Job Focus: Executive Housekeeper
A large home or estate with many and varied staff is a diverse organisation and a place of employment for many people. It can be seen as a living, breathing machine with the function of providing a home for the principals and their family. With this in mind, one of the top-level requirements is to keep the home clean and comfortable as a place to live, a responsibility that ultimately falls to the housekeeping staff.
The executive housekeeper is in overall control of the housekeeping operations and might well be in charge of a large team of people. They will coordinate housekeeping crews, inspect and assess all areas of the residence and ensure that the expected standards are met. As well as being a skilled housekeeper themselves they’ll be a personnel manager, a problem solver, a planner and coordinator and will take responsibility for the housekeeping department.
- Lead a team of housekeepers, probably of multiple nationalities
- Improve and maintain the performance of the team
- Establish procedures and standards
- Ensure standards are met and be responsible for those standards
- Plan the activities of housekeeping crews
- Inspect and assess completed work, or coordinate inspections
- Manage human resources, for example hiring, training and evaluation
- Set and manage budgets, and oversee the purchase of supplies
- Administrative tasks such as payroll and inventory
- Ensure special events and requests are properly staffed and operated
- Liaise with other departments within the residence, and with the principals
- Act as a housekeeper themselves when required
As with so many executive or managerial-level roles, so-called “soft” skills are crucial for an executive housekeeper. These include:
- Communication skills, both with other departments and executives and with their own teams. Lack of effective collaboration – which ultimately relies on communication – is a common reason for failures of a housekeeping team. So, the executive housekeeper has to manage multiple projects and areas of activity at once, and be the nexus of communication for the housekeeping staff. Interpersonal skills are equally important, fostering a focussed and purposeful team culture.
- Leadership is essential. The executive housekeeper will instil accountability in their housekeepers, supporting and motivating them at all times. They’ll need to delegate a wide variety of tasks and projects in accordance with the particular strengths of their teams and individual staff, and encourage improvement where necessary.
- In a constantly moving environment with many people involved, inevitably conflicts will occur. Conflict resolution skills are therefore required, and help to develop successful working relationships.
- Time Management goes hand in hand with efficiency, boosting productivity and effectiveness. Prioritising what is urgent and understanding the hierarchy of importance of tasks is central to this.
- Critical Thinking is an essential skill for a problem-solver such as an executive housekeeper. The ability to create a process from assessing and targeting the issue through to developing a solution, seeing it carried out effectively and integrating it into the routine is one of the key tenets of an executive housekeepers canon of skills.
Training and Development
As well as the management and executive aspects of the role, in order for a housekeeping professional to progress to a leadership position they’ll need to have mastered a wide range of housekeeping and cleaning skills. Whilst this is possible simply through experience, this can take years, and many more basic housekeeping jobs might not provide the necessary training. Fortunately there are many specialised courses for those looking to advance their housekeeping careers. To mention a few:
- Specialised surface care – for example marble, silver or crystal.
- Specialised stain removal, such as wine, coffee, water or blood.
- Specialised fabric or garment care, focussing on lace, silk or wool.
- Dry cleaning
- Care of fine art
- Flower arranging
- Ironing, shoe polishing and shirt service
- Room-by-room housekeeping and turndown service
A successful candidate might well have completed a hospitality management course, but while certification is not absolutely necessary they will certainly have extensive experience in a housekeeping team before rising to an executive position.