How far do you go in your training program?

I’ve been writing reviews of green hotels for my ECOnomically Sound site and realized that training is a big problem. The lack of training and reinforcement is what keeps promises from being met.

One example is properties that promise a towel reuse program; they need to train housekeepers to honor the guest requests they get. I’d say that of the fifty or so times I’ve asked for my towels to be left for another day, it’s happened once or twice. In some ways that’s worse than not even offering the program because of unmet expectations, expectations created by management.

How many guests mention to managament that they didn’t get what they asked for? One out of ten? One out of twenty? The unsatisfied nine or nineteen people tell others about their experience, hurting your marketing efforts.

What promises do you make that aren’t honored?

8 thoughts on “How far do you go in your training program?”

  1. Training standardizes your quality of service. It also tells your staff what your facility expects of them. If these expectations are set forth in an employee manual, these expectations will provide a yardstick for measuring employee performance.
    Job evaluations based on observable criteria are extremely useful as documentation to validate wage increases or promotions. (Failure to have an observable criterion can open your business to charges of discrimination if wage increases and promotions are awarded on the basis of subjective feelings).
    When I was in culinary school, the oft repeated question to the chef instructors was, “How long do I cook this?” The invariable reply was, “Until it’s done.”
    The same can be said of employee training.
    How much should I train an employee? Answer: You train the employee until he/she is capable of independently performing his/her job at a satisfactory level within a set amount of time.
    From an instructional persepctive, this means that you as the employer must identify all tasks the employee will have to do.
    For example, instead of saying that the housekeeper has to clean rooms when guests check out, you literally have to identify all tasks associated with cleaning the bathroom. (You can’t assume that telling someone to “clean the bathroom” means the same thing to all people. Standardization of practice means that you have to define this task by breaking it down into a series of subtasks).
    Here is an excerpt from my inn’s Standard Operating Procedure’s Manual, Section VI Housekeeping Procedures, Subsection E, Procedures for Deep Cleaning Guest Bathrooms:
    1. Collect a fresh bathmat, sheets, and towels from housekeeping supply.
    2. Put the sheets, towels, and bathmat on top of the comforter and blanket in the bedroom.
    3. Go to the housekeeper’s closet and get the vacuum cleaner, cleaning spray, disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, Old English wood polish wipes, clean rags, glass cleaner, and a duster.
    4. Spray the mirror with a glass cleaner. Dry the mirror using paper towels. Put the dirty paper towel in the waste basket.
    5. Vacuum the bathroom floor.
    6. Use a disinfectant wipe and clean the commode – seat top first, bottom of the seat, and lip of the commode. Throw the wipe in trash bag that’s in the hallway. (Use a brush from the housekeeper’s closet to finish cleaning the commode. Spray it with cleaning spray. Wipe it with the brush. Flush the commode. Put the dirty disinfectant wipe in the waste basket.
    7. Spray the bathtub/shower with cleaning spray. Wipe it clean with a dry rag.
    8. Spray the bathroom counter and sink with cleaning spray. Wipe it clean with a dry rag.
    9. Spray the floor with cleaning spray. Wipe it clean with a dry rag.
    10. Hang fresh towels and the bathmat in the bathroom.
    11. Replace the soap and shampoo (as necessary) from the housekeeper’s closet.
    12. Remove the trash bag from the wastebasket. Put the trash bag in the hall. Replace the trash bag.
    13. Put all dirty rags in the dirty rag bucket in the housekeeper’s closet. Collect all housekeeping cleaning supplies and take them to the next room that needs to be cleaned.
    14. Turn off all lights in the bathroom.
    15. Remove the trash from the hallway.
    This checklist serves as a handy guide for the housekeeper. It tells the housekeeper what she needs to do and if it’s properly followed, it also saves the housekeeper a great deal of time. (The current procedure requires the housekeeper to collect fresh bed linens, clean water glasses, and fresh towels and a bathmat at the same time. This reduces the time wasted on employees running up and down the stairs in search of clean towels, linens, glasses etc.)
    The checklist also provides an observable performance criteria for the housekeeping supervisor. Was the guest soap replaced? Were clean towels hung? Was the commode cleaned? Was the floor scrubbed?
    Do I expect a new housekeeper to memorize all 15 components of Section VI E? Certainly not!
    Each new housekeeper is shadowed with an existing housekeeper who walks her through each step of the housekeeper’s checklist. A copy of this checklist is given to the new employee. A laminated copy is also available on the inside door of each housekeeping closet.
    A good housekeeper should be able to complete all tasks associated with thoroughly cleaning a guest room and bathroom within 45 minutes to an hour.
    When an employee is able to do this, we exit this person from the training program.
    I once knew a restaurant in Austin that had a 450% annual employee turnover. Employees quit because they were overworked and underpaid. They also quit because they didn’t understand their employer’s expectations and they were never trained to a single consistent standard.
    A friend of mine landed a job in this restaurant as a grill cook.
    “Don’t worry about how to grill,” said the kitchen manager. “Carmen will show you everything you need to know.”
    Carmen was the woman at the neighboring grill station. There was only one problem. Carmen didn’t speak English. My friend didn’t speak Spanish.
    The result? Disaster.
    The kitchen manager yelled at my friend for incompetence. This demoralized him. No instruction was forthcoming. This further demoralized him. He wound up quitting after two weeks.

