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Cultural diversity in the workplace

Cultural diversity in the workplace is essential for any growing business that wants to stay competitive and attract top talent, especially within the hospitality industry.

A culturally diverse workplace enhances employee engagement and brings new perspectives to the business, improves decision-making, increases creativity, and enhances communication skills.

It also fosters mutual respect and understanding among the workforce, leading to a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture and higher job satisfaction.

Here we’ll explore what is cultural diversity, why it’s important, the benefits and challenges of managing it, and how a hospitality degree can set you up for success in today’s culturally diverse hospitality industry.

What is cultural diversity in the workplace?

While there are different types of diversity, cultural diversity means having staff with different cultural backgrounds, values, and beliefs.

It encourages a working environment of inclusion encompassing differences in ethnicity, race, religion, age, gender, and sexual orientation.

Cultural diversity in the workplace creates an inclusive culture that increases employees’ cultural competency (also known as intercultural fluency), improves their communication skills, fosters personal and professional growth, and broadens outlooks. 

When employees work alongside colleagues with different backgrounds and experiences, they’re exposed to new ideas and approaches, leading to more effective decision-making and problem-solving. It also nurtures mutual respect and inclusivity, which helps increase employee satisfaction and retention and improves customer service.

For businesses, employing people with diverse backgrounds gives the company insights into different cultures and markets, enabling them to tailor their products and services more effectively.

However, the challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace can be significant.

Cultural misunderstandings, communication barriers, and stereotyping can create tension and conflict. Effectively managing cultural diversity means employers must adopt strategies that promote and encourage inclusivity and respect for differences.

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What are the four types of cultural diversity?

Cultural diversity can be classified into four types.


Internal diversity relates to situations an individual is born into that they didn’t choose for themselves or cannot change. For example:

  • Age
  • Assigned gender
  • Cultural identity
  • Ethnicity
  • Mental ability
  • National origin
  • Physical ability
  • Sexual orientation


External diversity relates to an individual but not the characteristics they were born with. It refers to things about themselves that can be influenced or changed by other people, experiences, or themselves. For example:

  • Appearance
  • Education
  • Citizenship
  • Familial status
  • Life experiences
  • Location
  • Personal interests
  • Relationship status
  • Religious beliefs
  • Socioeconomic status


Organizational diversity is the differences between people bestowed on them by an organization, such as their workplace. For example:

  • Employment status
  • Job role
  • Management status
  • Pay type
  • Place of work
  • Seniority
  • Union affiliation


Our worldview changes over time as we learn more about ourselves, each other, and the world around us and acquire new experiences. Some examples of worldview diversity include:

  • Epistemology (theory of knowledge)
  • Political beliefs
  • Moral compass
  • Outlook on life

What is cultural diversity in the hospitality workplace?

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Cultural diversity in the hospitality workplace refers to a hospitality business employing staff with different cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and values. This can include differences in ethnicity, race, language, religion, age, and sexual orientation.

The hospitality industry is global and diverse, providing services to people from different cultures and regions. Culturally diverse workforces within the industry allow for better understanding, communication, and service delivery to a varied customer base.

Benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace

Building a culturally diverse workplace offers many important benefits for the business, customers and employee experience. Just some of the benefits of diversity in the workplace include: 

  • Increased creativity and innovation: Brings together varied perspectives, experiences, and ideas to generate new and innovative solutions.
  • Improved decision-making: Exposes employees to different perspectives and viewpoints, leading to more informed and thoughtful decision-making.
  • Better problem-solving: Employees with different cultural backgrounds can contribute different problem-solving techniques, and encourage different and even more comprehensive approaches to analyzing problems and identifying solutions.
  • Enhanced customer service: Diverse staff backgrounds mean the company is better positioned to understand and meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
  • Access to a large talent pool: When businesses are focused on developing a culturally diverse workforce, it allows them to tap into a much wider talent pool. They are also more likely to attract a broader range of applicants and have lower employee turnover.
  • Increased profitability: All these benefits of embracing cultural diversity in the workplace typically make a business more profitable. Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to produce higher financial returns.

How can cultural diversity benefit the hospitality workplace?

Cultural diversity has several benefits in the workplace. There are specific benefits in the hospitality workplace.

Better customer service

A hospitality business with a diverse workforce can better cater to its diverse customer base.

When there are employees who understand the cultural nuances and preferences of customers, the business is in a better position to provide a more personalized and satisfying customer experience.

Improved communication

With a multicultural workplace, hospitality employees can learn to communicate with one another more effectively.

They can improve their understanding of different communication styles and adapt to them. This can benefit teamwork, reducing misunderstandings and creating a more harmonious working environment.

Increased creativity

Cultural diversity can lead to innovation and creativity in a hospitality business, such as new services, menu items, and events.

Wider perspective

A culturally diverse hospitality workforce can improve decision-making and problem-solving as employees can draw on broader knowledge and experiences.

Enhanced reputation

Valuing and encouraging workforce diversity will help enhance a hospitality business’s reputation. It’s also likely to attract a diverse customer base and be viewed more positively among existing and prospective employees.

