When I worked as a chalet host in a French ski resort, time was my nemesis; I never had enough of it. On changeover day our workforce had to turnaround twenty to thirty separate residences by the time new clients were ready to check-in at 4pm. When we were fully booked, the company employed part-time cleaners in an attempt to relieve the stress of the job. However, on many occasions the added manpower resulted in mistakes, inconsistency and inadequacy in the end result.
Working for a relatively small but invariably busy company opened my eyes to the importance of completing menial tasks in good time. In order to cope I had to rely on my own time-management skills. It was a steep learning curve, and the confusion and unease it caused could have been avoided.
Why consistency is so important
Jan Smits is the Asia, Middle East and Africa Chief Executive of Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), the world’s largest hotel chain. On a recent trip to India he observed how young graduates were being trained in completing the turndown service for guests before bedtime. He was disappointed to find that the process at the Crowne Plaza New Delhi Rohini took five minutes, when it should have taken just two.
What’s significant here is that a figure who’s incredibly senior in the company took an interest in a small detail that, ultimately, falls under the remit of housekeeping. Why? When that two minutes difference is multiplied by the number of rooms IHG prepare worldwide, minutes convert to thousands of hours of wasted time.
Method and Standard Operating Procedures
Mr Smits created ‘standard operating procedures’ to ensure standardisation throughout his hotels worldwide.
‘These outline every single step involved in any regular process, such as a turndown or checking a guest into the hotel, to ensure it is both efficient and consistently creates the same end result.’
During my experience in France, it soon became apparent that cleaners and chalet hosts had totally different ways of going about things. The order in which we emptied the dishwasher, whether we cleaned a bathroom mirror before the sink, when we emptied the bins etc. We had to use our own initiative and implement our own method in response to tight turnaround times, which was not always successful.
There’s a reason Mr Smits’ chain is so successful, and that’s because he personally puts a lot of effort into making sure every member of staff knows the SOPs.
How your business should implement Standard Operating Procedures
Staff need to know what they are and why they’re there. It’s all well and good setting up a list of guidelines, but make sure your staff know how their effort affects the customer and – ultimately – the business.
Check on your workforce – regularly – and do the tasks yourself to ensure that what you’ve instated is do-able! There’s nothing more frustrating for an employee than to be told to do something that’s actually impossible.
Once you’ve mastered the method, keep it that way, but make sure to adjust when demand rises (or falls).
Taking a tip from the top never did anyone any harm. If the Chief Exec of the world’s most successful hotel chain can respond to time-management issues within housekeeping, you can get involved at the base level of your business. It’s sure to pay off!