Arena Event

Harnessing the Power of Diversity

The sector is going through a tumultuous time and the need for great talent remains a huge challenge. This relevant Arena event explored how being more diverse and inclusive can strengthen an organisation’s position of choice as an employer and can bring about positive change within a company. Our speakers discussed how different viewpoints and perspectives can build a strong and successful business enhancing performance and innovation. Read the review below to find out more...

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Event Review

Hospitality has a lot to do around diversity, equity and inclusion

The hospitality sector has a lot more work to do around diversity, equity and inclusion, according to a panel of experts at our last event, held at the beautifully, newly renovated Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel.

The event kicked off with a fabulous drinks and canapé reception with Tosti prosecco kindly supplied by Unity Wines, a range of soft drinks provided by Britvic Soft Drinks and canapés made with Délifrance’s focaccia.  Guests had the chance to catch up with industry friends and colleagues, having those all-important conversations before moving into the Jumeirah’s newly renovated stunning Ballroom for lunch.  After a mouth-watering three-course lunch with wine and soft drinks once again generously provided by Unity Wines and Britvic Soft Drinks, Délifrance hand-crafted mini-rolls to accompany the Starter and Nescafé coffee served with a range of petit-fours after Dessert it was time for the discussions to begin.

First up an interview with Greene King chief executive Nick McKenzie. He talked about how he has made the culture at the pub group his priority over the three years he has been at the helm – particularly making it a more diverse and inclusive business.

McKenzie explained how engaging people from across the company while ensuring buy-in from the very top, and prioritising people as well as profit when rolling out a new culture programme, has led to a tangible shift across the group.

He concluded that culture programmes in businesses should never have an end point but should continue to evolve.

He was then joined on stage for a panel discussion by senior leaders from across the sector. These included Lorraine Copes, founder of Be Inclusive Hospitality; Raj Jones, head of diversity and inclusion at Sodexo; Emma Langford, head of HR and people development at Elior UK; and Tevin Tobun, chief executive of GV Group.

The discussion kicked off with a look at the moral and business cases for a diverse workforce and panellists agreed that, whatever the reasoning behind it, meaningful change in the sector was essential for survival as well as growth.

One panellist said that uniform boardrooms are created by those who don’t truly appreciate the benefits of differences in opinion in a business, nor do they represent the world we live in – but for change to be meaningful, it can’t be a box-ticking exercise.

The theme of company culture was revisited, and it was highlighted that cultural change happens within an organisation when resources and budget are put behind meaningful strategic activity.

Racism can only live in company cultures in which it’s allowed to thrive, said panellists, so until cultures shift, we won't see a more representative industry at all levels. Business leaders were encouraged to record data on the demographics of their workforce, why people leave and to have a true gauge of how their employees feel about their working environment.

Education was touched on as important, with attendees suggesting that not understanding the biases that influence our decision-making and interactions is a hindrance to progress, while others highlighted the benefits of reverse mentoring.

Those who don’t buy into ED&I are those that haven’t been educated on why it’s important, which is why everyone at every level of a business needs to be engaged in that training and those conversations, one panellist said.

Sustainability was suggested as evidence that the sector can evolve at pace for the better, with the example of paper straws given which, although more expensive, were brought in quickly and extensively across the sector even before legislation came in around single-use plastics.

The word ‘equity’ was also explored – panellists discussed how not all people are starting at the same level of privilege, but everyone just wants to have the same opportunities. It was highlighted that a higher proportion of the hospitality workforce identifies as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic than the average population – reflecting how the industry’s problem is not diversity but equity in that the sector’s diversity in the junior ranks is not translating into diversity at a senior level.

Despite the challenges the sector is facing, panellists said that it would be a disaster to deprioritise diversity even in the current climate, as businesses will lose momentum and the belief of their people that they are serious about it, and given hospitality’s staffing shortage, companies cannot afford to lose people who don’t believe in what they say they stand for.

When the climate is difficult, panellists said, you want the best possible talent in your business and the widest demographic of customer, which comes with being a business that is attractive to all potential recruits and customers, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or ability.

Thank you to all our Arena members and guests who attended the event plus the generous support of our sponsors – Unity Wines, Délifrance, Nescafé and Britvic Soft Drinks.