Fostering Racial Diversity and Inclusion at Your Hotel

by | June 18, 2020

As one of the largest civil rights movements in history happens across the globe, important conversations have been started in homes and businesses about racial diversity and inclusion. All business owners have been challenged to reflect on their practices and decide how to improve themselves for the betterment of the workforce and the community. For hoteliers, fostering better racial diversity and inclusion is about both ensuring that your staff and your guests feel welcome and safe while they’re with you. Taking the right steps requires you to carefully review policies and open your eyes, ears, and heart to your employees to make lasting, worthwhile changes.

Compile Data of Your Workplace

What hoteliers must do before deciding on any areas of concern is to first compile data about the workforce at their hotel, and compare it to data about the industry’s workforce. This process is about more than capturing a legal ratio – an article from Harver shares research indicating that diverse teams outperform the competition by 80%, and that diverse management teams bring in 19% more revenue over others. The reason for this is that when you widen your talent pool at your business, the different perspectives you hire offer fresh ideas, pushing your business to innovate at a faster rate than the competition. Having the statistics in front of you will help you quickly identify areas where you need to improve, whether it’s in hiring bright and diverse new team members or sitting back and re-evaluating your own unconscious biases.

While much of this data may be available to you through your HR platform, you may need to request your employees do voluntary self-identification to obtain additional data, such as sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or religion. These are just some of the aspects included in acknowledging whether your workplace is diverse enough. Other areas to consider include:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity/national origin
  • Family Status
  • Language
  • Race
  • Thinking/learning styles
  • Veteran status

Once you’ve collected this valuable data, you can begin to analyze how diverse your staff is compared to the general workforce. Your state may have individual guidelines on diversity in the workplace, and you should take those into consideration, as well.

Identify Business Objectives and Areas of Concern

Black manager speaks to table of employees


Before your hotel can confidently express support for diversity and inclusiveness, it’s important to ask some hard questions about your own workplace structure. A resource from SHRM lists three examples of important questions leaders can ask themselves once they’ve compiled and analyzed the makeup of their business:

  • Is management full of older white males?
  • Does the accounting department tend to hire only females?
  • Are employees at the West Coast branch more ethnically diverse than their East Coast counterparts?

While your hotel may not have different branches, these are still excellent starting points for recognizing unconscious biases and identifying where positive change is needed. Creating a diverse workplace should be an integral part of your business objectives, since fostering an inclusive work culture can help to boost employee morale and improve overall performance. If your employees feel comfortable and happy to work for you, that energy will spill into their activities – directly influencing guest comfort, as well.

Address Policies Affecting Diversity and Inclusion

Once you’ve established your business goals and found areas where improvement may be needed, it’s time to take action. Behavioral scientist Dr. Pragya Agarrwal discusses methods to develop a more inclusive workplace. The article from Harver displays some suggestions, which also work ideally for hospitality as the industry prepares for a new normal. Large and small spaces for guests and employees to rest, ramps as well as stairs, and easily operable doors and handles help improve the overall quality of life for your guests and your employees. When people are more comfortable, they feel like the company values them, which in turn will motivate them to do good work. In fact, “93% of employees who feel valued are motivated to do their best at work.”

Past the physical changes that help your property to be more inclusive, you’ll also have to look at policies and practices that may be affecting the success of diversity at your hotel. Look over your employee referral programs – according to SHRM, studies have shown they result in “like me” referrals, wherein employees only refer candidates of the same race, religion, or national origin. Has that been affecting the diversity of your workforce? The same can happen with company culture, or unconscious biases within departments. Is there sufficient diversity within all employee groups at your hotel – your front desk workers, your housekeepers, and the maintenance team? It is not enough to consider your employees as a whole – adding diversity to each department will lend itself to an environment that shows your employees and guests that you treat everyone with equal respect.

Speak to Your Staff, and Listen

Diverse group of employees mid-discussion


Managers and leaders in the hospitality industry are uniquely positioned to provide the one thing that can best foster a more diverse, inclusive working environment: a listening ear. Of course, it’s equally significant to first develop a trusting relationship with your employees, so you can listen fully when they come to you with concerns. Initiating a conversation about diversity and inclusion at your workplace can be uncomfortable – however, it is a necessary discomfort to face. Opening your ears to truly listen to your staff regarding discrimination or harassment concerns can show that you care and value their experience with you.

An article from the Harvard Business Review states that nearly “half of all discrimination and harassment complaints lead to some type of retaliation” from management, and that workers who do speak out about harassment “are more likely to end up facing career challenges or experiencing worse mental and physical health compared to similar workers who were harassed, but did not complain.” Two sociologists suggest utilizing Employee Assistance Programs designed to support and guide employees without intervening in the organization itself as a way to help this problem. They state that the key to shifting to this method “is changing leadership mindsets from seeing complaints as threats to valuing them as insights that can spark positive organizational change.”

All employees want to feel valued and like their experiences, insights, and opinions matter to the company, no matter who they are or what area of the company they work in. Working to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace reflects positive change to your bottom line, and helps to keep your employees motivated and driven to do their best work. Taking the time to complete recommended steps will only benefit how your staff and guests feel about your property in the long-term. For more information on fostering diversity at your hotel, please read through this guide from the LGBT Equity Center, as well as the Guidelines for Inclusive Language posted by the Linguistic Society.


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