Rijo Joseph, Cluster Executive Housekeeper, Minor Hotels, Qatar
Rijo Joseph, Cluster Executive Housekeeper at Minor Hotels, Qatar, tells us his housekeeping story.
Fourteen years ago, Rijo Joseph joined the world of housekeeping. Intrigued by the warm ambience of hotels as a child, Rijo knew that a career in housekeeping would help him grow. He currently works as an Executive Housekeeper of three properties maintaining 411 guest rooms and suites, 9 food and beverage outlets, all public areas and outdoor facilities. In addition to that, his team is also responsible for the cleanliness and hygiene standards of all back of house areas.
Let’s take a look at his journey!
I am Rijo Joseph, an Indian national working in Qatar from 2014. I was appointed as Cluster Executive Housekeeper in 2019 for three properties under Minor Hotels Group in Qatar named Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels by Tivoli, Al Najada Doha Hotel by Tivoli and Al Najada Doha Hotel Apartments by Oaks having a total inventory of 411 rooms and suites in 10 different buildings
Your experience and years in the industry
I started my career in the hospitality industry in 2007. I have 14 years of experience in hotel management focusing on housekeeping and room management, working previously in local and international hotel chains in India. I started my journey with Oberoi Hotels, then joined pre-opening for The Westin Hyderabad. In 2012, moved to Movenpick Hotel and also joined Four Points by Sheraton as Executive Housekeeper in 2014.
In September 2014, I accepted an offer to move to Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels, Qatar, as the Assistant Executive Housekeeper. After this, I was promoted to Cluster Executive Housekeeper in 2019. Being a cluster executive housekeeper, I manage a larger team and look after more properties under the portfolio of Minor Hotels Group.
With the challenges we are facing now, our hotel standards have been upgraded and enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols are applied. I have taken the lead on the implementation of these protocols. I ensure the adherence of all government regulations and protocols for the safety of all guests and team members.
How did you get into the hospitality industry, and how have you grown since then?
Since early childhood, I was always delighted whenever my family hosted friends and relatives. I saw my family welcome them and make sure they are comfortable. We would go on vacation staying in hotels. I, being a kid, always looked forward and got excited seeing tall buildings. I would get impressed with hotel staff nicely greeting us with warm smiles and looking sharp and professional in their uniforms. I would always get awestruck the moment I would enter the lobby to find nice fresh flowers on display, very warm ambience and lingering aromatic scents. Every vacation made me believe that the hospitality profession will give me an opportunity to grow and develop in life.
What drives you and your career?
My main career driver lies at the intersection of motivation, the feeling of ownership, the feeling of pride, recognition and the sense of accomplishment. All of these factors make me do more. My career plan is simple - to achieve my goals, build my confidence, be organized to grow in the rooms division and to become a General Manager someday.
An accomplishment that shaped your career
I always feel a sense of accomplishment for every work completed on time. Overcoming all the challenges along the way makes me very happy. I am a proud leader of an excellent team, being part of their success and growth becomes my accomplishment too. My personal journey in hospitality has shaped my career to where I am now for every step, promotion and challenge I have managed and overcome gives me full confidence and immense pleasure.
One of the significant experiences in my career that made an impact on my growth is being part of the pre-opening for Four Points . This experience nurtured my roots very well. I have worked with some great leaders and mentors in the past, their in-depth knowledge has boosted my career very well.
The best part of your job
Retaining, training and developing a team and for everyone to have a common goal gives me fulfilment. I have met a lot of team members who have full potential and passion in what they do and when I see them grow in the industry, I feel proud that they have considered me to be their mentor.
For every satisfied guest that has stayed with us knowing they had a pleasant and a memorable time is always an achievement for me.
The most challenging aspect of your job
Managing the housekeeping department is very challenging. The budget and manning approved for the upkeep of processes and systems to the required standards remains a challenge. I am thankful for having a supportive team and management who understand these challenges and support the department to achieve targets and goals.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
Sustainability plays a vital role for any organization. In our properties, employees are trained in how to use chemicals correctly and how they can save water and electricity while doing their tasks. We focus on key factors like minimizing wastage, reduction of plastics and supporting and reinforcing green housekeeping programs for guests. We have implemented practices like proper monitoring of linen change data of guest rooms, wall mounted toiletries for our apartment rooms, reducing carbon print, color coded bins and many more are our main key initiatives.
Housekeeping practices you live by
The best of housekeeping practices that I recommend for housekeeping professionals is to never compromise on maintaining quality standards, making the staff feel valued, making training a priority, providing checklists and resources and conducting quality control inspections at all times. Basics are important to implement and keep on upgrading the standards and adjust it based on the needs of the company, making sure the guest feels comfortable and safe.
Cleaning practices at your hotel
We follow a certain standard of stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols. We’ve adopted a disinfecting procedure with new steam and fogging machines for our guest rooms. Our priority lies in safeguarding the health of our guests and employees and safety complying to the rules outlined by the World Health Organization. We have increased the quantity of our cleaning tools, and we are using color-coded microfiber dusters to maintain hygiene standards. Our team is following all guidelines from MOPH in Qatar and has implemented it daily without a fail.
The latest products (chemicals & equipment) that are in use
Considering the current COVID-19 situation, we have added an electrostatic fogging machine into our operations for disinfection. We also use Hyla machines for our deep cleaning procedures in our guest rooms. We have sensor-based sanitizer machines installed in all places and in back areas of the hotel. Part of the guest amenity includes a welcome pack with antiseptic wipes, a pair of gloves, face mask and hand sanitizer in every room.
The latest technologies
Our properties have implemented a message box software wherein all communications involving operations are centralized making it easy for team members to attend to any guest request. With this all guest requests are attended to faster and made trackable.
Advanced technology of new machines will get the work done faster and will be a blessing for the housekeeping department.
Training provided to the cleaning staff
We provide daily basic training sessions on housekeeping tasks and procedures to attendants and supervisors. This training is also given to our casual staff to enhance their knowledge. We do maintain a monthly training calendar to track each individual training man hours on a monthly basis. There are also advanced training programs implemented to senior members to grow their career further.
The team has scheduled a fun at work on every Saturday morning before their shift to make them engaged, strengthen team spirit and make them feel valued.
Challenges you have faced
I have gone through many challenges in my career such as delivering targets in a short period of time with limited resources. Many times during pre-opening a hotel or big group bookings, I have been under pressure to quicken the housekeeping operation in between early check-ins and late check outs.
With the years of experience and learning through the process it has become easier for me to handle such pressure and focus on the solution and become creative in dealing with many situations. I believe another challenge is finding the right person fit for the work. I always consider a person’s mind-set and passion for work before hiring one. A passionate candidate always becomes my first choice. Tasks and skills can be trained and enhanced but a passionate character cannot be taught.
The future of the cleaning industry
Due to COVID-19, we have seen a huge demand and importance of housekeepers for cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas from time to time. With the fast innovation of technologies day by day, the concept of housekeeping is changing. Housekeeping teams are getting more involved with machines. I also believe we must develop the people not only based on their skills but also based on emotional intelligence.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic should be dealt with?
The best thing to do is to comply with all the protocols, policies and procedures which were laid down to protect the team and guests and prevent the spread of the virus. Prioritize health and safety at all times instilling it to each and every member to protect all employees and guests.