Diversity in hospitality, travel and leisure: If you want to reap the diversity dividend, make sure you have the fundamentals in place

21 February 2019

I recently had the privilege of hosting and speaking at the launch of the 2019 Edition of the Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure Review. The passion that shone through the debates at the event and the readiness of so many leading industry figures to participate, highlight the growing focus on diversity and inclusion within hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL). Sure, this is a self-selecting group and others may not share their zeal, but what is clear is that there are many leaders across the industry who understand that diverse and inclusive businesses engage with customers and perform better – the ‘diversity dividend’ - and this is supported by this research.

So, how far has HTL come? The report highlights some improvement in board-level representation for women. Yet, women still make up just 7% of the most senior and best paid CEO, CFO and Chair triumvirate in FTSE 350 HTL businesses. In turn, while 1 in 8 people of working age are from a BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) background in the UK, they occupy just 1 in 33 HTL leadership positions (board, executive committee and direct reports). And with gender pay gap and proposed ethnicity pay gap reporting putting the spotlight on lack of diversity at the top, businesses that are slow to respond risk losing talent and customers.

Tale of two industries

What’s also striking from the findings is the widening gap between companies that are performing well and those that aren’t. Why is this?

In my experience, the organisations out in front recognise that diversity and inclusion are strategic priorities and are embedding them into the fundamentals of how they run their businesses. And some notable exceptions aside, the divide between the businesses making most headway and those lagging behind reflects the dichotomy between the industry’s large number of small employers and small number of large employers.

The bulk of smaller organisations are still only scratching the surface. You might say they don’t have the time and resources – but my view is that they will be able to more fully engage with their customers if they take diversity and inclusion more seriously.

Many larger organisations are more aware of what’s needed and why. Yet, even where diversity and inclusion are being embedded into the business fundamentals, for many firms this isn’t being leveraged. The result is a veneer of inclusion. For example, flexible working has been introduced by a number of organisations, but many employees are reluctant to take it up because of concerns over the impact on their careers. From recruitment drives to sponsorship of events, there are also a lot of initiatives. But there is little or no data on whether these are the most critical issues to be addressed or whether they’re making a difference. It’s certainly surprising that while there would be data and analytics covering other business priorities, there is limited use of data and analytics in the area of diversity and inclusion. What this suggests is that diversity and inclusion are still being treated as nice-to-haves rather than business critical priorities by too many organisations.

Way forward

So, how can your organisation accelerate progress?

1/ Ensure alignment with business strategy
The strategy and underlying business case for promoting diversity and inclusion need to be aligned and measures supporting specific business priorities articulated.

2/ Have a clear direction, ownership and tone from the top
Executive teams set the tone for the organisation and ensure diversity and inclusion are recognised as business priorities. This requires more than just statements of intent. Give someone in the leadership team the job of making it happen and hold them to account.

3/ Set realistic objectives
Identify the headline diversity and inclusion objectives that are most important to your business and shortcomings most in need of addressing.

4/ Turn objectives into an action plan for delivery
Translate your headline objectives into an action plan that sets out measurable goals and how they will be achieved.

5/ What gets measured, gets done
To support the action plan there should be appropriate data, analytics and tracking to gauge progress, target intervention and drive accountability.

6/ Tell it how it is
Ensure transparent communications that don’t just publicise strengths but focus on plans for addressing deficiencies and improvements too.

Leveraging the fundamentals

With the fundamentals in place you can begin to leverage them. For example, by tracking talent from entry to exit you can gauge whether high calibre employees are reaching their potential, if so what’s aiding this and if not what’s standing in the way. You can then build on this analysis to focus action plans and measure return on investment.

And this is the foundation for reaping the diversity dividend. The more embedded and leveraged the fundamentals are, the more you can turn diversity and inclusion into key differentiators and performance drivers – stronger brand, better pick of and more motivated talent and more satisfied customers.

If you would like to know more, visit our webpage where you can download the report and do get in touch.

Jon Terry | UK Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Leader
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