Redesigning Housekeeping Roles to Boost Productivity

Sep 21, 2020

The Housekeeping Department plays a significant role in ensuring guests are welcomed into a clean and pleasant environment befitting of their hotel stay, now more so than ever during this Covid-19 pandemic. The Housekeeping Department is not just responsible for cleaning guests’ rooms and public areas; they are also involved in laundry tasks and delivering amenities, and the occasional gardening work as well! Juggling multiple hats at any time, the department must ensure that its manpower is well organised to keep the hotel running smoothly. Hence, through the Hotel Job Redesign Reskilling Programme, many hotels have taken the opportunity to multi-skill their employees to become adept in more areas of specialisation, especially since the adoption of technology solutions in the hotel has alleviated selected manual tasks. In this article, we learn how 2 hotels have implemented job redesign in their Housekeeping Departments to boost efficiency and overcome manpower challenges, and also hear from the trainees about their experience.

In picture: Rofina from Capri by Fraser, China Square undergoing on-the-job training to take on Linen Attendant duties

Capri by Fraser, China Square had embarked on the Hotel Job Redesign Reskilling Programme to enlarge the job scope of Houseman Rofina Bte Ahmad, in tandem with the hotel’s implementation of an RFID system for the Linen department. The RFID system helps identify, count and track uniforms and linens, it also records laundry activity and is able to generate reports for the department. These tasks, especially manually keeping tabs on linen count, have now been automated by technology, allowing housekeeping employees to channel their time and effort to other tasks.

Originally, Rofina is a Houseman tasked to deliver items to guest’s rooms and to top up guest’s pantry on a weekly basis. Through the job redesign, Rofina was taught new tasks from another 2 job roles, namely Linen Runner and Linen/Uniform Attendant. She also acquired computer skills such as uploading RFID data into the system and saving the data into the shared drive for record filing. She had also learnt how to key in Guest Laundry data and amount charged into the daily excel spreadsheet for records and posting purposes. With more tasks and interaction with colleagues from other department and as well as external Laundry vendor, she had learnt how to manage her time well too.

In picture: Carol from Pan Pacific Hotel using the auto conveyor steam presser.

In picture: Mei Ying from Pan Pacific Hotel’s Housekeeping Department learns how to handle a dust mop properly.

At the Pan Pacific Hotel Singapore, Junior Supervisor Nguyen Thi Thuan (Carol) and Floor Supervisor Chen Mei Ying are part of a 5-member Housekeeping cross functional team multi-skilled to perform tasks at Rooms, Public Area, Linen and Uniform Room. Pan Pacific Hotel Singapore had embraced technology through the utilisation of 2 linen robots to automate transfer of linen, the RFID system to automate uniform inventory tracking and counting, as well as the Hotel Service Optimisation System (HotSOS) to manage guest requests. With more automation in place which relieves employees from selected manual tasks, the hotel was able to review how tasks can be completed more efficiently and strengthen the synergy between the various job roles and responsibilities within the Housekeeping Department.

Interviews have been edited for clarity.

What are your first thoughts upon learning about Job Redesign (JR) and why do you think it is important?

Carol: I was happy to cross train in other sections of Housekeeping. It gave me the opportunity to improve my skills and helped my career advancement in Housekeeping.

Mei Ying: I was excited to be given a chance to learn different tasks and understand the operations in other sections of Housekeeping.

Rofina: When my superior first mentioned about Job Redesign to me, honestly I was very happy because I am a person who likes to learn new things and always looking for opportunities to upgrade myself and acquire new skillsets relating to my job in Housekeeping.

Can you share more about the JR project that you have completed?

Rofina: My original job role was Houseman where I will deliver items to the guests that they would request via phone apps. I also have to ensure stock supplies in the guest rooms’ pantries are sufficient. With this Job Redesign project, I was taught new tasks from a combination of 3 job roles (namely Houseman, Linen Runner and Linen/Uniform Attendant). I feel a sense of satisfaction being able to complete and learn the other 2 new tasks of Linen Runner and Linen Attendant.

Mei Ying: I’m attached to the Public Area (PA) section of Housekeeping now and learning the different tasks done by the PA Associates at our F&B outlets, the operation timing and the cleaning schedules.

Carol: Currently I’m attached to Laundry/Uniform/Linen section, I have learnt a lot about Guest Laundry and in-house washing of uniform. Now I have a better understanding of the care and washing processes.

Can you describe the on-the-job training process that you have undergone?

