More than chemicals or techniques, cleaning personnel in the hospitality industry have to be armed with great attitudes, a talent for dealing with unique building features, and must focus on guests’ happiness at all times.

The first thing the Holiday Inn Riverwalk in San Antonio looks for in a cleaning worker is adaptability, says Dennis Miller, general manager.

John Junker general manager and co-owner of the Flying L Guest Ranch in Bandera,Texas, also tries to make sure potential workers have the proper background for hospitality cleaning. Because such work puts housekeepers in daily contact with guests — and their belongings — honesty is critical, he adds.

Once workers are hired, managers should seek feedback to ensure they’re doing a good job. The Ritz Carlton in Atlanta gets input from two different quality improvement teams, each made up of several housekeeping employees, plus executive director of housekeeping Ron Potter. In their weekly meetings, one team addressees overall cleanliness and the other team deals with housekeeping processes.

And that process must be working: The hotel conducts semiannual employee surveys, and 90 percent of housekeeping workers are satisfied overall with their jobs.

Managers also use that feedback, and their own observations, to tailor jobs to their work force. For instance, Miller’s staff no longer uses team cleaning because employees’ personalities and their ability to pull their own weight was more conducive to a different system.

“Now, our room attendants either do checkouts (cleaning rooms after visitors have checked out) or stayovers (cleaning for guests who currently are using the rooms),” he says. “While there are fewer rooms for the checkout workers to clean per day, there are more duties per room. Some employees prefer doing intense work and others prefer lighter cleaning.”

Details, Details
Besides employee input, details are critical in this industry. At the Ritz Carlton, when the room attendants finish a room, Potter asks them to leave and step back in again to view the room as a guest would see it upon arrival. The Ritz Carlton also has strict guidelines for detailing guest rooms — down to the placement of magazines, the relative arrangement of each layer of window treatments and the positioning of lampshades.

Some details, though, just can’t be systematized. For instance, the Flying L can’t strictly dictate the details, because each room is decorated differently. So, the director of housekeeping does a walk-through of the cleaned rooms before she leaves for the day, making notes if there are problems. As a training function, she then reviews any notes with the appropriate employee the next day.

24/7 Challenges
Because hotels are open around the clock, guests might be present when maintenance work is being done. Potter says he looks for creative ways to hide or camouflage equipment. For instance, when maintaining the wood floors and antique furniture, the staff looks for crevices where they can hide the ozone machines they use to dispel chemical odors.

In all cases, each of these managers emphasizes to their employees the importance of “going the extra mile” for guests. It might be changing a tire, taking a guest to the hospital, or meeting a simple little request.

“Just the other day we had a guest who saw a fly in the living room of her suite,” Junker said. “She wouldn’t go back into her room until the fly was gone. So, our employees went in and took care of the fly. I’m happy to say that our staff believe, no matter how minor the situation is, that the most important thing is guest satisfaction.”

Gretchen Roufs, a 14-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns Auxiliary Marketing Services of San Antonio, Texas.