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  • Writer's pictureDaniela Garcia

Diversity and Inclusion in Hospitality Leadership: An Exploration on How to Implement it and Why it

The hospitality industry, with its global reach and diverse clientele, stands at the forefront of the business world. In recent years, there has finally been a growing recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusion in leadership roles in all industries. This shift is not merely a response to societal expectations but a strategic imperative for building resilient, innovative, and successful businesses - especially within the hospitality industry.

Team meeting on diversity in the hospitality industry

Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter in Hospitality Leadership

Enhanced Guest Experience:

  • Diverse leadership teams can better understand and meet the needs of a diverse clientele.

  • Guests feel more valued when they see diversity represented in leadership positions, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Innovation and Creativity:

  • Diverse teams bring together individuals with varied perspectives and approaches to problem-solving.

  • The collision of different ideas and experiences sparks creativity and innovation, crucial elements for staying competitive in the hospitality market.

Reflecting on the Global Market:

  • The hospitality industry caters to a global audience, and leadership teams should reflect the diversity of this market.

  • Diverse leadership ensures that decisions are informed by a deep understanding of different cultures, customs, and preferences.

Employee Engagement and Retention:

  • Inclusive workplaces foster a sense of belonging among employees.

  • When individuals feel seen, heard, and appreciated, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and committed to the organization, leading to reduced turnover rates.

Legal and Reputational Benefits:

  • Demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion helps organizations comply with legal requirements.

  • It also enhances the brand image and reputation, attracting both customers and top talent.

Innovation in Problem-Solving:

  • Diverse teams bring a variety of perspectives and approaches to problem-solving.

  • In the ever-evolving landscape of the hospitality industry, the ability to adapt and find innovative solutions is a key competitive advantage.

Community Connection:

  • Hospitality businesses are integral parts of local communities.

  • Embracing diversity and inclusion builds stronger connections with the community, contributing to a positive brand image and local partnerships.

Strategies for Hotels to Embrace Diversity and Inclusivity

Establish Inclusive Policies:

  • Develop and communicate clear policies that explicitly promote diversity and inclusivity.

  • Ensure non-discriminatory hiring and promotion practices.

  • Offer equal opportunities for professional development and advancement.

Implement Diversity Training:

  • Provide regular diversity training for all staff members, including management.

  • Focus on fostering cultural competence and sensitivity.

  • Address unconscious biases and stereotypes to create a more inclusive mindset.

Celebrate Cultural Awareness:

  • Host cultural awareness events and activities.

  • Encourage employees to share their cultural backgrounds and traditions.

  • Incorporate diverse cultural elements in hotel decor and guest services.

Diverse Leadership Representation:

  • Actively promote diversity in leadership roles.

  • Establish mentorship programs to support the development of underrepresented groups.

  • Showcase diverse leadership in marketing materials to reflect an inclusive image.

Provide Employee Resource Groups:

  • Create employee resource groups based on shared characteristics or interests.

  • Offer a platform for open discussions, feedback, and support.

  • Use these groups to inform company policies and initiatives.

Accessible Work Environment:

  • Ensure physical accessibility for employees and guests with disabilities.

  • Implement policies that accommodate diverse needs, such as flexible work hours.

  • Provide training on creating an inclusive environment for all abilities.

Supplier Diversity Programs:

  • Establish partnerships with diverse suppliers and vendors.

  • Actively seek out minority-owned businesses for procurement.

  • Include supplier diversity as part of the hotel's corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Promote LGBTQIA+ Inclusivity:

  • Train staff to be aware of and respectful towards LGBTQ+ guests and colleagues.

  • Display visible symbols of LGBTQ+ inclusivity, such as pride flags.

  • Participate in LGBTQ+ events and sponsorships to demonstrate support.

LGBTQIA+ travelers account for over $200 billion in annual spending for travel and that number continues to grow each year (Out Now Consulting, 2018, Kantar Consulting and Horne, 2018).

These travelers expect to feel welcome everywhere, and the market is very diverse - including men, women, transgender people, and families with kids. Hotels need to understand how to market and deliver their products to this valuable population. Be sure that “inclusivity” is truly inclusive. This community of people is multiracial and incredibly diverse, and it is something that is not often reflected in brand image campaigns.

Create a Speak-Up Culture:

  • Encourage employees to speak up about discriminatory behavior or practices.

  • Establish clear reporting mechanisms and protection against retaliation.

  • Regularly assess the effectiveness of reporting systems.

Measure and Evaluate:

  • Implement metrics to measure diversity and inclusivity within the organization.

  • Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of diversity and inclusivity programs.

  • Use feedback from employees and guests to identify areas for improvement.

