Sandals' housekeeping teams get training to face COVID-19


Sandals' housekeeping teams get training to face COVID-19

Saturday, September 26, 2020

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IF we think of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as a war, then in any resort the housekeeping team members are the warriors on the front line. This would make Beverly Brown, Sandals Resorts International's group housekeeping trainer, the chief tactical officer, preparing and arming the team for battle.

A trained teacher with 13 years' experience, Brown has been working with the Sandals Group for 10 years. Her role involves facilitating and delivering training programmes to almost 1,500 housekeeping team members at all resorts across the region, providing ongoing coaching and guidance to ensure consistency in standards, reviewing and updating standard operating procedures, and consistently identifying training opportunities to boost team members' capacities.

The role of the Housekeeping Department in any resort company has always been critical, and this is no different at Sandals. In the last few months especially, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to responsibly reopen borders and industries, the company's Housekeeping Department has become the flag bearer for its enhanced cleanliness and hygiene programme, the Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness for both Sandals and Beaches.

“Housekeeping is the nucleus of resort operations,” Brown shared. “The housekeeping team is the chief custodian of cleanliness at the resorts and the giants of the industry. A guest may have several dining options at a resort but he will only have one room, and the housekeeping team has to ensure that room is always clean, safe and well supplied. Departure rooms must be so clean that there is no trace of the former guest. Housekeeping is all about the details.”

In the face of the pandemic, these details have never been more important. “Even before the virus, 78 per cent of hotel guests said cleanliness was the most crucial factor affecting their choice of accommodation. With the current reality, this number will increase. Our guests are now hyper-conscious, some even travelling with their own UV LED lights to test if we are really executing the protocols as advertised,” Brown added.

Responding to the changing environment, the increasing concern among guests and in order to protect team members, the company's enhanced and robust system of procedures places increased responsibility in the hands of the housekeeping team. “A number of our protocols require military-like precision,” Brown added. “Our restrooms are inspected and disinfected every 20 minutes, for example. The housekeeping team is under severe scrutiny now more than ever, and we cannot let our guard down.”

SRI's Deputy Chairman Adam Stewart also underscored the important role of the housekeeping team in the COVID-19 fight. “Our housekeeping team members are the true heroes in this fight,” he said. “They are on the front line of this battle every single day and their determination and commitment is what has allowed us to successfully surmount these challenges so far. As we continue to work towards responsibly navigating business and life amid this pandemic, I am proud of our protocols and extremely grateful to the team for their dedication and for assimilating to the training so well.”

The Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness includes in-depth training of team members across all departments in the resorts and to date, Brown has completed several hours of training with hundreds of team members across the region. Through a combination of virtual and traditional sessions and on the job training, Brown has worked with the housekeeping teams extensively over the last few months, familiarising them with the enhanced protocols and preparing them to successfully deliver exceptional service while safeguarding their health.

Training has been delivered face to face in Jamaica and virtually to teams across the region, and in both cases videos and practical assignments have been used to reinforce lessons. Brown has also created a jingle to help her team easily recall the company's 18 key sanitisation touch points. Targeted training has also been developed for housekeeping managers to equip them with the skills to effectively lead their teams through a crisis. Said Brown: “An old adage says any captain can sail a ship when the water is calm, but it takes a different kind of captain to sail the ship over troubled water. We are in troubled waters and our captains must be equipped to lead through the crisis.”

Throughout the training due attention is also paid to team members' own individual health and well-being. Brown explained. “None of us have ever experienced a pandemic and I know that they are scared and concerned, so as the trainer I feel obligated to assist them navigate this uncharted territory. I ensure they understand that the protocols are in place to protect them as well as our guests, and that their health and that of their family members and communities is important. Our teams are fully equipped with all the necessary PPEs and we have also added new cleaning solutions and hospital-grade chemicals to further secure their safety on the job.”

“The team has responded well to the training. I am very animated. I sing and dance around and try to ensure that my delivery is fun and engaging even though we are dealing with a very serious issue. I use analogies and relatable examples to ensure they grasp the concepts, and overall the responses and the actions on the floor have been very encouraging”, she shared.

Marcia Wilmott, executive housekeeper at Sandals Royal Plantation, which is set to reopen soon, spoke highly of the training. “I was very impressed with the training and with the knowledge imparted to not only managers but to the wider housekeeping team as well. I am ready to go back out there. When I speak to my colleagues at other resorts that are open, I only get positive feedback. They're telling me that it works – following the protocols and the training works”, she shared.

Confident that her team is well prepared and suited for battle, Brown said, “As a trained teacher I mark very hard, but I really have to give the team an 'A' because they have gone all out to ensure that they are physically prepared. I also try to prepare them mentally; I take their phone calls, listen to their concerns and answer their questions. I tell them it's a war we have equipped them to fight and win, and we will emerge from this stronger.”

Grateful for the team's tenacity especially over the last few months she said, “We just celebrated International Housekeepers Week and I applaud the men and women of the Housekeeping Department for the Herculean task they undertake daily, more so in this pandemic. They are called upon to be lifesavers and mighty warriors on the front line and I celebrate their achievements.”

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