This month, we look into the illustrious journey of Trishna Hundal, the Cluster Executive Housekeeper, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts - Wyndham Dubai Deira, Days Hotel by Wyndham and Super 8 by Wyndham. Trishna’s journey is unique and inspiring. It shows show sheer grit and determination can pave way for success.
Let’s take a look.
I am Trishna Hundal from New Delhi in India. When I came to Dubai in 2006, all I could think of is the adventure of moving to another country, meeting new people and the excitement of discovering new ways of working.
Now that I am working as the Cluster Executive Housekeeper for the three properties under the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts - Wyndham Dubai Deira, Days Hotel by Wyndham and Super 8 by Wyndham, I strongly believe that I have lived my passion in my entire journey and continue to love it. The challenges, accomplishments and accolades along the way helped in motivating me each day to aspire for more.
Your experience and years in the industry
My love affair with the hospitality industry began in 1990 in India. I worked for a 544-room IHG property then. Later career progression placed me with Hilton by 1998. My experiences and passion for excellence under the international hotel chains have granted me several Best Managers Awards. At the beginning of the new millennium – the year 2000 I joined The Sheraton New Delhi as Assistant Executive Housekeeper and was promoted to Executive Housekeeper in 2005. By 2006, I was also fortunate to be a faculty member at the renowned Hotel Management Institute, New Delhi which allowed me the opportunity to give back to the industry as well as to work with fresh young minds who were at the cusp of their new career journey. My memorable stint with the institute was indeed enriching and had a sense of satisfaction. Soon after, I had the opportunity to work for the Taj Group of Hotels in Dubai and that was the beginning of my overseas career. As my career progressed, I had the chance to be part of the Rixos Group, Flora Hospitality, Bahi Ajman Palace, Starwood Hotels and the Marriott Group before I joined Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.
I have successfully opened 7 hotels under various well-known international brands.
How did you get into the hospitality industry, and how have you grown since then?
For a woman in India, coming from a family that owns acres of agricultural land meant you need not go out to earn money for a living, that too in a hotel. However, this custom was nothing compared to the conviction that I had in pursuing my dreams. Fortunately, I have parents who are dynamic and willing to break the traditional taboos and hence they gave their full support in becoming who I want to be.
After receiving meritorious post-graduate degrees in Sociology and Hotel Management, I was certain that I wanted to be part of the hotel industry. I was driven to prove myself to many by being equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary to achieve where I am today. Success did not come easy, but I never lost focus.
What drives you and your career?
My biggest motivation is when I see our guests delighted and thankful for their amazing experiences at our hotels. Sharing these wonderful experiences with my hard-working and passionate team members makes me proud and drives me to lead better. Seeing them work harder inspires me to rise my Expectation Bar as well.
An accomplishment that shaped your career
Though I was blessed with multiple achievements over the past 30 plus years, one turning point was getting a Black Belt in Six Sigma. It changed the way I looked at things. You start analysing data differently and start solving every problem a lot more effectively. You do not focus on “who is wrong” but you focus on “what went wrong” and “how to fix it.” I am able to continuously improve processes and procedures and fix control points after I test these successfully.
My entire journey and experiences have shown me that prioritizing one’s time and staying focused on one’s goals is the key to success.
The best part of your job
There is no end to learning and creativity in housekeeping. There are so many options available in this ever-growing market and one needs to keep up to date with the latest trends. We as housekeepers have to constantly improvise on the services we offer to our guests and how they can feel safe, comfortable and privileged. I am constantly engaged with various suppliers and their products to check what is new that can add value to our guest experiences at our hotels.
The most challenging aspect of your job
Hygiene and cleanliness have always played an important part in running a successful hotel operation. Since 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, elevated levels of hygiene standards have also become a statutory requirement. Nowadays the success of the hotel is directly linked to its hygiene and cleanliness processes and guarantees.
The expectation of the guests with regard to hygiene has changed now, and it is the housekeeping department's responsibility to find innovative methods to provide a high standard of hygiene and cleanliness in the room. There is just no room for compromise.
A good reputation for quality and standards attracts business. We have to make sure that our team gets the right tools, updates their skills and product training to be successful. The challenge is to stay aware and quickly adapt to the new demand around us.
During the pandemic period, in order to tackle and understand the situation better and find solutions, I completed a Hygiene Hero course offered by Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. I went on to make SOPs for all departments on protocols to be followed in line with guidelines given by the authorities. This helped us to give a consistently seamless service all across our hotels.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
Sustainability is important not only for our hotels but for Environmental Quality as a whole. In order to have healthy communities, we need clean air, bountiful natural resources, and a nontoxic environment. As responsible hoteliers, we need to reduce our negative environmental impact through green best practices in maintenance works, services, logistics, products, and supplies. The core elements revolve around reducing waste, saving energy, and cutting down on water usage.
