Control and maintain operational expenses – efficiencies and effectiveness

Clean Talk with Rose
By Rose Galera, CEH
Hawaii Hospitality Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009

Dear Rose,
Because of the economic situation, managing housekeeping operations has been very challenging. What advice can you share with housekeeping managers to control and maintain operational efficiencies and also keep a low stress level, until things get better?
Thank you,
Stressed Sally

Aloha SS,
Your question flashes me back to the times when I, too, had to face similar situations. Yes, today’s and tomorrow’s economic woes present many challenges for hospitality housekeeping managers in working and controlling operational expenses. The hospitality industry and related businesses throughout Hawaii are impacted. The days and months ahead will present many learning opportunities and challenges. Here are some suggestions that may be helpful in managing your operation.

Think Smart and Strategically:
Working with your company’s policies and before making strategic decisions, you must gain a full understanding of your facility’s and the economy’s situation. Get to know the general and industry’s environment and comparative performances. Ask of yourself such questions as: What is happening in the marketplace and how does it work against us? What do our customers demand? What are my performance shortfalls? The first half of making a strategic plan is seeking the positive side of a negative situation. Only after you have identified and analyzed any shortfalls can you make decisions.

Important to a successful housekeeping operation is the ability to maintain a high morale and motivation of employees while controlling the following housekeeping areas: 1) labor, staffing and productivity; 2) supplies, chemicals and equipment; 3) in-room amenities; 4) in-house laundry, if applicable; 5) off-premise laundry inventory and control systems.

A daily focus on labor, as the highest cost factor in housekeeping, is critical. Review daily staffing requirements, working with actual occupancies. Regular use of a staffing guide is recommended. Check daily the number of occupied rooms versus actual rooms cleaned. Every effort should be made to complete cleaning of all required rooms for the day. Carryover of rooms can create staffing problems, impacting on productivity. Determine when, by time, do not disturb and refuse service rooms are reported. Plan all cleaning programs to be in line with projected occupancies keeping in mind the ability to be versatile and flexible. Working in small project cleaning tasks with routine cleaning is a key factor to staying on top of labor costs.

Conduct management by walking around and do on-sight job performance reviews and evaluations. Progressive and productive floor visits to praise, encourage, train and motivate are essential to high morale, thus optimal productivity. Look for what is right, not wrong!

Perform work samplings, workflow analysis, work loading and time to task exercises that will be helpful in managing and controlling labor costs. Ensure that room par levels are met consistently. Where possible, encourage increases in productivity with a focus on quality. Encourage and motivate actions with speed, efficiency and effectiveness. Review work pace, momentum and body movements and body savers such as walking, sitting, lifting, bending, etc.

Communicate with staff information on occupancies, cleaning programs, property budget, staffing requirements, financial results, purchasing needs and cutbacks, renovation programs, departmental and property goals and objectives. Hold general discussions on bottom line, payroll costs, benefits (hidden paycheck/costs), etc. Discuss the need to control supplies, linens, equipment, utilities and energy.

Review cleaning standards and frequencies to determine areas that can be temporarily or permanently eliminated without adverse impact on guest satisfaction, quality and value. Look for possible time savers to increase productivity.

Stress organization and care in all work and storage areas to eliminate unnecessary cleaning. Foster in your management and front-line staff the attitudes and values of “pride, proprietorship, and professionalism.”

Review your department’s hours of operation to determine opportunities for improvement and efficiency. Can hours be eliminated without adversely affecting service, value and quality? Review scheduling practices. Are staggered work shifts being utilized to maximize coverage with minimum staffing?

Purchase labor-saving cleaning tools such as microfiber technology, supplies, chemicals and equipment. Control purchasing of, issuing of and usage of supplies, chemicals and equipments. Consider implementing “best practice programs” and train; train continually in all aspects of the job and, if necessary, go back to basics of cleaning. Remember that cross training and clone training are values of a successful high-quality and high-quantity housekeeping operation.

The above shared have been the strategic values applied over many years that have worked successfully for me as a certified executive housekeeper. Passion of the job has been the icing on the cake of professional cleaning.

Best wishes for a happy and successful new year in 2009. Mahalo!

Posted in Clean Talk Columns.

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