The talk took place at the UKHospitality (UKH) Workforce and Skills Event, and was chaired by UKH diversity, equity & inclusion committee chair Serena von der Heyde.
Speaking on the panel was LGBTQ+ inclusion consultant Max Siegel, Road Chef head of marketing Amanda Mason and Women in Travel founder Alessandra Alonso.
To get the best out of people employers must consider whether they feel safe and welcomed in the workplace, according to Siegel.
This makes for a “real business opportunity” in foregrounding inclusivity, he believed, as people who felt completely themselves were more likely to do a better job.
What’s more, with UK Gen Z more than twice as likely to identify as LGB+ than previous generations, its in operators’ interests to pioneer inclusivity to attract the younger generation into the workforce.
The biggest challenge Siegel confronted in his work was a lack of understanding, with an onslaught of misinformation in the media not helping matters.
Respect before understanding
He advised operators that they didn’t need to know about trans and non-binary issues, and it was okay to get things wrong, but they could still try to listen. It was important, for Siegal, to have “respect before understanding”.
Next, he would talk about these issues in relation to real people, to further help operators understand.
“Trans inclusion doesn’t take anything away from anyone,” he continued, adding that it just makes a group feel safer and more included.
Alonso had tips for operators looking to diversify their workforce. First, she said they could challenge recruitment agencies to come up with a diverse list of people.
They could also post job adverts on websites or platforms that reached a variety of audiences and could reach out to education groups for help attracting staff.
Another way to bring in a wider crowd was to make the job offer more flexible, as this would inevitably attract a different type of people, Alonso suggested.
Mason made the point that if staff weren’t comfortable, how would they be able to create a comfortable and happy environment for guests?
She advised operators to tell staff they were trying to create this space, and ask them, ‘what can we do to make this culture more comfortable to you’?
This didn’t have to involve spending crazy budgets, she added. She asked operators to consider how they were fostering and mentoring people in low positions who would be the leaders in 30 years’ time.
“Don’t keep going with the same old,” she said. If you helped nurture young diverse talent, then you could help those people move up the ranks into senior positions, creating a more diverse workforce.