6 Tips on building a culture that attracts a diverse workforce

Updated: Jun 29

Have you heard the voices and shift of how people value an equitable workplace culture?

More and more employees seek to align with employers that share their values, invest in their workforce, and contribute to local communities. Across generations from millennials to boomers, people seek to be a part of a workplace culture that cares about more than just the financial bottom line.

Whether you are a hotelier, restaurant manager, or part of an HR team in the hospitality industry, having social awareness brings you one step closer to attracting skilled, efficient, and loyal talent. You might ask yourself. What steps do I need to take to move away from the business as usual mindset into a more inclusive environment? How will a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategy help me to align with the values of my current team and job seekers? What is the importance of policies addressing anti-racism and zero tolerance?

Below you will find a list of best practices for building a great team culture by incorporating Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into your business strategy.

  1. How compensation impacts your workplace culture

  2. Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

  3. Promote & recruit from within

  4. Creating a safe environment

  5. Updated your zero-tolerance policy to create loyal staff

  6. Collaborate with competitors and city officials

Why does compensation impact your workplace culture?

Employees invest in companies by helping them build brand awareness, receive excellent reviews and sustain operations. In return, their compensation needs to reflect their efforts. Employers are not doing personnel a favor by paying them. Rather it is their responsibility to ensure that their staff can function optimally.

People have recalculated their worth, health, and overall well-being. Employers who do not value compensating their staff fairly will continue to struggle to find qualified staff and experience increased lateness, poor communication, impatience, complaints, and turnover.

Research shows that when people feel valued for their contributions, they are more optimized to perform, engage and be solution-oriented. However, when those same people can’t afford shelter, security, and sustenance, three basic human needs. It leads to both subtle and overt negative behavior resulting from hardships.

Although the global dialogue concerning minimum wage based on cost of living, health care benefits, and paid time off are polarized, employers that understand both the direct and indirect impacts on their bottom line are better equipped for a fruitful conversation. An employment contract is a mutual agreement that each party will care for the other. You can either value compensating staff proactively or endure the responsibility of financing lawsuits reactively.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace culture is no longer a matter of why but how. Practices that once benefited a singular demographic no longer suffices. Intersectionality between all social identities requires new training, procedures, and policies. Employers must understand each term, be willing to assess their workplace culture, and strategically implement specific objectives with every function of their infrastructure.

  • Equity- ensures everyone has the resources they need to access opportunities to advance and succeed equally.

  • Diversity- are all the ways that people uniquely identify (socially, physically, mentally, physiologically, etc.)

  • Inclusion- refers to the equitable distribution and balance of power across all diverse social identities.

The varied definitions are not intended to be a barrier towards progress. Instead, it’s evidence that critical thinking around this subject is actively taking place. Companies resisting implementing EDI into their business strategy will find themselves on the wrong side of history while building an unsustainable workplace.

EDI is no more an HR function than it is an appendage to be managed as an afterthought. Instead, it is the shorthand for describing that the mindset of putting people first must drive every aspect of the business.

Promote & recruit from within

Looking from within is a power move that creates career growth and strengthens stability. While new hires may bring a fresh perspective, existing staff members provide invaluable insight. When there is an opportunity to fill positions, especially management roles, it is highly recommended that HR teams find talent internally.

Unfortunately, many labor-intensive positions are often misclassified as low-skilled. However, no one knows operations like the individuals dependent on effectiveness across departments to succeed.

Changing the narrative around who can perform in mid-level to senior management roles depends on a company's willingness to challenge operational biases. To develop an inclusive hiring system that involves existing staff, HR, recruiters, and internal EDI advocates must collaborate on effective methods to incentivize job readiness and aptitude. Together they must assess how often existing staff is being overlooked, analyze the impact and remove barriers that prevent upward mobility.

Comparing the cost of training brand new staff versus making leadership development accessible to personnel moving up the ladder can be effective—especially when so many companies seek to reduce their spending.

Creating a safe environment

The disclaimer of “At Your Own Risk” carries far greater health concerns and time away from work for individuals barely generating enough income to maintain shelter. Pair that hesitation with the heightened political climate that has led to more racialized and discriminatory incidents. Hospitality staff comprises more Black, Latinx, and Asian personnel who have to gauge the threat level for both their physical and social safety.

Opting not to return immediately is less about being lazy or complacent with government assistance but rather about determining if companies are prepared to ensure a safe environment for their most vulnerable asset, its workforce.

Companies can ensure a holistic, safe environment by doing the following:

  • Supporting local efforts to incentivize getting vaccinated

  • Commit to in-house protocols that value the health of their staff

  • Develop job security programs for individuals who get sick or have to care for a loved one

  • Reward personnel with gift cards, discounts, and certificates of appreciation

  • Enforce policies with updated statements that include anti-racism, anti-discrimination, and zero tolerance

Physical and social safety is a matter of mental health. When employees are unprotected by employers that tolerate poor conduct internally and/or externally, it weighs heavily on their ability to perform.

How can an updated zero-tolerance policy maintain loyal staff?

Training that encourages hospitality employees to believe that “the customer is always right” is outdated. Sometimes customers are wrong, and their behavior is too. Whether a hospitality employee enters this industry as a student, full time or part-time employee, they have one thing in common. They enjoy creating an experience for people. As an employer, it is your responsibility to maintain respect for your workforce as much, if not more, than you do for guests. But why and how?

Zero-tolerance policies may feel disruptive to those celebrating special moments or starting a vacation, but nothing is more important than staffers that feel respected and valued by their employers. Updating policies to ensure values are operationalized and embodied not only by team members but customers as well is a great way to invest in loyal staff.

Key points your zero-tolerance policy should have in place are:

  • Clear definitions of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment

  • Company values

  • Code of conduct while on the property

  • Understanding of how hostile communication & behavior will be managed

The term zero-tolerance can also feel harsh. The phrase’s roots in policing and immigration can result in a negative backlash. Companies can choose to be more creative with naming new policies to get their message across internally and externally. However, enforcement of updated policies must be taken seriously. Normalizing the expectation that hospitality staff is supposed to endure poor behavior is not acceptable anymore.

Collaborate with the community

The hospitality industry is an ecosystem that is heavily dependent on intercommunication between sectors, businesses, community leaders, and lawmakers. No business is too small to engage in the community. The reasons for doing so vary from staying informed, advocating for change to contribute insight from the employer's perspective.

Many times owners, managers, and stakeholders are out of touch with the needs of the communities in which their workforce resides. So, it is highly recommended that senior leaders engage locally to understand their personnel's circumstances better.

Businesses can get more involved by:

  • Understanding competitors in their industry, sector, and/or functionality

  • Becoming members of destination management companies or organizations

  • Joining the local chamber of commerce or affinity-based groups

  • Engage in local community centers, events, and activities.

Local engagement comes in many forms. Understanding what competitors are offering inbound recruits aid to match increased wages to achieve equity across the industry. Joining local, national, and international organizations strengthen networks. Trade organizations like MPI, ILEA, and PCMA provide their communities with useful insight about incoming tourists, large-scale business meetings, and legislation changes that can help companies adjust staffing, operations, and leadership decisions.

The shift in people knowing their worth has been perceived as overly sensitive or radical. Sadly, the urge to maintain the status quo of low wages and intensive labor stems from the industrial era when people literally worked themselves to death. However, as we evolve as a society, employers must align with campaigns such as UNITE HERE’s “One Job Should Be Enough.” Fair wages, job security, and healthcare are prioritized when companies have an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion strategy.