RIPON, Wis. — No matter what the professional industry may be, in order for employees to perform at their best, they need to be given the proper tools and training to do so.
In the service and hospitality industry, where success depends on guest satisfaction, employee performance is critical. Whether it’s an employee, such as a bellman or the concierge who come into contact with guests each day, or one who works behind the scenes in facility operations or the laundry room, every employee plays an important role in achieving and maintaining guest satisfaction.
Therefore, it is important for a hotel to have procedures and policies in place to train laundry room staff to ensure that all linens—whether found in the guestrooms, spa, athletic facility or restaurant—are held to the highest standards before they reach hotel guests.
Not only does training laundry room staff help improve guest satisfaction, but having set policies and procedures in place also helps improve laundry room efficiency, ultimately boosting the bottom line.
TRAINING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Labor is the greatest expense in a laundry operation, representing an estimated 45-50% of a total laundry room budget. It is critical that labor is being used as efficiently as possible in order to maximize throughput and reduce operating costs. In order to do this, staff must be trained on how to properly use the equipment, as well as the overall laundry process.
Regardless of the size of the hotel, it’s important that everyone undergoes the same training so that the full staff understands the daily goals and benchmarks, and knows what is expected of them to meet hotel guest needs.
Having training guidelines and checklists accessible to employees after their initial training is an important resource for employees to refer back to if needed.
Randy Dawes has worked for Hyatt for nearly 30 years and knows firsthand the importance of training laundry room staff. As the corporate director of engineering for the Hyatt Place and Hyatt House hotels, his role is to monitor and assist with the replacement of equipment and review new hotel laundry construction, as well as review wash times and the chemical usage.
“Our training guidelines are available in both a video and downloadable file format and accessible through our company intranet,” says Dawes. “The training guides review the proper loading techniques for washers and dryers, and the training is consistent across all hotels.”
Additionally, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the turnover rate for the hospitality industry was 72.1% in 2015, up from 66.7% in 2014. With this high turnover rate, having formal training procedures and documents will help on-board new employees as quickly as possible.
TMI Hospitality operates more than 180 hotels across the United States under brands such as Marriott, Hilton Worldwide and InterContinental Hotels Group. To help manage the laundry operation and training across all properties, each hotel receives operational standards and checklists developed by TMI’s director of operational performance standards.
When the time comes to train new staff, all TMI property management teams take a hands-on approach, says Andrew Wallin, TMI’s director of purchasing.
“A property’s general manager or executive housekeeper will train new laundry staff on the standards our team has developed to ensure consistent operation across our properties,” he says.
Today’s equipment for on-premises laundry (OPL) facilities has undergone major advancements to improve efficiencies and reduce operational costs. However, even with the most innovative equipment on the market, employees still need to be properly trained on how to use the equipment so that the hotel does not waste time and money.
New equipment control systems provide many benefits to both the laundry room manager and the staff processing laundry day to day. With advanced controls and wireless networking, laundry room managers can gather machine performance and maintenance data remotely and in real time. This innovation helps managers stay constantly connected to their laundry operation to monitor equipment usage, labor, utilities and efficiency. With this visibility, managers can make immediate adjustments to help minimize costs at every stage.
If staff is using manual controls, they need to pay close attention when selecting settings and cycles to ensure the best wash-and-dry quality. Laundering different types of linens throughout the day is inevitable in the hospitality industry. Manual controls require staff to switch the settings for each load, creating a greater chance of the wrong cycle being selected, which will affect throughput and linen life.
“Our newer equipment helps with monitoring the wash cycles and confirming the proper washing temperatures and formulas, which is very important,” says Dawes.
Advanced control systems have user-friendly graphic displays, one-touch operation and multiple languages for multilingual operation, all helping to simplify training and use. Additionally, having the same controls for both washer-extractors and tumble dryers helps streamline training and use of the equipment.
Once employees are fully trained on how to use the equipment, they also need to have a strong understanding of laundry processing.
“While our training is consistent across properties, processing will differ based on the number of rooms at a hotel,” says Dawes. “The average room count at our properties is 130 rooms, but the total number of rooms at the hotel will affect the size of our washers and dryers, and therefore affect processing.”
As the types of fabric for hotel linens vary, it is important for staff to sort like items before starting a load. Since linens such as towels and bed sheets have differing compositions and weight, they will need different dry times.
