The power of the housekeeping checklist

Motivate your staff and see results

Martin Dreymann

In a recent survey, frequent travelers named it as the “most important factor” in their hotel choices, and more than 80% said they’re more comfortable staying at hotels implementing “enhanced protocols and standards”.

To keep visitor numbers up, and help protect the brand’s reputation, housekeeping teams have to be at the top of their game. But that doesn’t mean working longer hours, or spending more time than they can afford in every single room

Instead, it means working smarter

Here’s how.

Work better, not longer, for top-rated cleanliness 

You want guests to feel safe. You want guests to feel comfortable. So, you also want your housekeeping team to spend a little extra time in each room. Though not too much — as they’ve got lots of other rooms to get through. But not too little, either — as you need it to be clean. We’re looking just the right amount, aren’t we?

As Executive Housekeepers and hotel managers, we’ve become obsessed with time, as until now it has been our only proxy.Time = effort. That’s an equation we can all get our heads around and, subsequently, it’s often the primary lever used by frontline teams to improve the work they do. The problem is, it’s not quite right. Time spent cleaning has no correlation on thoroughness or quality of output, explains a study published by the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

Of course, you’d be forgiven for thinking that twice the cleaning time delivers twice the result,  but that’s not actually the case. A Cambridge University study found time spent cleaning a room does not correlate with the quality overall.

And who’s going to argue with one of the most prestigious universities in the world?

So, if spending more time cleaning each room is unnecessary and impractical, working smarter is the solution. That means putting a clear plan in place and finding the most effective, most efficient way to clean every single room to the highest standard. 

We’re talking about the kind of cleaning that earns you shining reviews from guests and motivates other guests to book a stay, too. 

But changing the way your housekeeping team works and implementing new processes can be tough. They have their routines and personal preferences — switching all that up might leave them less motivated to deliver their best.

That’s why you have to embrace smart motivation techniques, as well. 

The benefits of smart housekeeping

You can run into trouble when your housekeeping team’s management is a little complacent and disordered. Especially when we’re all focused on cleanliness so much more. 

Let’s say your housekeeping team is made up of 50 workers. They’re all trained and know what they should be doing — but they’re all working to their own to-do lists. 

That means there could be 50 totally different definitions of success. One housekeeper might set their sights a little lower than the next, leaving rooms in a condition some guests take issue with. One housekeeper could spend most of their time getting the bathroom just right, but neglect tucking the bed sheets in.

There could be 50 totally different workflows. Each housekeeper might have their own list of cleaning priorities — what they clean first, why they clean it first, what they leave until last, and why they leave it until last.

And when you consider the number of rooms in your property, say 400 on average, there’s 50 workers across 400 guest suites, creating almost countless opportunities for oversights and costly mistakes every day. 

The result? A complete lack of uniformity throughout your hotel — and that matters. Because while delivering a positive experience for each guest helps build your brand, lack of consistency can tear it down. . One guest might walk into their room and find every surface gleams so bright they reach for their sunglasses. Another might walk in and find the bed turned down but the television coated with dust and — worse! — a wet towel in the shower. 

You want to deliver the same impressive quality to every single customer who crosses your threshold. Whether you’re a branded hotel or independent property, you have a vision for how things should be. And leaving your housekeeping team to dictate their own routine in each room without monitoring their work can jeopardize that. 

Creating checklists for every housekeeper to follow can help teams avoid all these problems. But if you’re using pen and paper, you could run into issues. Big issues.

It’s too easy for a housekeeper to misplace their checklist, and they’d have a choice: go back to management for a new checklist or keep cleaning rooms trying to remember the right order. 

It also doesn’t look too professional if a guest finds a dog-eared checklist on their coffee table or, say, floating in the toilet bowl. 

The solution? Shared, digital checklists. They keep everyone on the same page — literally.

Harnessing the power of digital checklists 

Checklists can totally revolutionize and enhance ways of working, especially in teams. 

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, writer Atul Gawande shares some eye-opening benefits of checklists. 

