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Just Saying: Rising to the challenge

Just Saying with Delia Cannings
1. The inside story on outside dirt
2. Behind the scenes at party time
3. Facing up to a crisis in cleaning
4. Support the ‘We Clean We Care’ campaign and radically change perceptions
5. It’s Holiday Time!
6. The battle for deserved recognition
7. Looking after our precious floors
8. ‘Spring Clean’ more than our premises
9. Just Saying: Rising to the challenge

With Delia Cannings

Delia Cannings sees opportunities to overcome the issues we face – and how housekeepers can be at the forefront of change

Recently I was fortunate enough to speak at the Cleaning Show in Manchester and as chairperson of the British Cleaning Council had conversations with colleagues from across our industry.

Many were discussing how a focus on recovery from the pandemic had generated new challenges for them. This led me to thinking about the housekeeping profession. It’s fantastic that people have returned to travelling and that occupancy and revenue has increased. What the industry needs to focus on is to create opportunities where staff are beating down the door to come into the industry rather than beating it down to leave.

One of the key challenges is staff shortages, (however it must be said that this is not something new), coupled with high turnover and low engagement. Whilst the pandemic exacerbated this, changes to immigration rules in 2020 made it harder to recruit and Brexit has also impacted the profession. Historically overseas was a pool that a large percentage of people were drawn from, and this is something we no longer have.

Hospitality has one of the highest turnover rates, and as of February this year was higher than most other sectors.

  • Leisure and Hospitality: 85%
  • Professional and Business services: 64%
  • Construction: 57%
  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities: 55%
  • Manufacturing: 40%
  • Information: 39%
  • Education and Health services: 37%
  • Financial activities: 29%

It’s still viewed as a low skill occupation by many, including the government, as was evidenced in immigration rules which categorised cleaning staff as ‘exempt from skill’. Potential staff are seeking higher rates of pay and career development and will apply for roles that can offer this or move to a role that does. It is key that the talent we have is engaged and has a clear view of opportunities on offer to them. This makes competition to recruit and retain staff fierce but is a challenge that needs to be taken up.

Guest Expectations

The modern traveller has become more aware of the importance of cleanliness. Whilst the number of Covid-19 cases is now significantly lower, their expectations regarding cleanliness are higher. They want to see staff carrying out cleaning services. In some ways we may view this negatively, but it has raised the profile of housekeepers. They are no longer a ‘faceless’ part of service delivery. Housekeeping has become a key contact between visitors and the hotel. They will be challenged as to what the service delivers. They need to know and be able to explain disinfection, decontamination, and sanitising, which are often bandied about but not fully understood. Guests’ concerns about the soil we cannot see and what is being done to keep them safe generates a challenge of providing up to date training, underpinned by a knowledge of cleaning science.

Solving one of our challenges can help to fit together pieces in other areas

New Technology

As an industry it’s something many are reluctant to embrace, even feeling it could take their job away, but it can and does work alongside what our housekeepers do, carrying out mundane tasks we do not like and allowing staff to focus on the details that delight guests.

Robotics have rapidly improved. As an example, robots that do both wet and dry cleaning, something that can be very repetitive. Ultraviolet disinfection, used after cleaning to remove viruses and bacteria, helps maintain high levels of cleanliness but also reassures guests that we provide a safe space for them.

Technology can also ensure staff are not overworked trying to cover hours which cannot be filled when we’re struggling to recruit. It can also be an asset in attracting younger staff who will see working with new technologies as part of an innovative profession that will develop their potential.

This technology can also provide data that evidences what needs cleaning and when it was last cleaned. Are we as efficient as we can be? Using such data can improve productivity and efficiency.

Sustainable Cleaning

We can have a massive impact on the environment through the amount of water we consume, energy usage and plastic pollution we generate. Guests will be concerned with what we do, but also how we do it and with what. Evidence of a clear commitment to environmental goals can be an attraction when recruiting staff.

Guests now expect to see shampoo and soap in refillable bottles and that bottles of water in their rooms have been replaced by refillable drinking bottles.

This also crosses over to housekeeping as we should be selecting cleaning products and materials that have less impact on the environment. Chemicals that require less water and can be made up in a refillable bottle or are available in small ‘pods’ that we put into the required amount of water, remove the traditional five-litre plastic containers for cleaning products and we don’t waste water by filling up large buckets to carry out a task where two litres may be sufficient.

These are just a few of the challenges that we face, but we can also use them as opportunities. Investigation and identifying solutions in one area can impact positively on one of our other challenges. As a proactive industry we consistently rise to meet challenges – and we can overcome them.

Delia Cannings
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