Nithya Mehrotra started her hospitality journey way back in 2000 after completing her Hotel Management in Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, India. She began her career with the Leela Kempinski, Mumbai, India as a Hotel Operational Trainee in Housekeeping. After managing some of the finest Kempinski hotels in India including The Leela Palace Kempinski Bengaluru, she moved on to expand her career in the UAE in 2004, to support the pre-opening of the prestigious Emirates Palace Kempinski Hotel in Abu Dhabi. In 2006, Nithya was asked to assist in the preopening of the Kempinski Hotel Mall of The Emirates, Dubai.
After her long association with Kempinski Group, Mehrotra joined Al Bustan Rotana as the Assistant Director of Housekeeping in 2008, In 2012; she was promoted as an Executive Housekeeper for Jumeira Rotana and after initiating the renovation project, she then became the Director of Housekeeping at Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, Dubai supervising a team of 73 professionals in the 462 room luxury hotel. Nithya won the Housekeeper of the Year Award at the Hotelier Middle East 2018 and was the runner up for the Best Housekeeper category at the Middle East Cleaning & Hygiene Facilities Awards in 2018.
Just as I completed my plus two, professional courses started gaining momentum in India. As an extrovert, I loved social outings and interacting with new people. Hence, I was all prepared to go against my father’s will of me becoming a doctor and opted for a hotel management course. I was attracted to the luxurious lifestyle the hospitality industry offers, but it didn’t take me long to realise that, yes we are very close to glamour, but never in it. After completing my hotel management course, I joined Leela Kempinski, Mumbai as a hotel operational trainee, and then there was no looking back.I am a self-motivated person, and this added to my success in this very demanding industry and profession.
Drive and passion
I believe that being motivated by progressing in your career through hard work is acceptable, but being motivated by only your paycheck is not. What you truly want should be deep within you. So, motivation should come from within, not externally. It is the feeling of ownership, the feeling of pride, recognition and the sense of accomplishment that must drive you more. As Stephen Covey rightly said, “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.”
I cherish each and every task I have completed successfully. There is always a sense of pride when you achieve your targets. Especially if there were hurdles and challenges faced. The preopening of Kempinski Hotel Mall of The Emirates is one such accomplishment. I was promoted as the Assistant Executive Housekeeper for the pre-opening of this hotel. Just a month prior to the opening of the hotel, the Executive Housekeeper left the company.
My first role as an assistant and the pressure of successfully opening the hotel was indeed overwhelming. I had a strong management team who supported me, and my colleagues stood by me through this process. We successfully launched the hotel, and we got a new Executive Housekeeper, Feryal Haddon on board - a great mentor and a great housekeeper who ensured that I learned whatever I missed or went wrong during the preopening phase.
The best part of your job
A housekeeper’s job is very challenging; hence it is important that you really enjoy what you are doing. I enjoy both the creative side and the day-to-day operational side.The creative side includes the opportunities you get to do something different on special occasions in your hotel for your guests. And many times guests appreciate these special moments we create for them. On the operational side, I have trained myself over the years to pay attention to the smallest detail. To enter a room and assess that everything is in the right place and the room is cleaned to the highest standards. My team says that I have golden eyes!
Housekeeping is one of the most physically demanding and monotonous roles within a hotel. How we motivate our team and maintain consistency in performance is very crucial. You have to continuously come up with new ideas to keep the staff engaged and encourage them to exceed guest expectations and take pride in their jobs. If you ensure that the staff is dedicated towards their work and put their heart and soul towards it – then you are inevitably successful. Also, to train and ensure the consistent quality in such a fast-paced, high-turnover environment is a challenge.
Generally, the housekeeping department consists of the largest team in a hotel, and the operation area becomes very extensive to have an overview of the entire operations. It also gets complex and challenging at many times to handle the biggest team in the hotel. The colleagues of the team vary and have a wide gap when it comes to nationality, language, age groups, experience, level of motivation, level of understanding and communication. Motivating each colleague takes meticulous planning. In other words, I strongly believe if you can successfully manage a housekeeping team, you can manage any operational team in the hotel.
