The diversity shift in luxury hospitality: good for luxury and for business

Studies have shown that diverse companies perform better in almost every category. But why is this the case? Here, we look at examples from the luxury hospitality industry to discover the benefits of gender, ethnic and racial diversity at work:

The benefits of diversity

  • Employee retention – When the management of a luxury hotel values diversity and sets it as one of their corporate priorities, this tells employees that they have great opportunities for growth, both personally and professionally, no matter their backgrounds. Employees who feel they are treated equally are more likely to feel motivated, reach their full potential and bring greater results. They’re also more likely to stay and build their careers within the same company. Hilton Hotels has been a leader in this area for years — the company has a strong diversity strategy in place, based on recruitment, development and leadership.
  • Creativity and innovation – People from different cultures often take different approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. Diversity can therefore be a valuable source of new business insights and creativity. With this in mind, Hyatt encourages employees to share their diverse knowledge through mentorship programs, intercultural awareness initiatives and heritage events.
  • Better understanding of the market – When you have a talent pool representing diverse backgrounds, you have access to natural experts on markets across the globe. Employees can help managers learn about the customs and preferences linked to different cultures and identities. This can help hotels to better understand and cater to their diverse clientele, improving long-term competitiveness and profitability. For this reason, AccorHotels considers employee input a priority: this has enabled the well-known hotel chain to re-evaluate existing strategies and modify them to reach their targets.
  • Better customer service – Employees from different cultures, genders or ages bring different skillsets, enabling hotels to offer better and more personalized service. When your team members have different backgrounds, you are better prepared to anticipate and meet the needs of a wide range of guests. Luxury hotel chain Shangri-La makes a point of supporting a good balance of local and international employees, ensuring that the hotel has strong ties to the local community while also having diversified teams who can cater to an international clientele.
  • Customer loyalty – Especially in luxury hospitality, service excellence is key to building customer loyalty, and staff diversity tends to enhance service quality. International guests in particular love to see an inclusive environment where everyone is welcome, no matter their differences. Thus, they tend to come back to the hotels where diversity is clearly a part of the culture and where they feel appreciated.
  • Better brand image – Brands that invest in their diversity strategies are usually held in higher regard by both staff and customers, and a better brand image tends to result in stronger business performance. Luxury hospitality groups Hyatt and Marriott are regularly voted among the best brands by guests and employees in the field of diversity and inclusivity.

The challenges for luxury hospitality leaders

Diversity brings plenty of benefits, but ensuring diversity presents its own challenges. Luxury hotel leaders have highlighted some of the issues to consider when striving to create and maintain a diverse environment:

  • Finding diverse employees can be a challenge of its own: where do you find the right talents and how do you select them without discriminating anyone?
  • Language barriers and different approaches to business communication might cause misunderstandings among employees, which could prevent the efficiency of the team.
  • Depending on your employees’ cultural backgrounds, some of them might have more difficulty expressing their opinions and making themselves heard.
  • Any stereotypes and prejudices among employees can make integration within a diverse team difficult.
  • Recruiting people from different countries is a complex task, so hotels need enough resources to manage legal requirements like visas and tax obligations.

Ensuring diversity in your hotel

All of those challenges can be overcome if the following best practices are in use:

  • Adapt your recruitment and selection – Recruit the candidate that best matches the company’s values and image, no matter his/her background or origins. In addition, make sure that you open doors with the help of your current employees: ask them for referrals within their personal and professional networks. Alternatively, try to contact organizations with strong local and global connections, like universities or cultural centers.
  • Communicate your goal to lead in diversity – Let everyone know how important diversity is to your hotel and make sure that everyone understands that they are welcome and have equal opportunities within the company.
  • Make respect the main company value – When there is respect, people feel accepted and included, and this is exactly the atmosphere that you need if you want to promote diversity.
  • Create a short-term and long-term strategy for ensuring diversity – Set clear actions and plans that will help you reach this goal. Take inspiration from existing practices successfully used by companies like Hyatt and Hilton, and then adapt to your own hotel’s needs.
  • Train your employees in intercultural management and diversity – Make sure that everyone gets enough support to move the strategy forward.
  • Organize cultural events and activities – Give your employees opportunities to show their differences and celebrate their multicultural identity.
  • Adjust your brand message ­– Portray your brand as a leader in diversity and adapt your marketing campaigns to reflect this.

We discussed diversity in hospitality and more at the Glion Luxury Conference in Geneva on 20 September 2018. Follow the conversation: #GlionLuxury

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