The most important element of cultivating inclusivity is creating a sense of belonging. When employees' direct, day-to-day experiences and perceptions of organisational culture are positive, "employees will feel included," says Regan Taikitsadaporn, CHRO of Marriott International (Asia Pacific).
In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Regan invites leaders to build a working environment that promotes a "sense of collectiveness".
For the LGBTQ+ community, particularly, it is about creating an environment where they feel accepted, respected and comfortable in being their authentic selves.
"At Marriott, we believe in the power of inclusivity to break barriers and create a culture of belonging that extends into the local communities where we operate our business," Regan said.
"We have an LGBTQ+ committee to help increase the visibility of the community and promote the importance of allyship at work. We hope to promote a sense of belonging and authenticity across the workplace through this committee."
How does Marriott inculcate the values of diversity, inclusivity and allyship into its work culture?
Promoting inclusivity across the business starts from the top down. It’s important for leaders to articulate the vision and practical measures that together create an inclusive environment. For example, investing in leadership development, enforcing equal employment and zero-tolerance policies, and linking diversity and inclusion to business goals.
But it’s not just leadership driving this. D&I layers over everything that we do, and everyone plays a critical role in shaping company culture. As an extension of our TakeCare culture where we encourage our associates to take good care themselves, we also advocate for a “Respect for All” culture, in which we encourage our associates to treat everyone with respect.
Cultivating an inclusive workplace should also be part of the hiring stage. With inclusive hiring practices, there is one thing leaders need to recognise – it’s not simply about hiring people from underrepresented backgrounds as an effort to check off a box. It’s about actively embracing a wide range of qualities that a candidate can bring to the table. When it comes to recruiting talent, we ensure equal employment opportunities in all aspects of employment regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or other bases protected by applicable law.
We also focus on effectively communicating and celebrating the values of inclusivity internally across all levels of the business.
At Marriott, we do this through hosting regular company initiatives like panel discussions and raising our associates’ visibility through interviews and fireside chats. For example, during International Women’s Day and Pride Month, we hosted open forums for associates to spark conversation, address their concerns and share their personal stories. It is important to create opportunities and a safe space for employees to talk and ask questions.
We also make targeted efforts to support specific minority groups in need. Globally, we made a commitment to invest US$35m in programs and partnerships that develop hospitality skills and opportunity among diverse and minority groups.
In Asia Pacific, our hotels provide hospitality training and job opportunities to people with disabilities, less privileged youth, refugees, single mothers and senior citizens, and we are very proud of their dedication to bring our core values to work every day.
How can employers break stereotypes and biases against LGBTQ+ employees?
My number one tip for employers for breaking biases is to incorporate D&I in every aspect of your company’s business and culture. In a company where the importance of D&I is promoted across all levels, everyone is responsible for addressing workplace bias and shaping an inclusive company culture.
I recently read in a report that many LGBTQ+ workers have felt unhappy or depressed at work because of workplace discrimination. These individuals have chosen not to report cases of discrimination to a supervisor because of concerns about the impact on relationships with their co-workers. This needs to change.
Education across all levels of the business is crucial in addressing stereotypes and biases against LGBTQ+ employees, because it ensures that values of inclusivity are lived throughout the organisation.
In addition to normalising conversations around LGBTQ+ inclusion through fireside chats and webinars, we offer employees a range of D&I training on our digital learning platform, including on unconscious bias and global diversity. Through this D&I training, our managers and associates have the tools and resources to learn more about unconscious bias and broaden their efforts in creating an inclusive work environment.
What is the value of allyship in the everyday experiences of LGBTQ+ employees?
Not only does allyship empower LGBTQ+ employees to perform at their best on a daily basis – it also presents an opportunity for us to build a stronger sense of community for all.
I believe that employees with strong allies at work can feel happier, have greater job satisfaction and feel less burnt out. I read in a McKinsey survey that having just one ally on a team can offset the negative effects of exclusion – a feeling that can lead to a 25% reduction in productivity.
What the data suggests is that embracing allyship is critical to shaping the overall experience of LGBTQ+ employees. A company that advocates for diversity and inclusion will be better at achieving higher staff morale and productivity.
How can employers open up the conversation on (and thus strive towards) greater allyship in the workplace?
To open up the conversation on achieving greater allyship in the workplace, employers should:
1) Engage with fellow leadership peers
Invite them to participate or sponsor LGBTQ+ activities and encourage them to share more about their ideas on breaking workplace stereotypes and biases. For example, when we do fireside chats with leaders, we often ask about their personal experiences with discrimination and biases, and how they deal with it.
2) Empower your team
Ensure a bottom-up approach is always in place and encourage your employees to come up with their own ideas and activities in cultivating allyship.
3) Make it fun and inclusive
Don’t forget to have fun along the way and ensure that initiatives are inclusive and relevant to employees of diverse backgrounds.
Good communication is key to a successful allyship strategy. Our desire is to ensure our employees feel respected and comfortable enough to talk about their personal experiences, and are able to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace.