SINGAPORE — Grapes in fruit bowls in hotel rooms were replaced with plums, because the latter required less time to wash. Napkins were folded in a different style to reduce the time taken to set them up.
Such measures, together with a slew of others involving work processes, were implemented by Shangri-La Hotel Singapore in a bid to raise productivity levels in a labour-intensive sector that has long been plagued by a shortage of manpower. And cumulatively, they will save the hotel a total of 4,100 man-hours a year.
“It’s the little things that make a big difference. With the labour crunch showing no sign of letting up, we realised that productivity gains were no longer an opportunity, but a bare necessity,” said Mr Reto Klauser, the hotel’s vice-president and general manager.
Shangri-La was one of nine hotels recognised for the Productivity Idea Award at the 32nd Productivity Seminar organised by the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers Union, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore Hotel Association yesterday. The nine hotels’ productivity initiatives resulted in 32,500 man-hours saved annually.
Speaking at the awards, Mr Klauser said ideas such as replacing physical newspapers with electronic ones and stationing iPads at a self-service concierge counter were described as “incredibly well-received”. Focus groups with input from its employees were held to generate ideas and incentives were given to employees to encourage suggestions.
Asked if increasing productivity could possible lead to a drop in service standards, Mr Klauser responded: “It is not the productivity initiatives that stand in the way of providing five-star service. Just like any other industry, it just requires the right amount of talent in the workers to meet this standard of quality.”
At Hard Rock Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa, eight of its housekeepers were trained to perform specific tasks such as linen delivery and room cleaning, in order to efficiently switch job functions when required. This allowed rooms to be cleaned faster, such that the front desk was able to handle guest arrival promptly.
Meanwhile, Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre tweaked the hotel’s manpower scheduling system to map out manpower forecasts more accurately so that it does not end up with more casual labour than needed.
Speaking at the event, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, assistant secretary-general of the NTUC, said that because of globalisation, easy air travel and technological advancements, customers today have a whole range of choices and very high expectations.
“Singapore is not the only country with top-class hotels; a dynamic and service-oriented hospitality industry is, therefore, an imperative,” he added.
He also noted the need to attract and retain talent to cultivate productivity at the workplace. “Hotels need to build their reputation as employers of choice and also relook their human resources practices to appeal to an increasingly mobile workforce,” he said.
Mr Yeo also handed out Employee Of The Year awards to 54 outstanding hotel employees — the highest number to date since the awards were launched in 1985. Among them was Madam Serene Yuen, a housekeeper in Furama City Centre in her 50s, who was lauded for going out of her way to meet the requests of her guests. “It’s a nice way to acknowledge our efforts, even if good service is a given in hotels; this encourages us to keep at it,” she said.