How to ensure your business is diverse and inclusive
Avoid making your policies simply a box-ticking exercise and think constructively about how to make everybody welcome, says Jodie Kear
Diversity and inclusion are frequently (and incorrectly) considered to be one and the same. This may be an understandable mistake to make at first, but a dangerous error to uphold in the workplace.
Diversity should be considered a fact, while inclusion an act. Yes, various races, genders and sexual orientations should be present in any workforce, but not just for the sake of ticking the ‘diversity box'. To quote Vernā Myers, vice-president of inclusion strategy at Netflix: "Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance".
Physical space is an essential component of our everyday lives, including the workplace. Acknowledging and accepting the differences in your workforce and offering choices to your team is the first step towards designing an inclusive environment. Anything from the incorporation of ramps to ensuring doors and handles are easy to operate, to using texture and colour to aid in wayfinding – such as flooring or mats with a good grip – will not only benefit a diverse workforce but also make the space more comfortable for guests.
The importance of communication in the hospitality sector cannot be understated – especially in a kitchen. Irritatingly, however, issues with communication are very common and often have a tremendously negative effect on the workforce. This will often be put down to a ‘language barrier', but far more frequently employees will report that directions have been unclear or even that managers display discomfort when communicating with their staff overall.
More regular meetings, encouraging a more open dialogue or crafting clearer job guidelines may be the simple answer. In any instance, ensure you remain open, attentive and accessible, as communication is a two-way street.
Customer engagement is arguably more important in the hospitality industry than any other space. It's in the name, after all! Diverse customers and staff should be given an authentic welcome when entering a premises and met with a genuine sense of community.
By fostering connections from the inside-out, through such things as team meals, mentorship opportunities or participation in charity events and causes that matter to the local community, a strong sense of belonging will be established in the workplace and projected onto any customers.
Hiring for ‘fit' can be problematic
To hire for ‘fit' means hiring people that fit in with the existing team. While this may seem like a sensible decision at first, it quickly becomes problematic when your workforce is comprised of a group who all look and behave the same way. Your employees should be as diverse as your guests, as those with different experiences will always bring something new to the team.
Implement a realistic strategy
Ambitious changes are great when it comes to diversity and inclusion, but it's important to make sure your plans are realistic. To say that the management team, for example, will include a minimum of 40% BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) within a year is a wonderful claim, but how will you achieve this? Without a high level of turnover, or else a substantial budget to increase hiring, it's simply not feasible. To avoid making a commitment that you will later be forced to repeal, ensure you create a realistic and thoughtful strategy.
Consider where you stand before setting a mixture of pragmatic short-term and long-term goals. Furthermore, keep the mantra "nothing about us without us" in mind. A white male, for example, shouldn't try to fix gender parity or racial inequalities alone. Members of each particular group should always be involved; their lived experiences are key to success.
And always remember, this is not a quick fix! Any changes will take time and should be approached as a collaborative venture. There is no other way forward, however, and nor should there be. Those who choose not to adapt and prioritise inclusivity will inevitably feel the repercussions further down the line.
Jodie Kear is the founder of online directory queerys, which helps the LGBTQ+ community find safer services and places across the UK
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