For example, the time required to dry terry towels will cause over-drying of the bed sheets. Over-drying the sheets will not only reduce linen life, it will also affect the quality of the linen; uncomfortable bed sheets will have a negative impact on guest satisfaction.
It is also important to weigh linens before adding them to the washer-extractor. While a load may look full, adding a few more linens to reach the machine’s maximum capacity will have an impact on daily productivity.
SERVICE, MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS
In order to help extend the life of equipment and ensure it is running at peak efficiency, staff will need to be trained on regular preventative-maintenance needs. If a property does not have set maintenance processes in place, a distributor can be a good resource to help develop formal procedures. They can also help with conducting trainings, especially when it comes to equipment use and maintenance needs.
“Our local distributor performs the maintenance training, and it is handled by the hotel engineer or a local laundry contractor,” says Dawes.
Many equipment manufacturers will provide checklists that outline maintenance needs that should be performed on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis. In addition to using these materials for training, they are a helpful resource for ongoing maintenance needs.
“With proper cleaning of the machines and the light maintenance performed, we are often able to tell pretty quickly if there is an issue with a machine,” Dawes says. “When we see there is a leak or abnormal sound, we know it’s time to call our distributor for service and support.”
Additionally, with an advanced control system, a laundry room manager will receive an alert if there is a problem such as a leak or slow drainage as soon as it arises. Oftentimes, a manager will receive the alert before the staff can visibly detect the issue, which will not only help prevent a large water or sewage bill but also help reduce equipment downtime, as the problem can be addressed immediately.
When a machine is experiencing an issue or isn’t functioning correctly, the flow of the laundry room will be impacted immediately; this technology helps laundry room managers and staff work together to address any repair needs as quickly as possible.
It’s also important for staff to be trained on when equipment maintenance goes beyond their daily responsibilities and a certified service technician should be called. Staff should not tend to repairs and maintenance that goes beyond their training or comfort level, as more harm can be done to the machine. Staff should also be aware of potential problems such as electrical issues, uncommon noises or error codes that require a factory-trained and -certified service technician.
Distributors have the expertise, resources and knowledge to solve any issues that may arise with a property’s equipment. When the repair is out of the scope of a property’s engineer or maintenance staff, calling a service technician will ensure that the equipment needs are tended to promptly and correctly.
“If our regional maintenance team cannot repair an issue for a property, we will help them identify the right resource,” Wallin says. “It is as simple as typing in the property’s ZIP code. We know we can trust our distributors to get the equipment back up and running quickly, no matter where the property is located.”
MONITORING THE OPERATION
To run an efficient OPL operation, it’s important that training does not stop after an employee is first on-boarded. Staff should undergo regular reviews to ensure that they are continuously following all proper processes and procedures.
“Each of our hotels undergoes a regular review process, and part of that review includes an analysis of the laundry room to ensure the staff is properly executing their tasks,” says Dawes.
He also says that there are visible signs to look for to ensure the laundry operation is running at peak efficiency.
“The telltale sign that a laundry is running efficiently is the lack of linen backed up in the chute or on the floor,” Dawes says.
With the ability to monitor all aspects of an operation with real-time reports, laundry room operators have increased visibility that helps them make informed decisions on how to best manage labor resources based on the expected volume of laundry during a specific time period.
The machine usage reports will also provide managers with a strong understanding of how and when their equipment is running during a specific shift or day, and can help identify bottlenecks in the laundry process. If linens are sitting for an extended period of time between a wash and dry, a laundry room manager can determine the best way to fine-tune labor resources to eliminate this problem.
Additionally, if an operation does not meet its daily goal, it can pinpoint the exact shift in order to identify the cause of the inefficiency and make modifications. If it was a result of the labor, they can use this as an opportunity to retrain employees and improve staff performance.
“Constantly reviewing a hotel’s laundry operation is very important, as this can make or break a hotel—from both a guest satisfaction and profitability perspective,” says Dawes. “If a hotel laundry operation is not running seamlessly, it will become a major trouble spot for the hotel. While guests do not visit the laundry room, it is just as important to keep the laundry room as neat, clean and organized as the hotel restaurants and lobby.”
Incorporating in-depth employee training processes that provide education on equipment use, processing, preventative maintenance needs and when distributor support is needed will help a property maximize throughput, reduce operating costs and ensure that it is achieving the appropriate guest satisfaction with properly laundered linens.