Challenges and Overcoming Resistance

While the benefits of embracing diversity and inclusivity in the hotel workplace are substantial, it is essential to acknowledge that challenges may arise. Resistance from some staff members, fear of change, and misconceptions about diversity initiatives can impede progress. To overcome these challenges, hotels should:

Provide Comprehensive Training: Ensure that employees at all levels receive training on the benefits of diversity and the importance of creating an inclusive workplace.

Communicate the Business Case: Clearly articulate how diversity and inclusivity contribute to the hotel's success, innovation, and long-term sustainability. Use data and case studies to illustrate the positive impact.

Lead by Example: Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping the culture of an organization. Leaders should embody the values of diversity and inclusivity and actively demonstrate their commitment through actions and decisions.

Address Concerns Transparently: Acknowledge and address concerns or misconceptions about diversity initiatives. Create open channels for communication and feedback to dispel myths and build understanding.

Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate milestones and successes resulting from diversity and inclusivity efforts. This reinforces positive behaviors and creates a sense of accomplishment among employees.

Internal Diversity: A Look Into Best HR Practices

Promoting diversity in the workplace is all about respecting and valuing differences and perspectives. In hospitality, having a diverse workforce (especially in leadership) creates a welcoming environment for guests and employees alike, and builds a foundation of trust and respect. Brands who strive to embrace diversity and inclusivity are more likely to succeed, companies with diverse management have been proven to increase revenue by 19% and get 2.5 times more cash flow per employee.

It is important to recognize the difference between diversity and inclusion. Diversity focuses on the representation of different groups of people, whereas inclusion is how well different types of people are appreciated in an environment.

When applying both diversity and inclusion in hospitality, leaders have to understand why it’s so important to integrate into the hiring process of your property.

Having a diverse workforce in hospitality builds trust and commitment between your hotel or resort with your employees and guests by creating a welcoming professional environment. Actively practicing diversity and inclusion policies increases productivity and creativity, and brand awareness, and positively impacts your business's reputation.

When developing internal or external facing assets (advertisements, job listings, website content), hospitality leaders should aim to make assets appealing and open to a wide range of target audiences. Embracing diverse backgrounds covers race, gender, age, education, LGBTQIA+, and past job experiences that may fall outside of your industry.

While the hospitality industry is known to hire and promote from within, here are a few ways leaders can recruit more diverse talent for their hotels and resorts:

Target Sources Where Diversity Congregates

Send recruiters to fairs, events, and conferences wherever possible to look for specific groups of people with many different backgrounds. When looking for hospitality leadership positions to fill, a good idea is to attend any local university campus hosting graduation career fairs and events. In these educational facilities, many different ethnicities and races usually congregate, as well as people with many different backgrounds and circumstances making it a melting pot of people with different skills and capabilities that can enhance any hotel or resort

Make Diverse People Make Referrals and Offer Internships

Giving employees the trust and confidence to ensure that where they work is reliable, make sure to express that referrals from those coming from diverse backgrounds to foment a versatile perspective and offer opportunities for those who know the trustworthy employees.

Offering internships to young adults and recent graduates also offers a great way to bring many different types of skills, experiences, and different perspectives to those looking for their first professional experience, mentoring them on how an inclusive workplace works and is managed gives them insights on professional companies.

Create a Diverse Brand With Diverse Policies

Portraying a hotel or resort as a diverse brand begins by implementing and developing diverse policies that apply to everyone and represent everyone. For example, offering parental leave to both males and females provides employees with the benefit of being seen as equals both in their space and in the workplace.

Use AI To Your Advantage

Using the latest AI technology trends can also help filter and make recruiting processes easier. By allowing the AI to accept all types of applicants and appear on multiple work sites, more people will be automatically redirected to a company looking to be inclusive. AI can also help with sourcing and measuring impact and success in different applications, also having the ability to track demographics and recommend a specific hotel chain or resort the ability to see how many different backgrounds are being reached.

Embracing diversity and inclusivity in the hotel workplace is not just a trend; it is a fundamental aspect of building a sustainable and successful future for the hospitality industry. Hotels that prioritize diversity create environments where employees feel valued, guests feel welcomed, and communities feel connected.

The journey towards inclusivity requires ongoing commitment, adaptability, and a willingness to challenge the status quo. As hotels strive to create diverse and inclusive cultures, they position themselves as leaders in an industry that thrives on understanding, embracing, and celebrating the rich tapestry of humanity. In doing so, they not only contribute to the success of their businesses but also to the broader goal of creating a more equitable world. To learn more about how IMMRSE Partners can help your team get a better understanding of how your hotel or resort’s diversity and inclusion efforts are impacting the guest experience, contact us today.

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