Hard-working and passionate team members make me proud with their personalized service, creativity and striving to go the extra mile and drive me to lead better.
- Chena Ram, Director of Housekeeping, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas
Tell us about yourself
I am Chena Ram, hailing from the land of colors, culture and hospitality (Rajasthan), India. I am an enthusiastic hospitality leader and a hotel aficionado having over 15 years of progressive experience serving the hospitality industry in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar & India. I have worked in the Big Box Hotels (300 - 530 rooms), majorly with IHG, Anantara, Accor and Hyatt. My core experience lies in pre-opening, planning, and organizing operational requirements for housekeeping guest rooms, front, and back of house aesthetic upkeep as well as laundry, linen, uniform, and flower room operations.
Having always been a strong advocate for mental and physical wellbeing, I have created a platform at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi which brings these values to life and offers an all-round “win-win” for the institution and the individual. Employees benefit from better support for their health. The hotel benefits from improved productivity and our society benefits from improved public health.”
How did you begin your career in Housekeeping and how have you grown since then?
I started my career with Golden Tulip Hotels & Resorts in India as a Housekeeping Attendant in 2007. During this tenure, I was promoted to different positions such as trainee housekeeping supervisor and then to a fully-fledged supervisory role. Then I moved to One & Only Resorts as housekeeping team leader in 2009 for an international exposure and to work with diversified culture. Later in the year 2012, got the opportunity to work with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts in Qatar as a Housekeeping Supervisor. I grew in the IHG all the way up to Asst. Executive Housekeeper at InterContinental Al Khobar. I moved back to the UAE in 2016 to join the Thai Paradise Anantara Palm Dubai Resort as an Assistant Housekeeping Manager to overlook the housekeeping operations with a total inventory of 514 rooms. In the year 2018, considering my passion towards housekeeping and having been able to manage newly opened 222 residences successfully, I was promoted to Housekeeping Manager.
I joined one of the most beautiful resorts at the pristine shores of Saadiyat, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas in 2021 as a Housekeeping Manager to manage 306 luxuriously appointed rooms, suites, and villas with 96 Ladies & Gentleman. In 2023, I was promoted as Director of Housekeeping.
What drives you and your career?
My biggest motivation is when I see my team every day in the morning full of energy, that flows through in impacting our guest experience. Hard-working and passionate team members make me proud with their personalized service, creativity and striving to go the extra mile and drive me to lead better. Seeing their names flowing all over the social media and internal guest satisfaction portal, hand written notes, their creative posts, flower arts, etc makes me feel accomplished to lead a dream team.
The best housekeeping practices you follow
- Hiring the right talent with a caring attitude and high adaptability. This is followed by their boarding process. Right on boarding lays a foundation for long term success for the employee and the department. Teaming buddy for a month to familiarize standards and best cleaning practices and to maintain regular flow of the communication.
- Employees not only want good pay and benefits; they also want to be treated fairly, to make a substantial contribution to the organization through their work, and to be valued and appreciated for their efforts. Team had welcomed 2023 with a brand new internal employee recognition program integrated with cloud based applications to see their weekly performance and productivity, which creates a competitive work environment, everyone has a chance to shine. Therefore, every team member is given equal and transparent opportunities and celebrates each other's wins.
- Monthly communication meetings and individual discussion plays an essential role to keep the team up to date with new trends, get the team aligned and grow them as future leaders.
The biggest challenges in housekeeping today
Housekeeping is one of the most enriching roles within a hotel, it is the backbone of the operation, which covers not only the rooms but all public spaces. In the modern times and ever changing trends it is key to stay relevant. May it be organizing your team to handle a busy operation or ensuring the hotels public areas are decorated to match the occasion or celebration, the scope of work and thinking outside the box to provide the ultimate guest experience aesthetically and seamlessly is a never ending quest for excellence. All of this while still wearing the hat of a cost controller, recruiter, man management expert and shrink, design curator.
Cleaning technologies you use and what you would like to implement in the future
IPC Pure Water Cleaning System- an innovative technology that uses reverse osmosis and deionization to allow for chemical-free cleaning, creating perfectly streak-free windows.
Most housekeepers are looking for water based cleaning, user-friendly and most important sustainable solutions.
Sustainable cleaning practices you implement
As a responsible hotelier I have implemented some of the best practices to contribute in environmental well-being:
- Implemented sustainable dispensed liquid amenities throughout the resort to eliminate on an average 84897 single-use plastic amenities year to date.
- Collaborated with DCT to initiate an in house water bottling plant to eliminate 288000 single use plastic bottles in guest rooms, F&B outlets and recreational facilities.
- Initiated a project “World of Care “ by donating 3456 kg of used uniforms, clothes, chinaware, glassware and bed & bath linen.
- Implemented Clax Advance formula for laundry detergents to save 99630 kg steam, 6048 KWh Power and 3456 KL Sewage.
- In partnership with Diversey to inbuilt water recovery tank to save 184000 liters of water YTD.
Your take on training the cleaning workforce
Training and development are the most vital elements to achieve clinically clean standards and at the same time keeping employees safe. I have implemented a program called “Knowledgeable Housekeeper=Clean Hotel=Happy Guest” This program aims to train each housekeeper for a minimum of minimum 6 hours monthly and incorporates daily knowledge of the day's questions in a team briefing. Quarterly training is also conducted by chemical and machinery vendors to understand components and usages.
OPL or Outsourced laundry - what do you prefer and why
I have experienced both sides of the coin during my tenure with different sizes of hotels and resorts. There are always pros and cons. Currently I am managing an On Premise Laundry - the fastest way to turn around laundry in a pinch rather than waiting for deliveries. This allows me better linen management, linen quality and a quicker overall laundry operation.
Outsourcing laundry functions makes sense as well that hotels are built for hospitality; they aren’t in the laundry business. Considering the expenses of lacking the volume to run highly efficient equipment, which become staff intensive, as well as consuming large quantities of utilities like gas, water, sewerage, and electricity. Add on the maintenance and repair costs, chemicals, supplies, insurance, workers compensation, taxes, licenses, permits, equipment depreciation, etc.
Cleaning products that you currently use
For room care- Diversey J-Fill Range. It is cost effective due to less usage, reduces workplace hazards, is efficient and more sustainable.
For fabric care, we use an innovative Clax Advance Formula from Diversey. It provides us 13% saving of washing cost and 22% lifespan extension of our linen.
The best part about your job
You get an opportunity to be the backbone of a multimillion dollar property, serve & interact with people around the globe with different tastes & preferences, have a diverse team & can think out of the box to create an experience for the guest which sometimes goes under our best practices & sometimes have to pass it. You never stop learning!
Your advice to youngsters who are starting their journey in housekeeping
If you aim to develop a successful career in the fast-paced hospitality industry, you need to always be on your toes to keep up with every new trend and every new standard. You are expected to handle surprises smoothly, identify customer’s needs swiftly, and solve problems effectively. This requires you to have an innovative attitude and the desire to learn new things. As a hospitality professional, it is important that you keep learning, and keep up to date with new developments in the industry. If you don’t have an open mind to learn new things, you’ll soon be forgotten in the forever-changing hospitality field.