We recently sat down with the Executive Director of Tourism Diversity Matters, Greg DeShields, to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and it’s role in the hospitality industry.
This conversation serves as an opportunity for hoteliers to go beyond cultural awareness and embrace true DEI as part of hotel practices and interactions with guests and the community.
Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) was “founded as the collaborative leader of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and concepts that can address the blind spots of ethnic disparities and provide decision-makers in the tourism and events industry access, resources, and tactics to develop more effective diversity & Inclusion strategies that will engage and retain a diverse workforce.”
TDM provides several opportunities for collaboration based on a tangible and hands-on approach, by cultivating a talent pipeline and apprentice program that supports our industry’s workforce development efforts. TDM conducts DEI workshops to develop an organization’s fundamental understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion from a business case, going beyond unconscious bias and microaggressions. TDM also has a consultancy practice that thoroughly analyzes an organization’s operations and culture.
Committed to research and knowledge expansion, TDM has partnered with Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) and CRANT AI, to develop a DEI Tracking tool for the tourism industry that interprets a brand’s engagement through the use of DEI words on social platforms.
If you’re wanting to learn more about how your organization can plan diversity support initiatives and explore ways to ensure DEI is embraced long term, this discussion will provide that clarity.
Can you describe the core principles of DEI and how they present in the workplace?
“I think what’s important is to realize that as any organization looks at principles of DEI, strategy has to really guide whatever your direction might be.”
“The first is really defining and describing what diversity, equity, and inclusion means to your organization. So often there is a combination of perspectives that are brought to the table when you get into discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
“The second is that there is a strategy for the reason why you are trying to achieve success. Fundamentally as an organization, they need to be able to define it for themselves and they should have a strategy of where it’s going, what it is that they are trying to accomplish now, and what it is they are trying to accomplish a long-term. ”
“The third is really budgeting and investing. Most organizations do not adequately invest in their DEI strategy in a way that quite honestly allows them to determine the success or failure. Often it’s done as an amendment and the reality of it is it should be a core business strategy and should be resourced and allocated with the necessary funds in order for it to be effective in your organization.”
“Which leads me to the 4th which is, measurement. It should be measured like any strategy. Any truly committed undertaking should have measurements and goals that are associated with it to ensure that the work is impactful, that it is results-oriented, that you set out to achieve something and you made a difference in your organization.”
“You want to make sure you provide enough money to achieve the resources andthe outcomes or strategy.”
“You need to know why you’re doing it so you know how you’re going to resource it and then of course measure the success.”
“Make sure you’re telling the story. The communication piece associated with the core principles is to make sure that you’re creating economic equity and that there’s access to the supplier diversity. It is really important to ensure that you look at your spending habits and that you’re providing the maximum opportunity for all to participate.”
“The culture is where the DNA of DEI lives in an organization and that culture can be enhanced if you establish resource groups for your organization.”
“The last one I would say is don’t do it alone. Engage stakeholders and external partners to work as you go.”
“It’s defining and describing DEI, developing a strategy, investing, and measuring the while communicating to create access to supplier diversity and a culture for your employees while bringing in external stakeholders.”
How do you think brands, and hoteliers in particular, fall short in embracing and implementing DEI principles?
“So I think amongst the areas of where they’re probably the biggest missteps, is approaching it from the perspective of fixing it, because you don’t fix it. It’s part of your DNA and you get better at it. It can be added to an organization as opposed to woven in. Whether it’s the language of the policies that you have, or the type of support that you provide. So often the areas where you see the biggest shortfall is that it’s not comprehensively applied to the organization. Once you’ve gone through understanding DEI, you get to a point of implementation by monitoring, adjusting, and calibrating where it needs to be.”
“It will continue to evolve and manifest itself in your organization and you should be building a culture and environment where DEI can really thrive in your organization and enhance it.”
How can hoteliers show up for their guests in terms of DEI?
“So I think the best way to really add impact and influence your customer is to understand your customer and not to make it too complicated. I know customers at different properties all have different kinds of expectations. In the past customers would come to us by a recommendation from a travel agent or by way of the internet. They wanted to be able to say, this is what I want to do. As operators we should be mindful of the engagement of our customers and it needs to be much more authentic. It needs to be able to meet the customer with an experience that can’t necessarily be completely cookie cutter. It will resonate with the customer if they have the ability to genuinely connect with you.”
“Can they completely enjoy themselves while they’re there? At the front desk, do I see people who look like me? In the sales office? And, do I see people who look like me, is an expectation customers have that can absolutely have an impact on where they choose to spend their dollars.”
“That’s why realizing the authenticity of it and realizing who your customer is, is really important.”
What are effective strategies to aid hoteliers in making DEI a long term initiative and marketing them authentically?
“I think most organizations or hoteliers should know where they’re at. You really should have an assessment of your organization, whether you do it yourself or somebody externally does it for you. You need a baseline. You need to know where your gaps are and the areas in which you need to improve. A lot of organizations will embark upon DEI activities that quite honestly may not be the actual issue that is affecting their limited ability to achieve success. Assess
ments will help you make those kinds of decisions because you’ll have much more specific information you can get feedback from. Quantitative work will give you some metrics that frankly set a nice baseline and give you some targets of where you can go in terms of enhancing and improving DEI.”
“Don’t take on more than you can possibly achieve. If you can build a best practice, if you can build a model that works for your organization, add more as you go forward.”
“I know that there are a lot of organizations that do phenomenal work and that’s great. You might, out of a score of 10, be a 7, but isn’t it good to know that you’re a 7 and to know the things that you do really well which really contribute to your success? Now you have a better ability to focus on those and maybe some of the things that really aren’t relevant that you don’t have to continue with.”
“With the focus that this is a long-term commitment and will involve new people and will ultimately take on the responsibility for new customers’ expectations and as an organization.”
Learn more about DEI and Tourism Diversity Matters.