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In the hotel business, human relations is critical. 

Most hotel customers will make decisions on whether to come back based on their experience with various hotel staff. Some of them will also leave online reviews or social media comments that can help or damage the hotel. 

Given that we live in a world where it costs 5X more to acquire new customers than to retain old ones, according to The National Law Review, keeping customers happy through excellent guest experience is a worthwhile investment. 

However, statistics from Site Minder, an open hotel commerce platform, has shown that there cannot be high guest satisfaction without happy employees (especially the front office workers). Also, happy employees are 31% more productive and they lead to a 12% increase in profitability (which means they are important to the bottom line).  

Today, one of the top challenges to fostering a happy workforce in a cosmopolitan country like the UAE is knowing how to manage diversity in the workforce. Treating foreign workers the same as everyone else and ensuring they are not left behind can be a big ask that many organisations (and even national governments) struggle with. 

For example, consider how this challenge was a focus of international discussions before and after the 2022 FIFA World Cup that took place in Qatar. 

On the other hand, companies that are able to inculcate diversity and inclusion as an organisation value will derive many benefits that include high employee retention, sense of belonging, positive reputation, creativity and innovation, among others. 

In this article, we will consider how employers in UAE’s hospitality industry can ensure customer satisfaction and employee happiness by creating a diverse and inclusive workforce where every worker is treated with dignity and respect. 

Here, in particular, we will consider 10 best practices in hotel operations that foster diversity and inclusion.   

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1. Recognising or embracing diversity 

The first of our best practices in hotel operations is recognising or embracing diversity. 

Said differently, fostering a workforce that respects diversity and inclusion must begin with an admission that there is a diverse workforce to begin with. 

In the UAE, this diversity is more often due to the many different nationalities of workers. There are people from other GCC countries, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, and Africa, among others. These people have grown up in diverse cultures and they come to the hotel with diverse views, practices, and identities. 

There is also diversity in regards to gender (male, female), religion (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc.), and age (young, middle aged, and old). And all these differences that make up the UAE are perhaps most visible in the hotel industry.  

This environment often results in differences of perspectives on a wide range of issues. 

Hotel executives must be aware of these differences and provide opportunities for employees to be heard. This is important because research by Forbes has shown that one characteristic of fully-engaged employees is that they feel heard in the workplace.    

The most important way to recognise or embrace diversity is to ensure that a particular class of people is not excluded from employment for reasons other than merit and capacity. For example, hotel brands must avoid rejecting women just because they might get pregnant down the line.

2. Promoting cultural awareness

One effective way to bridge the cultural gap and ensure respect (and even admiration) for various cultures is to consciously promote cultural awareness. 

For example, some companies choose a day where workers can dress in traditional attire. This can culminate in an event where every representative of a culture gets to educate others about their traditions. Staff members can also be encouraged to try delicacies from other cultures. 

Hotels can also tap into this idea by separating a day for cultural awareness. They can inform customers ahead of time (to avoid making it awkward). Depending on the workforce, hotels can even allow workers to check-in and attend to customers in traditional dress on that day.

Hotel management can also consider recognising holidays that are not nationally mandated but are important to some staff members (e.g., Christmas, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day). A simple gesture like sending a gift to staff members that celebrate these holidays can go a long way in fostering cultural awareness.

3. Providing a sense of belonging

Promoting cultural awareness is not enough in itself. Workers, especially minorities, must believe deeply that they actually belong in the workplace. 

As said before, this will require that they feel heard. This is not just about providing a channel for them to express grievances. Rather, there must be concrete opportunities for them to express their perspectives and share their ideas. The views of men or Emiratis or older workers should not be prioritised to the exclusion of women, foreign workers, and younger workers. 

Also, companies should ensure that cliques don’t dominate the workspace. It is normal for people who are similar to cling to themselves and form groups. However, this might mean that minorities become lone rangers, disconnected from the majority. 

To counter this, hotel executives should “create inclusive spaces where employees can spend time with one another and foster engaging conversations to help people share their experiences,” according to Sarah Tabet, former HR Director for Middle East at Schneider Electric, an energy management and automation company.

As much as possible, employers should promote initiatives that bring everyone together and enhance bonding. Solving puzzles, playing games, eating lunch, playing football, and collective brainstorming are some team-bonding activities that executives should consider. 

A high sense of belonging can lead to a 56% increase in job performance, 50% drop in worker turnover, and 75% reduction in sick days, according to respondents to an Harvard Business Review survey.   

4. Diversity and inclusion training

Not all insensitive words and actions reflect an underlying hatred towards people of other cultures. Some of them just come from a place of naivety about what may hurt other people. 

Consequently, hotel owners should invest in educating staff members about diversity and inclusion and how they can relate with others with respect and dignity. In fact, this is essential both to the relationship among workers and the relationship of workers (especially front desk workers) to hotel guests and customers. 

This training can be conducted within the hotel property by an invited guest or an executive. Otherwise, executives can sign up staff for external diversity and inclusion training, delivered online or physically. 

5. Dealing with conflicts

Even with time and money spent on diversity and inclusion training, inter-cultural conflicts can still occur in the workplace. Aside from intercultural conflicts, issues can arise between a man and a woman, a younger staff and an older one, a Muslim and a Christian, etc. We are all humans, after all.

Therefore, while prevention measures should be scaled up, techniques for effective mediation should not be neglected. 

