The talent shortage and retention issues have been felt most deeply by the hospitality industry and, although it has always mattered, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in our industry is now more critical than ever.
The hospitality industry naturally attracts diverse talent, but diversity alone is only one part of the equation. Most organizations put great energy into getting diverse talent in the door by offering unique perks, compensation and recognition, but these initiatives will fall short for an employee who simply doesn’t feel they belong. Creating a culture of belonging fosters equity and inclusion, which are also key to the diversity equation.
Although commonly grouped in a phrase, the terms diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are quite distinct. “Diversity” is the ‘mix’ — it encompasses the variety of unique dimensions, qualities and characteristics we all possess. “Inclusion” is making the ‘mix’ work. It unlocks the power of diversity by collectively creating a culture that embraces, respects and values differences. “Equity” is the promise of equal access to opportunity, where all people are given resources to participate, perform and engage to the same extent.
In a recent McKinsey & Company study, it was found that companies in the top quartile for gender, cultural and ethnic diversity outperformed bottom quartile companies by up to 36 per cent in profitability. A mix of backgrounds, perspectives and life experiences is more likely to generate more and better solutions to problems than a group of “like-minded” people. This mix also nurtures a more vibrant and engaging community.
Fostering a Culture of DE&I
Building culture is about focusing on behavioural change that creates an environment where people can be who they are and be valued for their unique experiences. This is what makes them want to stay. Employees who differ from most of their colleagues often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. Understand how your employees are feeling by asking their permission to discuss the issues and barriers they’re facing at work. Consider holding one-on-one’s, not only with your active employees, but also those who have departed. Use this knowledge to assess how diverse, equitable and inclusive your organization is, to understand where there may be barriers in hiring, advancement and retention of certain groups, and to strategize meaningful ways to remove them. As a starting point, initiatives should include mandatory DE&I training for leaders and employees at all levels.
Develop Inclusive Leaders
A culture of DE&I needs to come from the most senior leadership levels. Truly inclusive leaders seek to understand the challenges and inequalities that exist for under-represented groups such as women, visible minorities, Indigenous people, people with disabilities and people in the LGTBQ2+ communities. They approach people with humility and a learning mindset, asking questions such as “If you were giving me advice on how to make the workplace fairer and more welcoming, what would you say?” In group settings, they ensure diverse participation by asking “whose perspective are we missing?” They are allies and collaborators, driving systemic improvements to workplace policies, practices and culture.
At a time when difficulty retaining employees is making headlines, one must focus not only on diversity, but on the other key elements of the equation — equity and inclusion — as well.
By Cayley Dow