Business of Happiness

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YOU MEI YAN

LAUNDRY MANAGER

NOVOTEL SINGAPORE ON STEVENS AND MECURE SINGAPORE ON STEVENS

How long have you been in the hotel industry? I’ve been in the hotel industry for 18 years. I started off as a Management Trainee, and I’ve worked at three properties over the past 18 years.

What made you choose to join the hotel industry? As a student, I knew I wanted to work in a hotel but some of my friends warned me about the long working hours, so I didn’t pursue an education in hotel management. However, after I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration, I came across a recruitment drive seeking management trainees for a hotel. I thought I’d give it a try for two years, and see how it goes. The experience helped me rediscover my passion for hospitality, which is why I’ve stayed on.

Was there a reason why you chose to work in the laundry department? I joined the laundry department as part of my job rotation while I was a Management Trainee. I was surprised to learn that laundry is not just about washing dirty clothes. There’s actually a lot you can learn from the job – the different types of fabrics, how to wash and treat each type of fabric and also how to interact with guests. I found all of that to be very interesting, and decided to stay on in the laundry department.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? My department handles different types of laundry – from guest laundry and staff uniforms to the bedlinen. Every day, I’ll conduct routine checks to make sure that our daily operations are in order. I’ll also look out for ways to improve our service delivery and processes, and provide staff training wherever necessary. I train new staff and make sure that they have the skills and the confidence to carry out their duties effectively.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? What I enjoy most about my job is that I get to watch my team members learn and grow with time. When I first joined the hotel’s laundry department, not everyone in the team had the proper knowledge and training to carry out their duties effectively. It was quite challenging because they didn’t know the basics, like how to check-in guest laundry or the proper ways of handling laundry.

But after months of training and coaching, they were able to carry out their duties well. They can even provide their own ideas and solutions on how to do things better. My team has really come a long way and it fills me with pride to see how much they’ve grown.

Can you tell us more about the Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) laundry system that you use in the hotel? The RFID system removes the need to issue and collect ticket numbers when staff members send in their laundry. The uniforms have sewn-in computer chips that allow staff members to collect their clean attire by simply tapping their Staff ID card on the reader. The conveyer will automatically deliver the right uniform to the collection counter.

The RFID chip also allows us to track the lifespan of uniforms, so we know when to issue new uniforms to our staff members, without having to wait for signs of wear and tear. This new system has increased our productivity and helped to free up manpower, so my team members can focus on other tasks instead. The hotel staff like it because they don’t have to queue as long to collect their uniforms.

What has been your most memorable experience in your career so far? The new RFID uniform system was in the midst of being set up when I joined Novotel and Mercure. I remember going through the process of putting together a team of people together and coming up with necessary policies and procedures for this new system, which was considered new technology in the industry. Everyone was learning something new, and it was exciting to be part of something so different.

Have you faced any other challenges in your career? How did you overcome them? As a mother of three, one of the challenges I faced was time management. I’ve had to learn to balance my time between work and family. Thankfully, I have very supportive colleagues. We look out for each other and try to ease each other’s workload whenever we can. With their help, I’ve been able to juggle my work and family commitments.

As a manager, another challenge I face is putting together a team of driven individuals and have everyone work together to achieve a common goal. I try to speak to all my team members and I clearly explain their responsibilities, and why their role is crucial to the hotel’s daily operations. I also came up with a special acronym to keep my team motivated; I call it ‘CPR’ – Confidence, Passion, and Responsibility. It’s a reminder to ourselves to take a breather and do our best every day.

How do you think you contribute to a guest’s happiness during his/her stay? For guests who send their garments for laundry service, we’ll treat their clothes with utmost care. We’ll check the clothes thoroughly before returning them to the guest, and if we find anything that doesn’t meet our service expectations, we’ll make sure to fix it first.

Some guests may have sensitive skin, so when it comes to washing their clothes or bedlinen, we have to make sure that we use a special type of detergent that will not irritate their skin. Basically, we do all we can to make our guests as comfortable as possible during their stay with us.

What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? Whatever your role is, be committed to it. In our industry, sometimes we have to give a little more and go the extra mile. Being committed to our jobs will give us that extra motivation to keep giving our best to our guests.