With over 11 years of industry experience, Neha Rajput is the Executive Housekeeper of The Canvas Hotel Dubai MGallery. She began her voyage in India and her passion for learning allowed her to pursue a career in the most renowned hotels across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. Neha places special emphasis on employee happiness and guest experience and believes that the former leads to the latter. Her inspiring journey takes flight in New Delhi, India where she shaped and pursued her passions fiercely.

The beginning

When I was studying, my dream was to become a merchandiser and work with export houses. One fine day, I came across an ad showcasing career counselling. So I went ahead and filled out their initial questionnaire. Soon, we came to know that the centre was actually an academy to train air hostesses and stewards. Moreover, I had scored well. The options from thereon were plenty - I could grow with an airline or join the hospitality sector. I was 17 years old at that time and I decided to go ahead with the latter. Having completed my 12th standard, I took up a Diploma course in hospitality management. And soon, I landed my first job in Gurgaon, India. I had my initial training at the Hyatt Regency in New Delhi, India.

After the training was complete, I took up a job in housekeeping for a mall. Five months down the line, I realized that this was not for me because I was trained to work in hotels. So I moved on to The Claridges in New Delhi. I was the youngest employee in my department - 18 years old. After spending a year and a half there, I moved to Crowne Plaza in New Delhi as a housekeeping supervisor. It was after this that I would take the biggest leap of my career.

I got a job opportunity from a preopening property - the first flagship property of Kempinski in India. When you do pre-openings, you develop job knowledge right from the basics. When I joined the hotel, it was only a structure of barren walls. Perhaps that is why I can say that whatever I learnt, I owe to that place. There, I even got to meet the most inspiring executive housekeeper of my life - a lady who would manage our team of 117 people and 500 rooms remotely from Doha.

After this thorough learning experience, I got a chance to work in The Grand, New Delhi as an Assistant Manager. Working there opened the doors of the U.A.E for me as I was offered a job at The Sheraton, Abu Dhabi. It was not an easy step to move from India to the U.A.E. because I was at a marriageable age and my parents didn’t want me to relocate - a challenge most females experience at some point of their career. But, I did move. At the Sheraton, some time after I had joined, the Executive Housekeeper went on leave and I was placed in charge of all his duties in his absence. I put in my best efforts there and it was acknowledged. I handled planned as well as mystery audits well.

Soon after, I got married and joined The Hilton Al Marjan Hotel in Ras Al Khaimah. It was a beautiful property and the biggest team (of 109 people) I have worked with in the UAE! I was in charge of handling the entire team, and I must say I developed good rapport with them. I believe that was the key - if you keep your engaged and happy, they will outperform themselves. After this, I got the opportunity to work in the Sofitel, Abu Dhabi. After working there as an Executive Housekeeper for six months, I joined Accor.

The role

My basic purpose is to maintain the hotel, the ambience and achieve the highest levels of guest satisfaction. In doing so, I provide regular trainings to my team and try to keep them as happy as possible. I also look into the laundry, the gardeners and a minibar. I also have to coordinate between the front office and the engineering department for maintenance.

Best practices you follow

Provide daily training to the staff and the supervisors. Maintain records of each activity, performance and task to build accountability. I send a rating card to all guests in order to evaluate my performance. If I find out that a guest in unhappy with our services, I meet them and try to understand how I can elevate their experience.

The cleaning procedure and products

Apart from the regular cleaning, we have a weekly schedule for deep cleaning. Going a step further, we maintain a quarterly schedule for carpet scrubbing and shampooing, washroom scrubbing, do PPM and maintenance. A systematic schedule helps everything fall into place. We use the Eco series from Diversey. These products fall in line with our Planet 21 project. Then, we use steaming machines rather than scrubbing with chemicals. We also use as many recyclable products as we can.

The drive

I always wanted to learn what different brands have to offer. I wanted to learn what is unique about them. I wanted to understand what sets them apart. Each brand I have worked for has taught me something amazing. It has been a harbinger of growth and learning. It is this learning that drives me. At the end of 11 years of working in diverse hotels, I have taken home one important learning - everything is for the guest. Hotels might try to achieve this in different ways, but the end goal is the same.

The accomplishment that shaped your career

The biggest accomplishment was my learning in the pre-opening of Kempinski Hotel in New Delhi. It was the biggest experience of my life. Earlier, I could perhaps tell you how a carpet is cleaned. After working there, I can even tell you where that carpet came from, how it was fixed and hence, how it must be cleaned and maintained. There is a major difference between the two.

Thoughts on sustainability

In Accor, we have a concept called Planet 21. Part of the Planet 21 project is to use materials that keep our environment stable. This is especially important nowadays because of global warming. So as part of our sustainability initiative, we have to use bottles that are 100 percent recyclable. Similarly, we keep a laundry card in the rooms. If the guest doesn’t want to change the linen every other day, he/she can use this card and we end up saving electricity and water. Also, the amenities we have in the rooms are 100 percent recyclable. We also ensure that we have garbage segregation in place so that recycling is easy.

The most challenging aspect of the job

The challenge is to work with adherence to a limited budget. Maintaining a 5-star property with the least possible costs is quite a task.

The best part of the job

Two things - guests and employees. I love to meet guests and learn from their experiences and needs. And secondly, I love keeping my employees happy. If they are happy, they will keep the guests happy. If you take good care of them, they will take good care of your guests and that’s what matters to me.