Introduce empathy over diversity in the travel workplace

How many ways do we define diversity in today’s travel workplace? Do we define employees according to their IQ? Their gender? How about their colour and their creed?

And as soon as we take that first step, what is the chance we’ll take the second… discrimination against that diversity, when in fact it is that diversity that can actually strengthen an organisation, as Simon Altham, Managing Director of Hoseasons, asserts.

“Bringing together people of different backgrounds can have its challenges, because you have a lot of different opinions and ideas, and these can be very opposing at times. This rich content, along with multiple differing points of view, can be used by leaders to their advantage, though. Women solve problems differently to men, younger people see the world differently to older people, LGBT employees look at life differently to straight employees, and the list goes on.”

There has been a litany of press reports in the press about the need for diversity within the workplace. How these are dark days for diversity. How even global companies that are defined as ‘The Best Places in the World to Work’ have struggled with implementing successful diversity programmes.

In the UK, politicians have recently jumped on the bandwagon, calling on firms to set targets on hiring more black and ethnic minority workers. According to research, despite being more likely to have a degree, talented staff from a BME background tend to work in lower paid and lower skilled jobs than their white peers and hence a target should be set for companies to build a more “inclusive culture” in the workplace.

The counter-argument to that perspective, however, is that if companies introduce a target or policy that favours a particular gender, ethnicity and religious beliefs, etc. do they not run the risk of reverse discrimination? Of sowing more division than unity?

From Progressive Travel Recruitment’s perspective, as global travel recruitment specialists, we approach recruitment from the basis of the right candidate for the job – regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.

We strongly believe the only way to recruit is to strip the candidacy down to its competencies, potential and the prospective travel employee’s suitability for the company and role, so that we are not influenced by any bias and make the right recruitment decision for both parties based on logic, not emotion.

Simon believes the most common mistake companies make is seeing diversity as a ‘tick box’ exercise. “The most successful businesses don’t just implement diversity programmes, they embed them into the very heart of their business culture,” explains Simon.

The lack of success in implementing a diversity programme successfully led Google to opt instead for a programme that fostered empathy as a value the company could measure and embed in the organisation across all its levels. Instead of making the company more ‘female-friendly’, Google worked to make it more “human-friendly” – changes that were not targeted or driven by gender or racial concerns.

The new criteria was based on “corporate empathy” because increasing a company’s feel of humanity doesn’t just help one minority or another, it has an impact on company culture, and our work environment. It also increases an employee’s sense of belonging.  A lot more powerful than highlighting a ‘them and us’ environment.

Perhaps a little more empathy, and a little less focus on the ‘them and us’ may be the answer in a post-Brexit/Trump world where tolerance and diversity is under the spotlight.