Insider secrets from UK’s best hotel housekeeper

Fiona Harkin – Housekeeper of the Year 2019

Fiona Harkin from Glenapp Castle beat off stiff competition to be named the Housekeeping Manager of the Year at this year’s Boutique Hotelier Personal Service Star Awards. We grabbed five minutes with her to uncover her secrets to success and how she keeps both her department and the hotel in tip top condition.

Fiona Harkin joined Glenapp Castle at an exciting time of growth and when occupancy levels have gone from 30 to 40% to an average 67% annually and 90% in August 2019.

This was a dramatic change and she had to manage the department through this intensive period of change.

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One of her key achievements has been to effectively manage her team through this change, recruit and train new team members, improve the housekeeping service provided at the castle and to manage the diverse aspects of the business across the cottages and sea safari. There have been challenges with some of the team adapting to the new systems but through Fiona’s positive approach and dedication she has managed to bring them all on board and now has a dynamic team.

What is the best part of your job?

For me the best part is seeing how happy the guest is during their stay, it certainly makes all the hard work worth it. I also have a brilliant team, I am very lucky to be working alongside such a strong group of people, all the training is definitely paying off.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Making sure my housekeeping team is working effectively and efficiently and ensuring that tasks are completed before the deadline. Maintaining standards with the busy turnover is essential. We often have Exclusive Uses to get ready for or guest activities like the Sea Safari which always take a lot of planning so it’s very important to be organised.

Training new staff, ensuring they feel valued and have pride in their work is also a challenge but it’s also very rewarding.

How to maximise efficiency within the department? 

I try to track and limit how much time is spent in rooms. I make sure daily priorities are set and sent out to the team before the day starts to ensure everyone is aware of what should be done that day. I will plan the week in advance so to provide proper direction, focus and attention to detail to all the activities carried out throughout my day and by my team.

I schedule monthly team meetings to make sure all housekeeping is kept up-to-date with everything going on and to share any problems they have within the team or personally.

How many staff do you look after?

I currently look after four fixed staff with four on part-time hours when the castle is at higher occupancy.

What products could you not do without?

Well they aren’t technically products but I couldn’t do my job without my fabulous team.

 I also have to say, our suppliers are absolutely fantastic and definitely give us the best products, especially the amenities we have at the castle!

What new systems have you implemented to help ensure standards are sky high?

Most recently, a housekeeping inspection check-list document; it is an effective tool which is a simple way to execute a set of procedures that serve as a reminder of any needed repairs, missing items or services for guests. It’s also a good way of recording all housekeeping tasks have been completed and signed off as well as the time that was taken.

We also now have regular staff training which is crucial to improve housekeeping job performance. This is followed by monthly reviews for the staff to see their progress so it’s also a great learning opportunity. 

How do you manage your rotas?

We find the best way to manage the rota is to work out the correct number of staff needed per shift with the right amount of rotation to ensure everyone gets the same amount of rest. We of course work to a strict budget in addition to making sure the correct number of staff with the required skills are working at the right time. 

What future developments do you have in the pipeline Glenapp Castle?

We are currently working on the possibility of new linen, new amenities in the rooms and new products. We are also upgrading to new Standard Operation Procedures due to the growth of the business. In due course the hotel will be adding rooms which of course will then lead to more staff. The suite in question is the new luxury penthouse floor, the largest suite in the castle with 12 rooms – this is due to open in spring 2020. Excitingly, this suite will require a dedicated new team of staff. 

Tags : Boutique Hotelier Personal Service Star Awardshotelshousekeeping
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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