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Why wouldn’t you? Not ‘Why should you?”

Getting the best people in your team can be the difference between success and mediocrity, so why limit your choice in the job market? Gender, ethnicity, disability and sexuality are insignificant compared to ability, personality and flair for the job. Outlets that reflect their communities and the national demographic tend to perform better because they send a clear message to customers, according to the World Economic Forum.

Good for your business

Simply trying to recruit new ‘diverse’ talent for appearance’s sake without awareness that there’s a problem with your company’s culture will achieve nothing, and risk higher employee turnover.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of the Business Disability Forum, says: “Get it right and you will reap rewards. “Numerous studies show that having a diverse workforce is good for your business because different people bring different life experiences and skills and reflect the breadth of your consumer base.”

Founder and CEO of Be Inclusive Hospitality, Lorraine Copes, adds: “Ultimately, equity, diversity and inclusion are linked with company culture. You have to take a top-down approach. By not being inclusive, you are not only excluding talent, but you will struggle to retain talent from diverse backgrounds.

“Start with an anonymous survey to understand how the company culture is experienced through the eyes of the different groups within your organisation. Take the same approach, whenever you want to address a problem. It will really help you to understand where you are, before you work out what you want to achieve.

“Culture audits carried out by people outside of your business (where your team are asked about their experiences in the workplace) can be hugely revealing and very useful. I feel strongly about not expecting people of colour to talk to their managers about traumatic experiences of racism and discrimination. This topic needs to be handled with care and sensitivity, and I believe anonymous feedback and partnering with outside companies, such as mine, can help to do this. First, though, business leaders must make equality a business priority with targets,” insists Lorraine. Then show that you are making the promised changes.

Lorraine adds: “Understanding your company culture, and working to improve it will create change across your organisation including how you recruit, how you promote, and how you retain.”

“Did you know, only 1 in 2 working age adults with a disability are in employment, compared with 81.8% of their non-disabled peers.”
- Office for National Statistics

Hidden talent pool

Just because someone has a disability, doesn’t mean they don’t have the ability to do the job, says Diane. “Employers who think people with disabilities will be too difficult or too inconvenient are becoming a minority. None of these has to be true. It’s not just about wheelchair users and making sure your premises are accessible. Around 90% of registered disabled people have conditions that are not immediately visible,” she says. “That might mean neurodiversity, dyslexia, long-term conditions such as cancer and MS, and there’s a good chance that some great people in your business have one of those but haven’t said anything.”

Right now, with Brexit and the aftermath of the pandemic, there is a skills shortage in catering and hospitality, so ignoring a large pool of extremely talented people is short-sighted.

Be open and flexible

From gender and sexual orientation to ethnicity and disability, employers with a desire to change should listen and remodel their business and its environment to help new starters. That might mean making reasonable adjustments. Someone with dyslexia may need things printed in a different colour or people of some religions may need somewhere to pray. Show you are open to disabled applicants and are prepared to act differently and flexibly to suit them. The Government Access to Work fund also helps with up to 100% of the cost of making necessary changes.

“75% of people with disabilities have not made a purchase because of poor accessibility or customer service. With the Purple Pound worth £274bn to the UK economy, you need to address this.”
- Purple

Do things differently

To generate meaningful diversity there are a number of simple things you can do. Think about the role and ask if you really need three years’ front-of-house experience. Ask ‘what are the skills I really need?’ and work backwards.

Do you just need someone who is friendly or someone who is brilliant with numbers? An autistic person might be the best book-keeper you’ve ever had and someone who is naturally engaging is perfect to greet your guests. Show that you are open to disabled applicants and are prepared to act differently and flexibly to suit them. Lorraine adds: “If you get the culture right, recruitment becomes easier. Ethnically diverse candidates are more likely to join companies that have diversity at all levels, as role models and feelings of belonging are important.”

Chris Bonnello, autistic special needs tutor, author and speaker says: “As a serial interview failure myself (and often including for jobs I was overqualified for), I can testify that autism-related speech delays and communication differences are misinterpreted as social inadequacies or incompetence. Give people the chance to prove themselves.”

““give autistic people a fighting chance by allowing them to perform the job, rather than talk about how they would do it. would you rather hire someone who can build houses or is good at talking about building them?””
- Chris Bonnello, autistic special needs tutor, author and speaker
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