Want a diverse workforce? Start with retention
Want a diverse workforce? Start with retention
06 JANUARY 2021 9:21 AM

The hospitality industry must do more if it truly wants to increase its diverse representation. A good starting place is by giving your current talent new reasons to stay.

The official word of the COVID-19 pandemic may well be “unprecedented.” It applies to nearly everything, from the pandemic to the challenges facing the hospitality industry to the unrest around our reckoning with systemic racism, social injustice and gender inequalities.

For people of color, the weight of this year has not only been magnified by media and by statistics, but also manifested in ways not visible to the naked eye. Not only are diverse team members processing traumatic events, but they also bear the exhausting, often invisible burden of having to show up at work as their best professional selves, despite the heart-wrenching atrocities of racism.

As we plan for 2021, the hospitality industry will continue to face ongoing business challenges. It will take time for travel to return to its full strength, and hiring will be slower. To main your progress around inclusion, that’s all the more reason to lead with intention.

If you have to choose one place to start, look no further than your own workforce. Begin with retention. What are you doing to retain your diverse talent across all levels?

The time to do this is now, as the risk of attrition is high and varies from group to group. For example, a recent study by The Center for Talent Innovation found that Black employees are 30% more likely to consider leaving their companies than white employees are.

Here are just a few steps you can take to make your organization a workplace where diverse employees feel at home and want to stay.

Provide real flexibility
Flexibility is vital during COVID-19. This is particularly true for women, and especially for women of color, who are dropping out of the workforce at faster rates.

Each year, McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org produce the Women in the Workplace study of women in corporate America. The 2020 edition found that women, especially women of color, are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.

In addition, the same study also found that due to challenges created by the pandemic, one in three mothers may be forced to scale back or leave the workforce completely.

The path to true inclusivity is to understand and then meet the unique needs of each of your employees, while recognizing its distribution may not be consistent. Take work hours. Your employees are quietly undergoing tectonic shifts in schedules at home. Maybe they need to be online with their distance-learning child mid-morning. Or they need to stop work mid-afternoon to assist an elderly family member. Provide them the space and grace to be able to do that without worry.

Look at the quality of the work, not when it gets done.

Move from the 'what' to the 'how'
More than ever, employees of color want to understand the role that diversity plays in your organization.

How are you actively demonstrating your commitment toward real change? Now is the time to show, not tell.

The key to driving progress is to move from talking about the “what,” and instead shift the conversation to the “how.” That requires an evaluation of every process of the employee lifecycle, with the goal of removing bias and increasing equality.

For example, do your talent development program pipelines have diverse slates of nominees? Are you actively having ongoing conversations with leaders about how unconscious bias can surface in talent discussions and providing actionable ways to mitigate them?

One-off training programs aren’t going to solve the problem. The answer is found in active, ongoing discussions.

Provide a clearly defined path to growth
If you want your diverse employees to choose to stay with your organization, show them a clear picture of how they can grow and progress.

That picture begins with representation. The Women at Work study revealed a “broken rung” in the career ladder, where promotions to that first manager title were still a significant barrier. For every 100 men promoted, only 85 women were. That gap was even larger for diverse workers: Only 58 Black women and 71 Latinas were promoted.

It’s not enough to work toward more diverse leadership. You also need to provide a blueprint to how those leaders progressed. Take the proactive step to invite talent to meet and discuss their career aspirations and development goals.

While formal training and development programs are important, investing in your diverse employees doesn’t have to be expensive. Creating channels and safe spaces, such as employee resource groups (ERGs), can help drive retention. ERGs increase the visibility of diverse talent, expand networking opportunities and build allyship, all while driving added value to your business.

We are entering a period where the people of color in your workforce will not only be actively watching for evidence of real change, but will also have the opportunity to be increasingly selective about where they choose to work. By taking these steps now and clearly illustrating a path forward, you will send an active message that you value your employees and see them in your organization for years to come.

DeShaun N. Wise Porter is Hilton’s global head of diversity, inclusion and engagement.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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