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On My Mind: Checking Biases and Embracing Discomfort

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ways to increase Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in my industry, especially in light of the Great Resignation.

In 2021, close to 892,000 people left the Accommodation and Food Services industry—nearly 7% of total employment. Across industries, people of color left jobs at higher rates than white Americans. In a matter of months, we lost ground on DE&I progress our industry had made.

Given labor shortages, it would be tempting to say we should just get those jobs filled as soon as possible and worry about diversity later, but we’d be missing a huge opportunity. The pandemic is forcing virtually every organization to redefine its internal culture, which makes this the perfect time to push even harder to embed DE&I in our recruiting, hiring and operational practices.

It’s not just a matter of casting a wider net for candidates. We need to ask ourselves a couple of fundamental questions:

Where might we have unconscious bias in our organizational cultures? How do we hire for “cultural fit” when the diverse candidates we seek come from distinctly different cultures themselves? Are we over-defining organizational culture beyond values and core behaviors in ways that limit diversity? Put more bluntly, when we say the candidate is not a good cultural fit, might we sometimes mean they’re not enough like us? Narrow expectations about experience, appearance, social customs and how people express themselves can cause us to miss out on amazing talent and expansive opportunities.

Can we get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to be more inclusive? Language matters, and normalizing the use of personal pronouns, Native American land acknowledgment and other inclusive terms doesn’t cost us anything. Let’s say the words with an open heart and mind, and then let’s forgive ourselves if we mess up in the process. We’re all learning in this quest to be and do better.

As we rebuild our industry after a very difficult couple of years, we have a unique opportunity to turn our DE&I ambitions into actions. Rethinking how we attract talent will take us only so far. The real impact will come when we’re willing to question and evolve our views on what truly makes a strong, effective team.