Did you know that since 1981, the United Nations established the ‘under-appreciated professions week’ mid-September of each year? In 2022, it was from 11th to 17th September.
Personally, for one, I was not aware.
In the hospitality industry, we accumulate under-appreciated jobs!
Next to the ever-celebrated Chefs, General Managers and other shining stars of our industry who regularly make the headlines, there are the nobodies (dishwashers, room-attendants,… - no capital letter intended!) who work in the shadow, ignored by all, including from their own colleagues with whom they work side-by-side every day.
These shadowed men and women should be celebrated not only because they do a physically challenging job (working in a noisy, hot, and humid environment for the dishwasher, or breaking their back making countless beds and cleaning bathrooms and toilets every day for the room-attendant), but they are absolutely essential to guests’ satisfaction. Unfortunately, we pay attention to them only when they are underperforming.
Even if we can date back the first celebrity Chef to Marie-Antoine Carême (1784–1833), for centuries Chefs were mostly unknown from the public, relegated to their kitchens while Restaurant Managers and Maître Ds were getting all the attention. It is with the launch in 1900 of the Michelin Guide that Chefs started to be noticed. Paul Bocuse was the first true celebrity Chef (as we understand it today), leaving his kitchen to meet and greet customers, not being shy to talk to the press, writing books, developing culinary schools under his name, opening restaurants worldwide (including at Disneyland’s Epcot), putting his name on kitchen appliances, and more.
Today, even if the vast majority of Chefs are no celebrities and never will be, hotels communicate and promote them as part of their property’s main features. It is so much true that Hotelier Middle East doesn’t hesitate to have a full section of its Web site dedicated to Chefs and culinary news, under the sponsoring of Gault&Millau (a Michelin Guide competitor).
It took more than half a century for Chefs to move from being an ‘under-appreciated profession’ to celebrities. The shift didn’t come from the industry, but from a travel / culinary guide, and later-on the press, TV shows…
Today, will the hospitality sector treat better these under-appreciated professions currently working in our hotels? If, retrospectively, it was easy to promote Chefs, a very little number of guests will be interested in those who are making their beds and cleaning their bathrooms, even if in there daily life they are more important than those 5* Michelin Chefs: Haute cuisine gourmet restaurant is perceived as a dream, not a clean room.
Dishwashers, cleaners, and room-attendants cannot compete, and no Michelin or Gault&Millau guide will ever advertise them.
It is up to us, hospitality management, to promote these colleagues holding under-appreciated professions.
We should never forget that without them our properties cannot operate:
We cannot sell a dirty room
We cannot serve food in dirty dishes
We cannot dress our teams in stained uniforms
We cannot leave a guest with a leak in the bathroom
We cannot check-in a guest with a non-operating keycard system
All of these require trained professionals to address even the least demanding guests’ expectations. As I mentioned earlier, even within our teams there is some kind of non-official structure that defines higher and lower jobs. Interestingly enough, as demonstrated in some of my previous posts, those well regarded positions (front-desk, waiters,…) can now be replaced by robots, while these lower jobs require skills that still cannot be reproduced by a machine. Food for thought…
It is then our duty to change teams’ perceptions regarding these under-appreciated professions.
According to a CNN report, “77% of housekeeping staff say that their job is stressful. With pressures from guests, employees, and management—along with logistical stressors—housekeepers are prone to high stress levels.” From the three sources of stress, we can immediately address and correct two: Employees and management. (We can also consider that the other low class employees that are dishwashers feel the same, without the guests pressure that they rarely meet)
To do that, everyone must understand from experience what it means to clean rooms in a very limited timeframe, while being under pressure from the Front Desk when the hotel is busy, and guests are demanding to check-in. Similarly, even for those who work closest to them like the kitchen brigade, the all-hotel team should experience at least one full day inside the stewarding area. Cross-departmental training – from management to rank & file – is a must. In both cases, colleagues will realize that being a Room-attendant or a Dishwasher is a very technological job that requires knowledge about chemicals to be used, have a reasonable HACCP understanding, being able to be proactive to better perform, and more.
Many more actions can be put in place by hotel management and hospitality groups:
When advertising for one of these under-appreciated professions, write a text that promotes the job as being key to the hotel overall success, mentioning that you are looking for the best candidates with great potential
Internally develop and propose a career path for these colleagues – beyond the obvious Head Housekeeper or Head Stewarding
When advertising the property, don’t promote only the Chef and the friendly Receptionists, promote also the quality of the great Housekeeping staff and kitchen brigade, from stewarding to Executive Chef
Promote your team in social medias, including these under-appreciated professionals that guests never hear or read about (you’ll be surprised to see the positive returns you’ll get!)
Include these colleagues in all guests-related activities – including, for instance, the on-spot appreciation surveys after guests check-out
Once again, it is up to us, hoteliers, to build strong teams in our hotels, teams of which no one feels excluded.
If you read these posts regularly, you already know that we are building Amsa Hospitality based on respect and recognition of all. For us, everyone is as important, from management to rank & file, and we do our upmost for each one of us to be and feel recognized and appreciated. This is one of our pillars, source of Amsa Hospitality success.