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Meet the companies and individuals championing diversity in travel

Flight Centre attend Brighton and Hove Pride
Flight Centre attend Brighton and Hove Pride

Just how diverse is your business? Abigail Healy speaks to companies that are driving change and offering inspiration to others keen to make a difference when it comes to promoting diversity

Last month, TTG asked the question: Travel, do we have a problem? We asked the industry just how diverse it really is following research backed by PwC and The MBS Group that showed only 1 in 33 leaders in the hospitality and leisure industry identifies as being from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (Bame) background and that just 23.6% of board members in the sector are women.


It spurred us on to launch the TTG Diversity & Inclusion in Travel conference, taking place on July 3 in London. Since then, we have had lots of feedback from you on the subject. Of course, it’s one thing to raise an issue, but for those among you keen to make a difference in your own business, it can be hard to know where to start.


Over the following pages we’ll look at practical ways to think about making your business more diverse and inclusive. Firstly, with inspirational examples of travel companies that have taken action.


Then overleaf, legal guidance on recruiting in a way that embraces diversity and the benefits of doing so.

For the people

Flight Centre has an entire section of the business dedicated to its workforce, Peopleworks, headed up by Will Leonelli. It incorporates aspects such as recruitment, learning, a leadership academy, support, pay and benefits.


It comes as little surprise then that the company takes a progressive approach to diversity.


Leonelli says: “At Flight Centre, we believe everyone should have equal privileges, rights and opportunities. The company appreciates the enormous benefits that follow when employees can bring their whole self to work, such as increased engagement, collaboration, creativity and camaraderie.


“We truly believe total diversity in the workplace has a direct result on customer satisfaction.”


Part of this commitment to having a diverse workforce at all levels has seen Flight Centre create a four-pronged framework, Brighter Futures, with one of the four key elements to this framework focusing on its people.

This February, Flight Centre joined Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions Programme. The scheme ensures all LGBT+ staff are accepted without exception in the workplace.


Stonewall also helps Flight Centre to run events, supports networking and has set up a recruitment board to help the company attract prospective LGBT employees.


The company also has a focus on ensuring more women secure key senior roles. Fast Track is a programme designed to identify and mentor future senior leaders, both men and women, which currently comprises 57% women.


Flight Centre brand leader Liz Mathews joined the programme as a store consultant and it has allowed her to work in various roles across the business in preparation for her current role in which she heads up the retail brand across the UK.


Another, the Women in Leadership scheme, fits into the company’s overarching Talent Management Programme, with the first wave of participants completing a leadership initiative called Face Forward.


The programme also aims to guide women returning to work from maternity leave, with the introduction of flexible and remote working.


Leonelli explains that, to date, 36 women in upper-middle management have been enrolled in an out-sourced skills development programme for networking, goal-setting, communication, influence, assertiveness, executive presence as well as public speaking with confidence.


“Feedback has been excellent, and we are planning to run another two of these programmes in 2019,” he says. “Our key talent retention now sits at 95%.”

Group mentality

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) has identified that innovation and creativity are increased when the workforce is formed of individuals from multiple different backgrounds, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.


Danielle Grant, HR manager UK and Ireland, says: “We want RCCL’s cultural identity to reflect the make-up of the modern world – diversity and inclusion ensures that our focus is on the talent of our employees.”


One initiative that tackles this ambition within the company is five groups representing staff members with different backgrounds.


These are: LGBT+ (Pride); women’s group (Now); young professionals (YoPro); ability and wellbeing (Roar) and work-life balance.


Grant explains that the idea for these groups came from Grant Van Ulbrich in Miami, who wanted to champion diversity in the workplace.


“We established an International Diversity Council led by an HR manager and supported by a senior leader who reports directly to the RCCL Executive Diversity Council in Miami.”


Employees were then invited to attend a session and to sign up to lead a group if interested. The initial plan was to just have one Diversity & Inclusion group but, Grant explains, feedback during the session showed there was a demand for more. This led to the five groups that now exist, with the number of members ranging from 5 to 25, who meet every six weeks.


The HR team has monthly catch-ups with each cohort in the UK, while resource budgets for each category goes towards speakers and presenters to attend internal events and to fund other organisation-wide initiatives.


Having the five different groups means the needs of each can be responded to accordingly.


Grant says: “My main role is to ensure we are sensitive to different audiences with each group’s communications. I check internal communication and projects to ensure they will be perceived well and that the teams are confident with the messaging.”


The units all operate slightly differently too. For example, Roar sends out a Monday wellness email to everyone each week, while YoPro organises a monthly spotlight session with a leader to talk about career progression.


Grant says the groups have a number of benefits for employees who feel valued and listened to, meaning there is a lift in engagement, which contributes to better business results and effort from staff members. But they also benefit the wider business.


“In addition to boosting creativity and innovation, organisations that effectively promote diversity and inclusion are bolstered with enhanced leadership behaviours,” she concludes.

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