Calling all Housekeepers: It’s Time To Toot Your Horn!

As many hotel housekeepers here and in other parts of the world know, several hotels are considering – or already have – outsourced many of their cleaning needs. It started with laundry services many years ago. Hotel owners and managers found they could reduce costs, sometimes significantly, by outsourcing this work to independent vendors that specialize in this service.

Is it possible these hotel properties will now look to outsourcing housekeeping services, especially if they can realize savings here as well? Before addressing this issue, let’s look at what can only be termed a “downward spiral,” some housekeeping departments find themselves in. While the respect for the housekeeping industry has grown significantly, especially due to the work of associations like IEHA, many times housekeepers only are thought of when things are not done instead of all the many cleaning and maintenance tasks they do perform each day.

Then when the hotel industry faces difficult times, as it did during the recent recession, hotel owners and managers look for ways to slash operating budgets. Often viewed as “low hanging fruit,” housekeeping departments are frequently the first place administrators look to reduce staffing and cut costs.

If conditions worsen and linger, again as they did in the recent recession, another round of cuts are made. Eventually, it comes to a point where guest satisfaction is reduced, complaints are heard about the overall upkeep of the property, and administrators decide to take the next step and consider or begin outsourcing cleaning – even though it was their own actions in the first place that caused this chain of events to occur.

What we have here, in many circumstances, is a workforce that is undervalued and more importantly, often viewed as a “cost” and not an investment in a hotel property. To turn this around will take some work and those that must do this work are the housekeepers themselves. Building on the efforts of organizations such as IEHA and others, it’s time for hotel housekeepers and other in-house cleaning professionals to start touting their horns, letting managers know just how valuable they are to the health, cleanliness, and success of the properties they maintain.

Marketing Cleaning Services

Imagine what would happen if guests walked into your hotel and the first thing they noticed was smudged glass, soiled entry mats and floors, dust on tables and displays…even dust on the check-in counter. What kind of impression would your guests have of your property? It would not be a surprise if something of them – if not most of them – just turned around and walked out the door, looking for another hotel to stay in.

It’s the housekeeping staff that prevents this and make hotel properties shine. This is why they should be viewed not as a cost but an investment. And while an outsourced company may still have conscientious custodial workers, housekeepers that are employed by the hotel tend to feel more ownership for the property and are willing to take the extra step in ensuring its proper care.

They are also the ones most concerned that hotel guests are welcomed into the property, and not turned away by an unclean, unkempt facility. This is the type of thing housekeepers need to toot their horns about.

Other things that are rarely reported but which housekeepers can sing their praise about include the following:

Protecting indoor air. Housekeepers help protect indoor air quality and the health of guests and staff by using vacuum cleaners with advanced filtration systems

Effective surface cleaning. Microfiber clothes are more effective at removing germs and bacteria from surfaces and they often can do this with less chemical and water so not only are housekeepers protecting the health of guests they are doing this by reducing cleanings impact on the environment

Reducing cleaning’s impact on the environment: Similarly, green cleaning tools, chemicals, and equipment, are also designed to cleaning effectively while reducing cleaning’s impact on the environment

Promoting sustainability. Green cleaning and sustainability are not the same thing. Sustainability involves the selection of environmentally preferable cleaning products but taking this one step further, selecting chemicals and products that are designed to last longer and are manufactured and distributed in a way that minimizes waste, require less energy and water, and are distributed in ways to help reduce greenhouse gasses.

Energy savings. How often have hotel housekeepers walked into a guest room only to find all the lights are on, TV blaring, the thermostat turned up – or down – as high as it will go and other disregards for energy. Housekeepers “power down” guest rooms, reducing energy consumption and related costs.

Getting the Word Out About Housekeeping

Housekeepers and housekeeping departments are already taking a number of steps and incorporating a number of initiatives that help improve the health and appearance of a hotel as well as its bottom-line. The concern now is getting the word out about just how much they do. Some of the suggestions I have that have worked in some facilities and properties in which I have worked as a consultant include the following:

Start communicating. Initiate some type of newsletter or communications program to share housekeeping information with other hotel staff and especially with hotel managers and owners. It is perfectly fine, possibly preferable, to do this using an email format and they should be produced every month.

Say it but don’t shout it. The best way to tout is to show…in your newsletter, let others know what key accomplishments have been performed by housekeeping staff. For instance, make sure everyone is aware that all common area hard surface floors have been stripped and refinished, a major time and labor consuming job, and that steps have been incorporated to reduce refinishing cycles. This helps reduce costs, improve workloading (so that housekeepers have more time to perform other cleaning tasks), and protect the indoor environment.

Be your own “Yelp.” If guest have noted or commented on how happy they are with the appearance of the hotel and guest rooms, add these to the newsletter. What’s interesting, I have discovered, is that feedback like this builds on itself. It encourages other cleaning workers and housekeepers to take the necessary steps to get feedback like this.

Get to know the boss. Housekeeping is so crucial to the success of a hotel property that it is invariably surprising how few housekeepers have actually met top executives and managers of the hotel’s they work in. It’s very important for them to get to know you and understand what you do so that they are fully aware of how crucial your role is.

Become a suggestion box. I can say without question, there likely is no one that knows a facility or hotel property better than the people that clean it every day. Because of this, you may see firsthand ways the property could save money, be more energy and water efficient, reduce waste, etc. Don’t keep these things to yourself, add them to the newsletter or discuss them with the key executives and managers of your property.


Earlier when discussing the savings hotels realized by outsourcing laundry services, if it possible hotel properties will now look to outsourcing housekeeping services as well. The answer to this question is of course they will. Hotels, as we know, are a business so any steps that either can help reduce costs or increase profits are always under consideration. However, and as referenced earlier, housekeepers are in a unique position that cannot be replicated by an outside service. They are employees of a hotel and this gives them a sense of ownership. As such they have a sense of loyalty and commitment to the property to ensure it is as clean, safe, and healthy as possible.

their cleaning and building operations as well as promote sustainability and healthier cleaning strategies so that facilities function more effectively and efficiently and realize a cost savings. He can be reached through his company website at