Another successful run of the Hotel HR Forum took place last Wednesday, 19th September, 2018. It was an engaging discussion about diversity in the workplace.

Nkechi Juwah, an HR Transformation and Talent Expert, facilitated the session. With her experience as HR Director in several Nigerian and multinational companies like Cadbury Nigeria, Honeywell Group, British American Tobacco and International Breweries, Nkechi gave incisive and practical tips for managing diversity in the workplace.
One key phrase stood out and that was “Diversity Fuels Innovation”. In a country like Nigeria with over three hundred ethnic groups, the tendency to stick to the familiar is an ever-present danger that we all, and especially HRs, need to be aware of. The truth be told, where there is a concentration of one ‘type’ in an organisation, the tendency for group think increases. Everyone has something to contribute, and it is a severe handicap when everyone around is a mirror of the others.

There was a lively session where participants spoke about their experiences with diversity. We listened to real-life examples that helped everyone rethink their position on respect and acceptance, especially with people who are (or think) differently from us. One example related to ageism and how resumés of people over 50 are given a default rejection. Another HR followed her gut instinct and now has a 60-year old associate who outperforms younger associates with his drive and energy. Someone else spoke about sexism and how a newly recruited female manager met with stiff resistance (women don’t work in this position!) but who ended up achieving consistently higher levels of performance than her predecessors.

How do HRs work at fostering more inclusive and open recruitment practices that allow the best candidates to emerge? How can this be achieved without unconscious bias seeping into every decision. And how does one manage hotel owners and senior managers who impose their candidates on the hotel?
Well, perhaps self-awareness is one place to start. Taking an unconscious bias test (there are loads of free tests online) is helpful for identifying where we might need to adjust how we view others. Then it might be a good idea to extend this to the whole team by organising diversity trainings. In this way, everyone will have the opportunity to become more self-aware. Then, with self-awareness comes the opportunity to effect the changes necessary for building a healthier work environment. Truly, people really do not appreciate just how corrosive these biases can be, and the HR can go a long way in helping to bring this to the fore and eliminate the bias.

The good news is that one participant at the forum took a bold step, and on getting back to the office, conducted a diversity assessment of her hotel. Work in progress? Definitely. But there seems to be a lot of promise for the future in this area.
See you in December!

Belinda Nwosu FIH
W Hospitality Group