We as hoteliers can make so many positive changes in the world when it comes to sustainability. Sustainability is a widely discussed subject lately, not because it’s something new but because it is gaining recognition as its importance is becoming clear to everyone. People will be only interested in sustainability if they are educated about it. The overall importance of sustainability needs to be effectively communicated. We all need to understand that it’s for our well-being and the well-being of the society we are a part of.
At Rose Rayhaan, our staff is trained on the segregation of garbage and the importance of doing the same. We have provided colour-coded bins in each service area to have easy access for garbage segregation. A green corner is created in the departments for creating awareness. With proper control, we have diverted 95 tonnes of waste from going in to landfills in 2018! Sustainability in the context of cleaning means making the right product choices and using chemicals in a responsible way. Opting for productive and sustainable equipment is also a part of sustainability.
In the housekeeping department its all about cleanliness. With high occupancy levels, it is rewarding to see that the hotel standards are well-maintained. We also have to ensure that the department is managed effectively, and we have to be flexible, allowing team members to work together and finish their tasks. Proper planning, scheduling/rostering and delegation is required for the execution of work. We have a clear break down of our cleaning cycles, preventive routine, interim and restorative. Specific tasks are assigned to colleagues as a task of the day. Deep cleaning of rooms and public areas are scheduled with score cards. The deep cleaning of rooms also includes cleaning of mattresses, duvets and pillow washing, preventive maintenance of the rooms, marble polishing, upholstery and carpet shampooing. The façade cleaning is outsourced and scheduled on a daily basis as the building is a complete glass structure. We have also outsourced our hotel marble polishing services, which is scheduled thrice in a week.
Training is vital to a new employee but not limited to the freshers on board. It should be a constant and continuous process creatively implemented for all employees. Employees who are not adequately trained cannot be expected to perform the best. Each task requires some level of skill. A thorough training programme based on task breakdown for each individual is mandatory.
Our trainers are always under constant pressure as we recruit more freshers than trained staff. Monthly training calendars are prepared for colleagues in accordance with the departmental training needs. For a new joiner, on-the-job training, shadowing, job swaps and class room training is planned. Also, manuals and training videos are updated on a regular basis, which helps to reinforce the proper methods of cleaning. We at Rotana also give the same importance to cross training to understand and appreciate other jobs as well as help employee growth. We also have to constantly identify challenges and causes, resolving them and training our staff to enhance performance. We recently hosted students from the Integreat School of Special Needs and students from Tender Hearts Arena and organised a practical learning experience for students on the basics of cleaning, where the students had a hands-on experience with our housekeeping team.
Millennials are the next generation of managers in the workplace. They are simply motivated to seize what appears to be a better opportunity and a new experience, which can transform their lives. The hotel industry cannot be an exception in this trend. We need to effectively communicate the interesting aspects of managing the millennials. There is so much to learn in housekeeping, and hotels should attract the next generation of managers by putting enthusiasm, creativity and importance at the forefront when communicating job prospects.
When it comes to technology, the cleaning industry is constantly evolving. The latest multi-functional equipment is available in the market. With the pace of ongoing innovations and development in the cleaning market today, we have a better version of each model available. Software programs can be used as tools to make better use of these systems. It all starts with training the staff to use them in the best possible way.
The housekeeping department has one motto to offer ‘a home away from home’ experience and also takes immense pride in maintaining the utmost standards of cleanliness and quality. The job of the housekeeping department is a well-rounded operation that tirelessly works round the clock. You have to be committed and willing to adapt in this department. Never underestimate your importance and contribution to the overall success of a hotel. Be proud of what you do to make a difference every day. Make sure you are leaning against the right wall; every step you take just gets you to the right place faster.