Studying at a hospitality school in Switzerland, such as Glion, offers a unique opportunity to experience the diversity benefits of studying in a multicultural environment.

Glion’s diverse student body creates a dynamic and inclusive learning environment that will broaden your perspective and help you understand and appreciate different cultures.

What is an example of diversity in the workplace?

The Hilton hotel chain has championed diversity in the workplace for many years, especially through its recruitment and hiring practices.

Hilton actively recruits employees from diverse backgrounds and has created an efficient, accessible, and inclusive hiring process.

Long before the pandemic, Hilton introduced video recruitment interviews to level the playing field and remove such barriers as the cost of transport, arranging daycare for dependents, and meeting in a potentially busy and anxiety-inducing location.

Challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace

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Alongside the considerable benefits, it’s also important to note the challenges of diversity in the workplace.

  • Communication barriers: People from a mix of cultural backgrounds may speak different languages and have different communication styles, leading to misunderstandings.
  • Stereotyping and bias: When employees make assumptions about people based on ethnicity or cultural background, this can lead to harassment, discrimination, and, ultimately, exclusion.
  • Misunderstandings: Cultural differences can create a clash of beliefs, values, and customs, potentially leading to misinterpretation and resentment.
  • Resistance to change: Some employees may be unwilling to adapt to new cultures or working methods, often due to a lack of understanding, fear, or a disproportionate sense of cultural superiority.
  • Conflict and tension: This can arise due to miscommunication or misunderstanding.

While these challenges are significant, businesses can overcome them by providing employees with training, encouraging open communication, and creating clear policies that promote and celebrate diversity and inclusion.

What are the challenges of managing cultural diversity in the hospitality workplace?

Managing cultural diversity in the hospitality workplace also poses some additional challenges, such as these.

  • Cultural differences: Most hospitality businesses serve a broad customer base, so employees must be culturally sensitive and aware. Differences in customs, etiquette, and food preferences can cause confusion and misinterpretations.
  • Time cost: Managing a culturally diverse team in a hospitality workplace can take up time, leaving less to address other issues and tasks.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance: Hospitality businesses must comply with regulatory requirements for customer service, employment, and non-discrimination and equality laws.
  • Staff turnover: Employees from different cultures may have different values and expectations regarding their job and the workplace. This can lead to staff dissatisfaction and make them want to look for employment elsewhere.

Studying for a Bachelor of hospitality management is an excellent way to gain hands-on, real-world experience working in culturally diverse hospitality businesses.

With a hospitality degree, you’ll be set up for success in any path you choose in your hospitality career.

Strategies for managing cultural diversity

The benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace are numerous, but it involves careful management. If you’re considering pursuing a career in hospitality management, here are some key strategies to help you manage cultural diversity.

Promoting cultural awareness and education

Training programs, workshops, language courses, and cultural events can help promote cultural awareness and education and help employees understand a range of cultures and customs.

Encouraging open communication

Creating an environment that encourages open communication between employees and management to address cultural diversity-related issues can help foster a sense of mutual understanding and respect.

This can include a dedicated forum to discuss cultural differences, regular communication between managers and employees, and a platform where employees can share their perspectives and experiences.

Establishing clear policies and guidelines

Clear policies and guidelines that promote diversity and inclusivity can help employees understand the importance of these values and foster a more inclusive and positive workplace. It can also help to improve employee morale and productivity and attract and retain a diverse talent pool.

Providing training and development programs

Training and development programs that promote and raise awareness of cultural sensitivity and awareness can help all employees identify and avoid stereotyping and bias.

They can also learn to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds and understand different customs.

Celebrating diversity and inclusivity

You can celebrate diversity and inclusivity by recognizing different cultural traditions and events. Examples might be celebrating key cultural holidays, hosting events, and promoting diversity across company communications.

How can hospitality workplaces promote cultural diversity and inclusivity?

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There are several ways hospitality workplaces can promote cultural diversity and inclusivity and create a welcoming and inclusive environment for employees and customers. These include adopting inclusive hiring practices, training hiring managers on unconscious bias, and making diversity and inclusivity part of the company culture through training, policies, and processes. You can provide employees with resources to help them deal with issues related to discrimination or cultural differences and listen to and act on feedback.

Cultural diversity and inclusivity are about positivity, happiness, fun, and celebrating what makes us different. By taking a proactive approach and celebrating cultural diversity and inclusivity, you can create a positive and productive workplace where everyone enjoys working.


Whether you’re interested in a career in hotel management or exploring your options for careers with a business management degree, you’ll need to understand the importance and benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace.

Cultural diversity and inclusivity foster innovation and creativity, improve communication and decision-making and give businesses advantages in the global marketplace.

When businesses embrace and celebrate cultural differences, they can attract and retain top talent and enhance their reputation and competitiveness.

Ultimately, cultural diversity and inclusivity create a welcoming, positive, and engaging workplace where everyone feels valued and respected.

Photo credits
Main image: Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision via Getty Images

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