Housekeeping practices you follow
The core of housekeeping lies in the details, quality controls, innovation, team building, record keeping, discipline and maximum utilization of all resources. There are deep cleaning schedules for each area in the three hotels in order to keep the hotel in shape. Each and every team member is well-versed with the brand standards. Extensive training and refreshers for team members is a must. A successful housekeeper will always be a great trainer. The team should feel as important as the guests do. The team is given breaks regularly so that they are well-rested and in good health.
We listen to our guests and upgrade systems, policies, and procedures when necessary.
Cleaning practices at your hotel
Just cleaning is not enough anymore, and hygienic cleaning is the new mantra nowadays, especially in our industry. We have adopted the standards laid down by Dubai Municipality and follow the hygiene and sanitation protocols. The high touchpoints in rooms and public areas are a major focus for sanitizing. The health and well-being of our guests, as well as our staff, is a priority. The rooms and specific public areas are disinfected through fogging. Steam cleaning of all soft furnishings is carried out before we release a room for a new arrival.
At the same time, a similar protocol is followed for team member areas such as the service elevators, cafeteria and lockers to ensure the team stays safe and healthy. All guidelines laid down by WHO are strictly complied with.
The latest products (chemicals & equipment) that are in use
There are several products and chemicals available in the market that are really effective in keeping the hotel safe. During the pandemic and even as we are gradually coming out of it, the concept of the safe room is here to stay. We went on to purchase electrostatic fogging machines for all three properties for the disinfection of checkout rooms. Municipality approved Ecolab products are used to sanitize the rooms. Hygiene kits are offered to guests upon arrival to help them be safe. Sensor-based sanitiser machines are installed in all guest and team member areas of the hotel.
Training provided to the cleaning staff
We make a monthly calendar for the training of all housekeeping team members including our contractual team members. The training is mostly picked up based on feedback received, our own observations and topics are extensive. The team members that excel in certain skills are made to train the team on that particular skill. Wyndham offers several up-to-date mandatory online training for the team. Certain training such as equipment usage and chemicals usage is done every quarter to keep the team aware of the right practices.
In order to overcome the high turnover situation, we need to pay more attention to our employees, providing them with the necessary training, support and career advancement.
Challenges you have faced
Talent retention is one of the top challenges faced by all housekeeping departments currently in the the UAE. With the contractual staff option, quality trained staff can be difficult to find. While interviewing contractual staff we look for the right attitude and basic communication skills. They are made to go through rigorous training before they go out on floors or public areas. Even after training sessions, there is a need to have close supervision and guidance extended.
What kind of innovations do you think will help in your cleaning processes (both in terms of equipment, chemicals, and/or practices.
Bio-degradable Eco-friendly products; Organic products; smartly packaged and dispensing products along with the back of house software solutions for stock monitoring and reorder systems is what will help our industry be more efficient.
There should be data-driven tools that can provide managers with real-time information about the status of dispensers of soap, paper, towels etc. Issues with supplies and hygiene standards are tackled via a dashboard where all data is immediately available. This can reduce the time needed to complete the processes, simplify operations and free up employees’ time for more important tasks that need manual care. We should move fully towards green cleaning products as a community. Innovations in the cleaning industry should help to take some burden off the shoulders of team members.
We should have cleaning products that can be used for multiple purposes. The housekeeping caddies as a result should be lighter. Vacuum cleaners should be lightweight and efficient with low DB levels. We should have regular vacuums with HEPA filters at an affordable price.
Bed bases should move at the press of a button for deep cleaning. The quarterly rotation of mattresses still needs to be done manually. Guests should be able to make requests at the press of a button and not read through the call buttons. The paper stationary/menus etc should be eliminated from hotels and made available only on request.
The future of the cleaning industry
The future will see the cleaning industry as an important part of the operations all across. The housekeepers have suddenly become very important with their expertise being valued to an extent that never happened before. No matter how much technology we bring into housekeeping operations, the touch of a housekeeper will still be an add on to the experiences that we give.
Housekeeping is changing very fast and one has to keep abreast with changes.
The focus in future will remain on hygiene and sanitation alongside cleanliness. We will need to have policies and procedures in place and the team trained on them. The execution of these will take us a long way.
There should be ongoing training on health and safety for our team members so that they positively contribute to the business.