  2. When I was an innkeeper my head housekeeper trained the new hires for housekeeping. The first day the new hire shadowed the trainer, helping as the trainer requested. The second day the trainer worked with the new hire side-by-side. The third day the trainer shadowed the new hire. The fourth day I periodically shadowed and spot-checked the new hire. Then they were on their own. But I figured it took two months to get someone trained to all the nuances of the job — that was true for every “department”.
    We had check lists that had to be used, checking off items as we went. After the housekeeper announced they were done, the manager on duty would go through the rooms providing the fresh perspective that “new eyes” offered. If something was awry, it was fixed by the housekeeper immediately. Ideally the double checking was done during the day as the manager tended to “finger print patrol” — hitting the spots that attract black marks, like the door jams, near the door knobs, and around light switches — and to cobwebs, those pesky things appeared only after the housekeeper left the room.
    The checklists helped standardize our service so that each guest had the same experience that every other guest had, and each time they came they could expect the same. I felt our B&B was as good, if not better, than the 5-star properties I had stayed in because of our high quality which was maintained by our adherence checklists.
    Training staff is time consuming, but the effort pays off. It drives me nuts at how little training seems to happen in hotels. I wish hotel managers were on this list and paying attention to this conversation. I wish managers listened to their guests too.

  3. I agree. I once stayed at the Mariott Hotel in Austin. I had a do not disturb sign hanging on the door.
    At 7 AM there was a knock-knock-knock at the door.
    “Housekeeping,” announced a voice. “Do you want your room cleaned?”
    Sheesh … and this despite a do not disturb sign?
    I complained to management who apologized profusely. “The housekeeper was new,” said the manager. “We have since instructed her to not knock on doors if the door has a ‘do not disturb’ sign hanging on the doorknob.”
    So what happened?
    At 7 AM the next day, there was another knock-knock-knock on the door. I felt as though I was stuck in the movie, “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray. (In this movie, Bill Murray keeps living the same day over and over and over again because time simply won’t move on to the next day).
    I was so annoyed that on subsequent visits to Austin, I stayed at the DoubleTree Guest Quarters. The service was much nicer and I loved the two chocolate chip cookies I was always given at check-in.

  4. Ok when I follow innatelezabethvilles steps I get a bed that’s not made.
    This talk of training housekeepers is great, makes me wish I had one. And I hope my wife doesn’t get the idea from this thread for a checklist or a housekeeping procedure manual. I’ll be walking around with a list taped to my left arm.
    Thanks for sharing. I am enjoying it.
    Steve Wirt
    Wine Country Cabins Bed and Breakfast in the Finger Lakes
    and Inngenious Bed and Breakfast Website Promotion

  5. Well of course the bed isn’t made. I only quoted our SOP for Section VI Housekeeping Procedures, Subsection E, Instructions for Deep Cleaning Guest Bathrooms.
    If you followed the directions and wound up assembling a ’64 Ford Mustang using nothing more than Q-tips, toilet paper rolls, a tooth brush, 2 coat hangers, and a spray bottle of glass cleaner, just remember that the patent rights are mine … or Kit’s since this site has proprietary rights to anything that’s posted.


    And I hope my wife doesn’t get the idea from this thread for a checklist or a housekeeping procedure manual. I’ll be walking around with a list taped to my left arm.
    HAH! What do you think husbands are for? This is precisely why I’m not married. I’m free! FREE! FREE!

  6. Oh now there are just too many funny ways to lead this discussion astray and I just can’t make up my mind which way to go with it.
    Steve Wirt
    Wine Country Cabins Bed and Breakfast in the Finger Lakes
    and Inngenious Bed and Breakfast Website Promotion

  7. Hey
    I’m free … but I’m not easy. (smug grin that is only marred by the faint hint of desperation that you might see if you look deep into my eyes …)

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