The demand, I feel, is due to career changes that have taken place, as many at the frontline level have switched from the hospitality to the health care industry. Work schedules, wages and benefits and training have been reasons for the changes mentioned. The following is a suggested list of strategies to consider toward possible solutions.

1) Perform a current job analysis of the daily room cleaning tasks to determine possible changes in processes, frequencies, work tools and equipment without impacting standards. Consider work sampling and work simplification studies for work improvement to decrease time and motion and enhance productivity. Example: Is your in-room amenity presentation program a time-consuming process that is impacting productivity?

2) If zone cleaning is the system in use today, consider the possibility of team cleaning systems to enhance productivity and reduce staff.

3) Consider applications of new technologies, such as microfiber cleaning, backpack vacuuming and vapor/steam cleaning, to improve on productivity.

4) Review current scheduling practices. Consider staggered day work shifts and short shifts to impact heavy checkout days and times.

5) Contact the Department of Education to target high school students as after school and weekend employees. Consider a career/work placement program for both special education and regular students, providing information and training on the advantages and future upward mobility of working in a hotel.

6) Consider a diversified short shift schedule program targeting stay-at-home moms, dads and senior citizens. Plan and provide pre-employment training on guest room cleaning processes.

7) Contact Goodwill agencies, homeless and local churches’ youth programs for potential hires. Contact local vocational schools and community colleges.

As a management practice, periodically review current programs, processes and systems of your housekeeping operations. The goal should always be toward the optimum in motivation and results oriented cleaning.

Hi Rose,
The topic of green cleaning is being discussed for our property. Would you please provide information on best ways to begin such a program for our condo/ hotel housekeeping operation?
Working to be in the Know

Green gleaning is taking hold in many facilities today. The difficult step of moving into a green cleaning program is to actually decide to do such a program. It is a positive step to improve the quality of the indoor environment of your property. Many companies have embraced the concepts associated with green cleaning and many have seen improvements in worker productivity and guest satisfaction simply by implementing cleaning programs focused on cleaning for health. Purchasing analysis has shown that yearly janitorial supply costs actually decrease months after instituting a proper green cleaning and maintenance program. Steps to consider when moving into a “green cleaning” program are:

1) Managers must first understand the principles and standards of a green system.

2) Managers must know that such a system will offer high demand and value added services to end customers.

3) A program that is manageable and measurable must be developed.

4) Create a system that will help to minimize risks related to indoor air quality issues.

5) Develop responsible solutions for a safe, healthy and results-oriented program.

6) Choose highly effective and responsible cleaning products (chemicals, tools, equipment; one example is microfiber).

7) Develop responsible cleaning processes and practices.

8) Develop a training program for all employees and train cleaning personnel properly.

9) Team with a responsible vendor or janitorial supply partner.

Incorporating a green cleaning mission will become a positive and powerful marketing tool for any company that will understand the demand for a healthier and safer environment.

EH involved in renovation; best practices; how to get rid of soap scum

Clean Talk with Rose
By Rose Galera, CEH
Hawaii Hospitality Magazine, Mar/Apr 2007

Dear Rose,
Why is the executive housekeeper, often times, not part of the early decision-making process when choosing the goods that will be utilized in a hotel renovation? We are given the enormous responsibility to help maintain the new product AFTER renovation but are often having to clean goods that are not practical in a hotel setting.
Gary Nushida
President, IEHA Hawaii chapter

Aloha Gary,
Yours is an excellent question and concern that I thought was no longer a problem faced today by executive housekeepers. Professional cleaning is a diversified technical field. Management at all levels must understand that environmental cleaning is a science and an art that requires knowledge, skills, abilities and well-trained personnel dealing with the many and complex processes of cleaning and maintenance. The old thought of a “head housekeeper” no longer applies today. As an executive housekeeper, I once faced a similar situation in the early years. The approach that I took then and still recommend today to all in the profession, regardless of type of facility, is to strongly emphasize to upper management that involvement in any renovation process is important and essential for the department, the property, future guest services and employee training, morale and safety.

Once a renovation program is announced, begin gathering information on time, critical path, the project manager, design company, type of selected furnishings, materials and products. Request to be assigned to the renovation committee and attendance at all meetings.

Prepare this request in writing, informing that your role would focus on the cleanability and maintainability requirements of selected products, fabrics, furnishings and other materials, that would affect daily cleaning processes, productivity, labor cost, safety, employee morale and guest satisfaction. And that, as a result, the department’s budget and overall bottom line of the facility may also be impacted. As information is received on products and/or materials recommended for the renovation, request for samples to perform product evaluation tests. Document and report your findings. Persevere while keeping abreast of trends and technology in the field.

Certification by the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) will be to your advantage. The program with modules on Interior Design, Purchasing and Waste Management will provide helpful information. Certification will be a definite plus when working with architects or interior designers. Good luck on future projects and programs.

Hi Rose,
I’m asked to come up with a best practice program for housekeeping of which I’m not familiar. Please share any information on best practice programs.

