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Blog : What does diversity mean to your organisation?


What does diversity mean to your organisation?

Sally Brand discusses diversity in the workplace.

I attended the One and All Foundation's discussion forum about diversity and recognising talent within the industry, for HR in Hospitality members last week. One of their statistics really made me sit up and think: "By 2011 only 20% of the workforce will be white, male, able bodied and under 45... and 2011 is less than 18 months away...

The hospitality industry has always struck me as being the most diverse industry in the UK. Whether I'm out for drinks in Covent Garden, in my local Starbucks or having a bite to eat in the Pizza Express back home near Manchester, these organisations always seem to be a melting pot of different cultures, nationalities, accents and males and females.

Statistics show that hotels and restaurants in London employ 44.1% of people from Black, Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds which is more than any other sector. However, if you are to look higher up the chain, to senior management and board direct positions, there seems to be a severe lack of the diversity that can be seen at lower levels in the industry.

In fact, from hearing the results of the research that "The One and All Foundation" carried out, I was shocked to learn that only 2% of board directors in the hospitality industry are Black, Asian or of a minority ethnic. Very shocking considering that so many people from these backgrounds are starting at 'grass roots level'. And it's not just the hospitality industry - look at the City, though I was heartened when it was announced in March this year that Prudential will become the first FTSE 100 company to be run by a black chief executive.

It's not just Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups that are not progressing up the chain as we might expect; other social groups are being affected too. For instance, statistics show that hotels and restaurants employ fewer disabled people than almost any other sector in London. Another surprising statistic is that across the UK only 6% of Board Directors are female.

So, does a female or a disabled employee (the term 'disability' is used widely here - it could mean clinical depression, dyslexia or physical disability) or a non-white employee, have to work harder to gain a senior position? Or is it about the aspirations of the candidates themselves?

Diversity experts, The Brokerage Citylink work to create a pathway to the City for young residents of London's inner-city boroughs. The vast majority are from ethnic minority groups and many of them are from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Brokerage Citylink work with these young residents to help them secure jobs in the City. Being streetwise in Dalston often equals a killer performance on the dealing floor - as long as skills and attributes are channeled and nurtured correctly. The Brokerage found that people from minority and disadvantaged groups often don't have the confidence or 'jobseeker know how' to push for these roles.

They have been operating as a charity for over 15 years and have formed the view that as well as raising the awareness of City employers to the skills and talents of inner city job seekers, it is also vital to raise the awareness of inner city residents to the job opportunities in the City. Through their work with local schools and colleges they enable City firms to engage with students from 14 - 18 years old with a view to raising their future career aspirations.

Can organisations in the UK really say that they are truly taking full advantage of the array of talent that the UK has to offer? "The war for talent" has long been an issue; surely, a more diverse array of senior managers and industry leaders could help alleviate of this problem? Also a more diverse workforce at senior levels means a more exciting, innovative and diverse mix of ideas being brought to the boardroom table and which increases competitive edge. All successful international companies see diversity as an asset or a resource. Most, if not, all have diversity and CSR policies and targets. Intercontinental Hotels Group, has announced that "it is the policy and practice of InterContinental Hotels Group to promote and expand opportunities for minority-and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs)." The company has adapted an employee diversity program. However, more organisations need to change their ways and adapt, as they will surely reap the rewards in the long-run.

The big question remains however, is it more about 'how to' than 'the will to'?

There are some great support networks to help raise awareness and help organisations to adapt for the better. For example The One and all Foundation website which has some great tips and advice for hospitality organisations, The Brokerage Citylink, and we at learnpurple can also provide assistance.

One last thought for hospitality - it is where our roots lie - the British hospitality industry epitomises diversity in so many ways. From the diverse range of people (from both the UK and abroad) who make up the industry's clients, to the vast array of different cuisines we can sample on the high street. By extending this concept of diversity to include the people who are leading the industry, can only lead to great things and make British hospitality truly diverse in every sense of the word! What do you think?

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