Mei Ying: I’m learning the tasks and duties required at each F&B outlet. Each outlet has a different layout, furnishing and operational needs, hence requiring different cleaning methods. For example, wooden floors require mopping and polishing, hard floorings require high-pressure jetting, and wool carpet and carpet tiles require spotting and shampooing etc.

Rofina: I have learnt Linen RFID technology and handling of guest laundry. For Linen RFID, I learnt how to log into the system for scanning of the items and uploading the information to the computer to generate the report. Thereafter, I will save a softcopy for filing and record purposes. It took me around 4-5 days to master this skillset.

As for guest laundry, it was a long process which consisted many steps. I learnt how to check and tally the list with physical item counts, at the same time checking for defects on the guest’s laundry before recording. Subsequently, I will tabulate the total laundry cost and key into the computer to send to front office colleagues to charge to the guest’s account. The learning curve was very steep especially as I am not so savvy with technology. However, after overcoming and mastering the new skillsets, I feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement as I had completed all my on-the-job training tasks.

Carol: I’m learning how to wash, press and fold the different types of guest clothing and associates’ uniform.

In picture: Carol from Pan Pacific Hotel’s Housekeeping Department touching up and pressing areas that were not properly steam pressed.

Share with us some new skills that you have picked up and how are you applying them in your redesigned role?

Carol: The new skills that I have picked up help me to understand the importance of selecting the type of washing/pressing needed for different clothing, based on fabric, colour and design. I’ve also learnt to work independently without much supervision.

Rofina: Most of the data and workflow in housekeeping require computer skills. First thing I need to learn in terms of computer skills is to upload information of the RFID data, download to the system and then save it to shared drive for record filing. I also learn how to key in guest laundry data and amount charged into the daily excel spreadsheet for records and posting purposes. With more tasks and more interaction with colleagues from other department as well as external laundry vendor, I have learnt how to manage my time well.

Mei Ying: Now that I’m attached to the PA Supervisor, I am better able to understand the different schedules and tasks required according to the needs of each F&B outlet.

In picture: Mei Ying from Pan Pacific Hotel’s Housekeeping Department not only cleaning the Public Area toilet, but also caring for the small potted plants.

How different are your new roles and responsibilities, and did you face any challenges while adapting to them?

Mei Ying: When I was working on the guest floors, during busy times we had to speed up cleaning guestrooms. Now in PA, we need to understand the different needs of the F&B outlets’ and arrange the tasks required accordingly. So, the challenges are quite different.

Rofina: It was very difficult and challenging for me initially when I was going through the on-job-training, as my original job did not require me to handle computer and doing price calculation with GST percentage. As the new role requires me to learn these skills, it was confusing to me. However, I have wonderful colleagues who patiently guided and coached me. Coupled with the support and encouragement I got from my superiors, I managed to overcome them. Now I am good and competent in my new role.

Carol: In the past I only have to clean guestrooms, but now I am able to handle guest and staff Uniform laundry too. Having different responsibilities and exposure, and with the help of the team from Laundry department, I am able to adapt to this new role.

How do you think JR will benefit you, and the hotel, in the long run?

Rofina: Personally, I learnt new skills and it widens the scope of my job tasks. I also felt the Company appreciates my contribution and trusted me with more responsibilities. My productivity had increased as I am now able to perform tasks from 3 job roles.

Carol: I’m happy to be given this chance to learn and improve my skills in housekeeping operations. In the long run, I will be able to help out whenever the laundry section needs help and hopefully, develop myself further in housekeeping.

Mei Ying: It gives me a better understanding of the other sections that make up housekeeping, and the different cleaning methods within PA. This equipped me with the skillsets to help out or even take over PA supervision if needed in future.

What advice would you give to fellow colleagues in the hotel sector who are undergoing JR training as well?

Mei Ying: It’s interesting to learn new skills, and we need to continuously upgrade our knowledge and skills. JR training will better prepare us for future roles.

Carol: Embrace the JR project wholeheartedly and you will enjoy learning new skills and tasks, which is beneficial to you and your employer.

Rofina: Always have the positive mindset to learn new skills and upgrade oneself. Never be afraid to try new things and nothing is impossible if we are willing to put our heart in it to learn and do. My motto at work is:
Be Flexible
Stay Focus
Act Fast
Treat Fairly
Have Fun

We wish Carol, Mei Ying, and Rofina a fruitful training experience and all the best in their newly redesigned job roles!