Checklists help us cope with increasing complexity

Gawande says that “the volume and complexity of what we know” has overtaken our personal ability to act on it properly or safely. He argues that “knowledge has both saved and burdened us”. 

That definitely applies to successful housekeeping — especially with a pandemic to worry about. 

There are so many different parts of a hotel that need to be cleaned properly to look at their best and to protect guests from the risk of COVID-19. Housekeepers’ work is expected to be more thorough than ever, and that puts a lot of pressure on them and the managers overseeing them. 

And it only gets harder when new cleaning protocols come into effect with little to no warning.

But shared digital checklists help to ease the strain and break tasks down into clear goals. A housekeeper knows exactly what they need to do in every room to achieve success — and any updates are easy to roll out, in a way that everyone can see. 

Checklists help us avoid memory lapses 

It’s easy to make mistakes when you have a dozen rooms to clean within a few hours. Maybe a forgotten area here, a missed surface there. But these little errors can all add up and leave guests seriously unsatisfied. 

Shared digital checklists keep housekeepers connected to their tasks at all times, no matter where they are in the hotel, so they never forget even the tiniest goals. 

Checklists ensure reliable supervision

Executive Housekeepers need to know what each member of their team is doing and when problems might strike. With traditional paper-based checklists, though, they have to simply trust their workers are meeting goals during shifts. And they might not know when something goes wrong until it’s too late. 

Implementing shared digital checklists empowers Executive Housekeepers with real-time updates on tasks completed as they’re completed. If an area is missed, they can take action to find out why immediately.

Checklists counter poor time-management skills

Housekeepers who struggle to stay aware of the time and their working pace can benefit from checklists: having access to a set list of tasks to follow reduces the risk of distractions and narrows their focus. 

The result? Better productivity and efficiency all round!

Motivating housekeeping teams, increasing quality, and decreasing costs

Boost job satisfaction and performance

Job satisfaction matters. The challenge here is to implement the processes that help achieve your vision, in a way that boosts performance, too. Don’t create a workforce of robots (that won’t help you succeed). Instead empower advocates of your hotel’s vision, who feel inspired to complete their work to the best possible standard. 

Fortunately, implementing checklists can increase job satisfaction. How? Research shows setting clear goals can boost performance by more than 90% and enhance worker satisfaction. 

It’s all about establishing routines that mentally challenge employees, give them real objectives, and satisfaction when they know they’ve completed an important job.

According to McKinsey studies, setting goals can increase employee engagement and benefit organizations overall. The SMART approach by McKinsey is helpful when considering how to craft your process: be clear, help your team see the outcome you’re all working towards, and highlight the efficiency that’s needed. This inspires more commitment and gives employees a bigger sense of ownership in hitting their targets. 

No more crossed wires — just clarity

With shared checklists, there’s no risk of crossed wires or confusion. Every member of the housekeeping team knows what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how close they are to cleaning each area to the standard required.

Everything’s simple and streamlined. Teams can get on with their work immediately. And guests enjoy greater comfort, from the start of their hotel experience right to the end.

Higher efficiency saves time and money

When housekeeping teams make mistakes, work more slowly than they should, or lose track of which areas they’ve cleaned, that wastes time. 

But when you bring digital checklists into your daily cleaning routines, housekeeping staff work through clear tasks and stay on top of the jobs they’ve already finished. Each minute they spend working is valuable — reducing the amount of money wasted fixing mistakes or repeating cleaning unnecessarily.

Checklists just got a digital transformation, and now they’re more powerful than ever!

It’s clear that checklists have the power to elevate housekeeping in hotels, increasing efficiency, productivity, performance, and management overall. So why not move your to-do lists over to Lua

An innovative digital platform designed to connect cleaning teams, Lua delivers real-time results, boosts efficiency, improves quality, and increases the commercial value of housekeeping costs.

Lua can be used by every hotel housekeeper no matter their native language, to keep them engaged and on track. Managers can give feedback to help teams improve and unlock their full potential.

Find out how you can make work, work better, too!