The staff of Cleaning & Maintenance Management often visits readers to learn about the critical issues in the market and to stay in touch with the industry’s informational needs.
Recently, we reached out to Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York to see how this 24/7 facility meets the unique challenges of cleaning a variety of surfaces during several shifts.
Turning Stone’s representatives invited our staff in April of this year and generously toured us around the facility while providing a breakdown of the property’s features.
We were greeted at the resort and casino by Garin Hurlbutt.
Hurlbutt is responsible for the safety of the cleaning staff, staffing development, daily shift reports, project scheduling, working with inter-departmental leaders to address cleaning concerns, inspections and reviews procedures, and support of manager and director initiatives.
Next, Gerry Lewis gave us a tour and Hurlbutt participated until lunch.
Lewis is responsible for overseeing the cleanliness of all public areas of the resort.
Every day he conducts inspections of the property, initiates company initiatives and strategies, prepares a budget and is the executive administrative link for the department.
Cornell Strickland also joined us for lunch and the discussion afterwards.
He is the operations manager for Environmental Services (EVS), and he is responsible for Team Member development, hiring, budget reports, coordinating projects, recommendations for equipment and supplies, and supporting the director and company initiatives.
Currently, the property consists of:
- The main hotel with over 800 rooms
- The casino
- The convention center/auditorium
- 14 restaurants
- 10 kitchens
- A separate hotel building called The Lodge with high-end accommodations
- A gym
- A nightclub
- Five golf courses with several clubhouses
- A spa
- An RV park a short distance away from the main property.
During our visit, Turning Stone was completing construction on three new nightclubs.
Through the course of one year, the resort will see about 4 million visitors.
To minimize downtime due to moving equipment and supplies from one area or building to another, the operation has created 32 different sub-storage areas around the resort.
The Environmental Services department at Turning Stone employs approximately 160 staff and is responsible for cleaning and maintaining all the resort’s buildings and properties.
Certain specialty tasks like the maintenance of marble flooring are outsourced, but the bulk of the work is done by dedicated EVS staff.
Most of the staff hiring is done at the entry level, which creates advancement opportunities for good employees.
The EVS department at Turning Stone Resort and Casino boasts an impressive 93 percent retention rate for staff; a testament to their positive and uplifting corporate culture.
In discussing hiring practices for the department, Strickland said, “Members of our staff are usually the first people that you will see if you’re lost or looking for something, so it’s critical that they are friendly and helpful. I can teach you how to clean, but I can’t teach you to have a smile on your face all the time. That’s one of the critical factors we look for when hiring.”
Strickland mentioned three key points during the interview process:
- First — “Are they smiling?”
- Second — “Interaction/body language”
- Third — “Get on their level.”
“We have to make sure they have a good attitude through their body language and to do that, we must get on their level,” Strickland continued.
Strickland’s process of hiring, orientation and training plays a big part in their 93 percent retention rate.
The few people that EVS does lose typically move on to another department within the resort.
Because the resort is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, project cleaning can be challenging.
The staff focuses on maintaining the spaces during the daytime when the resort is at its busiest.
They reserve the night time hours, when much of the traffic is confined to the casino, nightclub and restaurants, for doing project work like carpet extraction, cleaning lighting fixtures, etc.
The staff is also extremely disciplined about critical tasks like carpet spotting.
Rather than wait for night when the crowds are smaller, the cleaning staff performs carpet spot removal as soon as the spot is noticed or reported in order to minimize staining and carpet replacement.
This frequently means removing spots from carpeting on a crowded casino floor.
However, when carpet does have to be repaired, the EVS staff at Turning Stone is prepared for the job.
Several key members have taken the IICRC Carpet Repair Technician certification course, and they have the skills to repair or replace carpet as necessary.
Lewis and his team have adopted a hybrid form of team cleaning in which most employees are grouped into teams and assigned specialist duties.
However, certain areas of the resort are more conducive to a zone cleaning approach where one or two people play different roles.
Use of Technology
The EVS staff at Turning Stone uses technology in a variety of ways to improve efficiency and create healthier indoor spaces for their guests.
ATP meters are used to measure the amount of soil reduction on certain surfaces that are most likely to spread bacteria or viruses.
In one instance, case management discovered higher than usual organic material after cleaning tasks were completed.
After taking a closer look, they identified that some staff members were not folding their microfiber cloths properly to prevent cross contamination.
Based on this information, the department was able to quickly remedy the problem.
Also, a state-of-the-art uniform storage and retrieval system makes it easier to care for and organize the hundreds of uniforms worn by the staff.
An EVS cleaner arrives before a shift and punches his or her unique ID code into a panel set in the center of a wood and glass door.
Inside the storage area, the uniforms are hung on huge conveyor systems similar to a dry cleaning operation.
The system reads the ID code punched in by the employee and moves the appropriate uniform(s) to a position directly in front of the door and unlocks only the hangers on which that employees uniform are hung.
Turning Stone has chosen a maroon colored uniform for their staff to help them blend in on the gaming floor and not stand out to the visitor.
This also helps keep their appearance clean and presentable.
Finally, e-mail is used extensively by EVS management to share particular property issues or challenging cleaning problems with upper management so that meetings can be brief and efficient.
Creating the Right Culture
As a way to keep such a large and diverse staff focused on the end goal of a clean, friendly and healthy indoor environment, the EVS department holds weekly Team Talk meetings.
These meetings provide a great platform for discussing customer service tips, addressing issues on the properties as well as giving out staff awards for length of service or attendance.
But the team building and sense of purpose doesn’t stop there.
The resort also offers talent contests, other award programs and even golf leagues for employees so they can take advantage of the PGA quality courses on the property.
This nurturing culture at Turning Stone Resort and Casino is the result of management and employees dedicating themselves to the Mission Statement that hangs in the EVS offices:
“The EVS department is dedicated to providing exceptional service to guests and team members and to ensure the resort looks its best.”
“Our staff believes in Team Spirit and practices and believes in the Oneida Way.”
“Our goal is to achieve the highest standards and recognize that every team member holds value as a part of this establishment. The contributions of these professionals as a ‘team’ translate into success for the nation.”
“We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
“Proud to be of service.”