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For QSRs, the Culture of Inclusion Beckons [Expert Corner: Simma Lieberman]

For QSRs, the Culture of Inclusion Beckons [Expert Corner: Simma Lieberman]

Is your QSR adopting a culture of inclusiveness and diversity? Is this culture an ingrained mission supported by your restaurant’s highest levels or just something created out of necessity? This installment of Expert Corner is courtesy of Simma Lieberman, a speaker, trainer and consultant to the hospitality industry. This column examines ways to truly embrace a culture of diversity.

What is a diverse and inclusive culture?

Lieberman: In a diverse and inclusive culture, differences and commonalities are recognized, respected and leveraged to help individuals and organizations be more successful. People in the organization feel welcome and are able to make customers happy.

How does an organization create an inclusive culture?

Lieberman: It begins with the CEO understanding the business imperative of an inclusive work environment and then developing and implementing a culture change initiative.

Can this be done with existing resources?

Lieberman: It depends on the resources that are available. It’s best to bring in an outside consultant who is an expert in diversity and inclusion. Before dedicating additional resources, however, note that senior management needs to be committed to changing the culture. Nothing is more wasteful than spending money on a program that has no backbone because it is not supported at the highest levels.

How can an operator best utilize the diverse viewpoints and perspectives of a multicultural workforce?

Lieberman: Diverse viewpoints increase productivity and help develop alternative ways of solving problems. Also, a diverse workforce is a resource for developing relationships with a diverse market and increasing the customer base.

What types of exercises or training emphasizes team building for a multicultural team?

Lieberman: This depends on the organization. More important than exercises is to develop an inclusive culture at every level. I’ve found that a facilitated dialogue process increases understanding and communication across differences. People are more likely to share resources and be willing to help each other succeed.

How is a diverse urban area more challenging to serve than others? What is the training that is needed to best tackle diverse customer settings?

Lieberman: It’s more challenging because you need to know the cultural norms of different groups in order to meet their needs and prevent misunderstandings and miscommunication caused by people in close proximity who don’t know how to talk to each other. You need general diversity and bias elimination training as well as culture specific information. Employees need to be able to differentiate between stereotypes and cultural norms.

How can training be instrumental in building diversity awareness in hospitality?

Lieberman: People need to learn how to communicate and develop relationships with people who are different than themselves. They need training and experience.

What are some common mistakes that CSRs (customer service representatives) make that are not useful in building loyalty in a diverse setting and keeping customers?

Lieberman: Some mistakes are taking information about cultural norms and using it to stereotype people, acting suspicious of people who are different, making inappropriate jokes and not knowing enough about specific cultures, as well as assuming that one person represents the needs and thoughts of a whole group. CSRs can ruin a sale by not spending enough time building relationships and trying to get right down to business.

What is your top thought for QSRs in building a team that best serves a diverse clientele?

Lieberman: It has to start at the CEO level and be driven by executive leadership. It must be implemented at every level.

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Simma Lieberman creates dynamic workplaces where employees love to do their best work, and customers love to do business. She is internationally known for helping organizations develop and implement strategy for diversity and inclusion/culture change initatives. A 20-year veteran, Lieberman is the co-author of the book “Putting Diversity to Work, how to successfully lead a diverse workforce.”

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