Aloha Sparkle,
Best practices are documented strategies and tactics utilized by companies for “best performance results.” The practices are implemented and honed to provide for efficiency and effectiveness to produce the optimum results. “Best practice” information is gathered from a variety of sources. Information is generally based on interviews, testing, surveys and other mechanisms of “primary” research information that is not available necessarily in the public sector. Other insights may be from secondary research — books, magazines, libraries, Internet and other public-domain resources. Listed are a few best practices that I have researched, tested, implemented and worked successfully. Because of limited space here, you may e-mail me at for additional write-ups (including a training workbook I can send you) on the best practices listed below.

Microfiber cleaning cloth and mop
Dual cart systems
Team cleaning systems
Backpack vacuuming systems
Vapor cleaning systems


Dear Rose,
How do you get rid of soap scum in the shower of a hotel, and how do you prevent from getting soap scum in tubs and showers?

Dear Jenna,
Hotel guest rooms are generally cleaned daily and properly and should not have a build-up soap scum problem. Soap scum problems are a result of mineral scale buildup where scum residue clings, due to improper and /or incomplete cleaning processes. Soap scum is oily fatty deposits that require a degreaser or strong alkali-type cleaning chemical, followed with heavy brushing or scrubbing action. The degreaser cuts into the soap scum with a dissolving action of the residue. A professional steam vapor cleaning system is also excellent for eliminating such buildup problems.

Regular and proper cleaning practices with industrial cleaners, microfiber cleaning cloths, rinsing and diving of the surfaces are measures that prevent scum buildup. Selection of the type of soap provided and used as guest amenities should also be wisely considered. Heavy oil-based soaps should be avoided. Application of lemon oil on tile or glass surfaces following cleaning will make it scum resistant. Care in application is important as drops or spray residue may create a slippery surface. Good luck on your project.

What makes an EH tick?

Clean Talk with Rose
By Rose Galera, CEH
Hawaii Hospitality Magazine, Jan/Feb 2007

Dear Rose,
Aloha. I am new in sales to the hotel industry, and I have had some struggles and difficulties in approaching managers of housekeeping operations to present and show my cleaning and guest supply products. I find housekeeping managers to be of a different breed. What, if any, tips could you share to help me become better at what I do, and also could you give me some insights as to what makes an executive housekeeper tick?
Thank You,

Dear Frazzled,
Welcome to Hawaii’s hospitality industry. As you become acquainted with the industry you will be faced with interesting challenges and opportunities. To find out what makes an executive housekeeper (EH) tick, you first must understand that the housekeeping department is vitally important to the success of any property. Having a clear understanding of its functions and operation will be a key factor in your sales results and success. Housekeeping typically is the largest department with a large personnel force; an operating budget for labor, supplies and other controllable items; and a capital budget covering furniture, fixtures and equipment. The responsibilities of an EH are many and varied, of which control is key to being a successful manager. There are duties of planning, coordinating, scheduling, staffing, inspecting, insuring of health and safety regulations, training, supervising, guest relations, payroll, budgeting, financial record keeping, purchasing and more. As with the ticking of a clock, the work day of an EH is a busy one, full of ticks and tocks ongoing toward a work day’s end. The top ticking priorities of an EH is to best service all guests and personnel and to be available on an instant’s notice for problem solving, while focusing on that important bottom line. The EH is generally multitasked and multiticked, often with a daily to do list that will take up a major part of the day.

To answer your question on what makes an EH tick, here are a few critical tips you may want to consider. First, be knowledgeable about the products and company you represent. To not be well informed on product knowledge can be a problem for you. If chemicals are on your list of products, I would suggest becoming well versed in this area.

Learn and become knowledgeable of the facilities you will be serving: their size, type of operation and type of standards.

Become knowledgeable of the facility’s management staff and the “Who is Who” of the property. If the EH is a member of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA), Hawaii chapter, you may want to also become a member. Here, you will gain information on EHs in the industry and educational information on professional housekeeping today. Here, you will gain further knowledge on the versatility of how hotel housekeepers tick. You may be amazed at your findings. The Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association is another trade association and avenue that would be beneficial to you as a vendor in the industry.

I would advise against a “cold walk in” on the EH, or any hotel manager for that matter. Arrange for appointments by telephone or mail with company information and your business card. Include a one-page flyer of an interesting new product or industry trend.

On arranging to schedule an appointment, I recommend avoiding the days of Monday or Friday unless requested by the EH. You may also find out as to when the property holds its weekly management meetings. I recommend avoiding that day and time.

Selecting the right time for your appointment is important. For mornings, I suggest the hours between 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Unless you have a luncheon meeting with the EH, avoid the lunch hours of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and unless requested, a late appointment after 3 p.m. is not advised. Shift changes and the end of the work day for employees may interrupt appointment times. Understand also that you may run into a hotel chain with a central purchasing department. EHs will generally provide recommendations on products, supplies and chemicals based on tests and evaluations and can be instrumental in the selection process. In the purchasing process, know and understand that while cost will be an important deciding factor, a seasoned and well-versed EH will take the time to do a product evaluation, to consider its environmental impact and determine whether it will enhance and improve service, quality, safety and productivity.

Involvement in a professional trade association, such as IEHA, in the educational certification program, ongoing seminars and webinars, and attendance at annual conventions and tradeshows have made today’s EH a new and well-informed breed. Professional skills and abilities, being “in the know” and blessed with everyday “street smarts” are what make today’s executive housekeeper tick. Tap in on these values and you too will be ticking along happily with the EHs in our hospitality industry. Mahalo!