The first technique is that the Human Resources (HR) department should always be objective in dealing with the issue. Assuming beforehand that the man, the Muslim, or the younger staff must be the one at fault will only serve to deepen the fallout. Instead, they should be willing to listen to both sides (or as many sides as exist). 

Secondly, the issue should be quickly dealt with; the more it is left to fester, the greater the damage it does to operational efficiency. Of course, quick resolution should not be a substitute for doing the right thing. Rather, the right thing must be done as quickly as possible. 

Third, the issue should be decisively resolved, as much as possible. This is because partially solved problems tend to resuscitate with vengeance. HR team members in charge must seek to resolve all underlying issues and restore calm in the workforce. 

Finally, even when it is obvious that only one party should shoulder the blame, that party must be corrected in the most respectful and loving way possible. On the other hand, the party that is offended must receive appropriate apologies. 

6. Setting positive examples

It is not enough to tell your staff how you want them to behave towards people who are different from them. As humans, we are more convinced by what we see than what we hear. Furthermore, we tend to believe what we see rather than what we hear. 

Even if business executives give the loftiest speeches and create the most educational training about diversity and inclusion, a single misstep that shows personal bias is enough to undo it all. 

Consequently, hotel management teams should embrace the saying, “Physician, heal thyself.” This means treating everyone with equal respect and dignity, having a circle of “workplace friends” that is diverse and inclusive, and creating a career path for everyone irrespective of their backgrounds. 

7. Embracing flexibility

Sarah Tabet identified flexibility as one of the strategies that Schneider Electric encourages in their bid to improve diversity and inclusion. “Flexible dress codes, flexible working hours, and family leave considerations” are some of the points highlighted. 

The last point is especially important in a workplace that seeks to make women feel included.

The UAE’s Labour Law allows a maternity leave of 60 days – the first 45 days fully paid and the last 15 days partially paid. There is also an option for extra 45 days (unpaid) at the discretion of the employer. The Law also allows a parental leave of five working days (for both mothers and fathers). 

Flexibility can also mean allowing workers to take time off or work from home (for administrative workers) during an important holiday that is important to them but not nationally mandated (e.g., Christmas for Christians). The work schedule can be designed at the beginning of the year with such holidays in mind. 

If there are disabled workers, the hotel must also be flexible enough to make it easy for them to carry out their responsibilities.

Though hotel workers generally have fixed uniforms, executives can also consider the wisdom of choosing a more dynamic model or, as we have said above, choosing a day where people can express their cultural identities.   

8. Creating an organisational culture around diversity

“Diversity has to be a part of the organisational culture in order to be effective,” according to Overproof, a resource for companies in the beverage and hospitality industry. This will include “creating a handbook that outlines rules and regulations regarding diversity, ensuring that employees are familiar with the policies and reinforcing these priorities in regular staff meetings.”

In essence, there must be written rules and regulations designed to guide the actions of hotel employees on diversity and inclusion. One important component of company policy is stating the different forms of discrimination that the company will not tolerate. 

Furthermore, these rules and regulations (policies) must be constantly reiterated and transgression must be aptly dealt with in the best possible way (point 6 above). 

Another benefit of creating an organisational culture is that it simplifies the staffing/recruitment process. Hotels can more easily identify those that will or will not fit into the company.

9. Getting feedback and responding to them

Hotels should also have a system where they receive feedback from workers regarding how comfortable they feel working for them and what they would change if given the opportunity. This can be in the form of physical or virtual interviews and email exchanges. Whatever the form, employees must be made to feel comfortable enough to speak their minds. 

Hoteliers must collate and analyse these feedbacks. The insights derived should be used to further tweak company policies on diversity and inclusion. Some of the responses might also require a one-on-one meeting with certain employees to better understand and empathise with their feelings and promise them swift positive changes.  

10. Ensuring fair remuneration

The last of our best practices in hotel operations as regards to employee management is fair remuneration. 

A rule of thumb that employees use to identify possible bias is remuneration. If two workers with the same skills, experience, and tasks earn different wages/salaries, it is normal for the one earning less to believe that there is a bias that has nothing to do with merit. 

This particular bias often tracks the gender line – men getting higher wages/salaries for the same work. The UAE government has responded to this by including a rule in the New Labour Law that requires that men and women receive the same remuneration for doing the same job. 

Hotel management must continuously evaluate their payroll management system to ensure they have not, wittingly or unwittingly, introduce bias in remuneration. 

Similarly, while the Emiratisation drive requires that companies employ a certain number of Emiratis (2% of the workforce), it does not suggest that they should be remunerated differently from foreign workers doing the same work. Therefore, hotels should ensure fairness in payment to Emiratis and foreign workers. 

One way to do this is to use an effective payroll software that makes payroll mistakes less likely while also making it easier to conduct payroll reconciliation to identify such errors. This is what NOW Money provides: a smart, cost-effective, and flexible digital payroll solution that will ensure the optimization of your payroll management. 

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  • The hospitality industry depends on making good impressions and exceeding guest expectations.
  • Only happy employees can create positive customer experience and happy customers. Successful hotel management will therefore require making employees happy.  
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is one way to make employees happy. 
  • Hospitality management must embrace diversity, promote cultural awareness, create a sense of belonging, swiftly and objectively deal with conflicts, and set positive examples by their own examples. 
  • They should also create diversity and inclusion training programs, nurture an organisational culture that values diversity and inclusion, embrace flexibility, get feedback from workers, and ensure fair remuneration.
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
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