5 Steps to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Hcareers / JUNE 08 2021

The hospitality industry has always been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. While other business sectors are only just beginning to promote diversity and inclusion in their workplaces, the hospitality business has always attracted a broad range of employees.

But there are still strides to be made as the hospitality industry continues to move forward. Here are a few suggestions for bettering your organization’s diversity and inclusion policies.

Show Your Commitment to Diversity. If your company website features a section promoting how the business embraces diversity in its hiring practices, make sure it’s accompanied by relevant leadership and staff photos.

Employees looking for a progressive employer may appreciate this information, but they will also look at leadership bios to see if the company is truly living up to its commitment. A direct correlation between the business’ written commitment to diversity and a leadership team that reflects that will certainly encourage more job applications. 

Revise Your Employee Handbook. As more and more companies are making a concerted effort toward diverse hiring policies, they are also becoming more vocal in discussing goals and achievements such as hiring more people of color and more women.

Certainly, this is important, but it’s just as important to remember that these employees should not be looked at as one-dimensional. Isn’t that the whole problem of negative stereotypes? Rather, in stating specific diversity goals and achievements, be sure to also talk about how the value to a diverse workforce.

Different people bring a spectrum of experiences along with varied perspectives to the workplace. Maybe even include a few general references to qualities that are prized in new hires and in considering promotions. For example, teamwork is essential to the hospitality industry and it’s a professional quality that transcends race, gender, ethnicity, and religious beliefs.

Military veterans are likely to be good team players just as theater industry professionals are too. Customer service excellence is also key and that can come from employees with backgrounds in the hotel industry, but also in retail, telecommunications, and banking.

Also, keep in mind that talking about diversity goals and achievements solely in terms of demographic profiles can leave a business open to discrimination accusations. That’s one more reason why it’s worth mentioning a few broad examples of professional qualities that the company looks for when hiring and promoting staff. 

Inclusion Programs Are Not Just Training Programs. When workplaces promote their inclusion programs, they are often training programs for management and staff that highlight eliminating unconscious bias. This is of course one component of an inclusive workplace. But this puts the responsibility of creating an inclusive work environment almost entirely on the shoulders of managers and staff. But are corporate policies also inclusive?

That is if the employee handbook states that Christmas and Easter are observed holidays when the corporate offices are closed does it also state that employees who need to request time off or schedule changes to celebrate their own religious holidays or other cultural events are encouraged to make those requests to their managers and human resources?

This isn’t about offering more or less pay, but rather just letting employees know that they can make these requests without any judgment or repercussions. Plus, advance notice allows the hotel or restaurant to schedule accordingly rather than coping with last-minute absences because staff members are more comfortable calling in sick. 

Give employees the opportunity to participate in inclusion efforts. Don’t limit your inclusion program to a monthly rotation of posters in the employee break areas. It’s great that the company now wants to celebrate events like Black History Month and Pride by highlighting the occasions with information signage in back-of-house areas designated for employees. But also find an opportunity to get actively involved in inclusion efforts.

That might be hosting a potluck lunch where staff is encouraged to bring a dish to share that reflects their background or culture. That could also be asking employees to submit suggestions for a charity that the hotel or restaurant might support one month or where a staff volunteer outing could be organized.

Another idea is to ask employees to spearhead a monthly staff outing for those interested in trying a restaurant whose cuisine reflects that employees or group of employees’ heritage. The next month, ask a different staff member or group of staff members to organize a staff outing to a cultural center such as a museum or a heritage festival where their coworkers can learn more about that employee’s cultural background.

Employees –especially those in the hospitality industry—should be made to feel that inclusion is something to be embraced not because corporate forces it on them through training, but because it’s a path to discovery just as travel is. That approach can help foster inclusion in the workplace more naturally. 

Openly promote intolerance of discrimination among staff. Every employer is open to accusations of discrimination in the workplace. Formalized diversity and inclusion policies don’t necessarily make that any easier. But if a business truly wants to demonstrate its commitment to a more diverse and inclusive work environment, it’s just as important to let employees know that discrimination will not be tolerated and will be met with strict actions.

After all, employees can also be guilty of discriminating against each other. They may choose to work at a company that openly practices diversity and inclusion because they feel they will be accepted for who they are. But it doesn’t mean they don’t have their own biases.

Plus, other team members who were onboarded as part of diverse hiring practices should feel assured that there is no place for coworkers who might not treat them respectfully.