One-on-One: Lakmal Mawella, Executive Housekeeper, Address Boulevard
Dated: 23-06-2019

Having started his hospitality career in 2002, Lakmal Mawella, Executive Housekeeper at Address Boulevard, was very passionate about getting into this industry inspired by a few of his relatives who were already a part of the hospitality business. Mawella completed his hotel management from Ceylon Hotel School in Sri Lanka and worked for 18 months in his home country before moving to Dubai. He started his career in the UAE with another leading hotel group as a pre-opening team member and soon got promoted to a supervisor. Later, he bagged the opportunity to join Emaar Hospitality Group as the Assistant Housekeeping Manager at Nuran Residences, then moved to the Palace Downtown and eventually got promoted as an Executive Housekeeper in 2014. He is currently working at Address Boulevard — which consists of 196 hotel rooms and 532 serviced residences. Mawella is in charge of housekeeping and laundry and has around 100 team members working with him. He is also actively involved in new hotel openings by the group and works closely with the corporate procurement department on tendering processes and more.

The beginning

Joining the hospitality industry was a life-long dream as I was inspired by my family members who were working in the industry, especially my aunt who was an Executive Housekeeper in a five-star property in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Without giving a second thought I decided to choose this career. I have learned a lot from my seniors and my associates, and they are the reason behind my success. I really enjoy working in this industry and would have never been the same person I am if I would have been a part of some other industry. Meeting new people and facing new challenges keep me going!

Drive and passion

As a lead in the housekeeping department, I enjoy guiding my team and seeing them grow. This is something which I will cherish all my life. When I see my team members getting promoted to supervisors, managers or heading other departments it gives me great satisfaction. At the same time, I enjoy helping guests with their needs and expectations, too. Seeing a smile on their face and making their experience a memorable one is something only hoteliers can do.

Accomplishments

I believe joining the Emaar Hospitality Group is one of my key accomplishments. I am fortunate to work with great leaders and the opportunities I came across while learning on the field. This hotel was my first pre-opening and I still treat it as the biggest challenge of my career. I went through a learning phase wherein I faced challenges like adapting to this new role and getting things done, taking the handover from contractors, etc. However, we opened the hotel as scheduled in 2017. Besides, by participating in various projects I got the confidence to perform better with my strengths. I am thankful to have received the Hotelier Middle East Awards in 2015 in the category Best Housekeeper of the Year.

The best part of your job

I enjoy helping my team grow in their career, and this is the best part of my job. I connect with every team member. This helps them to open up and share their ideas and challenges even in their personal life, which at times affects work. In addition, solving guest complaints or issues to ensure the best guest experience is something I enjoy. In my experience, working with Emaar Hospitality Group is very exciting. Here, we keep implementing and adapting to new policies and procedures. Working and participating in these is quite entertaining and engaging. At the same time, I am also responsible for training my team to adapt to these changes. We help them understand the budget or how to raise a purchase request; this helps them to be aware of how the department functions and the processes we follow.

Challenges

To keep the team motivated during challenging situations is a challenge in itself. It becomes difficult to get the work done with certain limitations, and at the same time we must keep the team happy and motivated. We do organise various activities to keep them going. We conduct a lot of training programmes for the staff to enhance their skills and to impart work ethics. We also organise different team activities such as quiz mania, monthly birthday celebrations, and towel art competitions to keep the team engaged and driven. Each supervisor and manager is in charge of training his/her teams. This is tracked and monitored to ensure everyone gets trained irrespective of their shift or task. I have observed that the new generation is not very keen to work in the housekeeping department and are more interested in service or front of house positions. Hence, we need to ensure that hotel management schools encourage the aspirants to join the housekeeping department by introducing them to the interesting part of this job. We can keep introducing new technologies and methods in the cleaning industry. However, certain tasks have to be handled by humans. I have come across the newly introduced robots, vacuums that are available in the market, but the question is how practical are they in a hotel room? For instance, how can you expect a robot to lift the guest valuables that have fallen on the floor and under a table? The human touch is a requisite in the service industry and makes a huge difference in offering the best guest experience.

Sustainability

The world faces environmental challenges. It is not only about protecting the surroundings but respecting the earth. We need to work with natural products. We also need to use steam cleaning machines to clean the floors instead of scrubbers and harsh chemicals, which in turn will help save water and conserve nature. We have incorporated a lot of sustainable practices in the hotel, and we train the team members to follow the same. We are a part of the ‘Soap for Hope’ programme by Diversey. We use water-based chemicals for cleaning. Recently, we received the Green Key certificate — an eco-label awarded to tourism and leisure establishments that fulfil a list of environmental and social requirements. The bottomline is how we contribute to the society as individuals and as a company.

Housekeeping practices

We ensure that our guests and associates have a safe and clean environment. Continuous training is a part of the job, and we ensure that our new associates undergo the training programme before they are being deployed to perform the daily tasks. We do not use trolleys in our operations; instead we have small baskets to carry certain items that are to be used for cleaning or maintaining the rooms. This reduces the damages to walls, corridors and looks much presentable than using a big room attendant trolley. We are working on replacing air purifiers, which can eliminate the smell and control the odours from garbage chute and other common areas, with strong ventilation systems. We are enhancing the efficiency of the team by introducing smart working practices. This includes reducing the time required to clean a room without compromising on standards. And that’s the beauty of this department – to come up with innovative ideas to perform tasks.