EP Insights: Nicholaus Harrington

Diversity: starting from the top

Hospitality is more than providing a product or service. We’re a people orientated industry, from the development and effective potential of human resource, to curating the customer experience and satisfying our markets’ changing needs and desires, we create with others in mind. Our accessibility to customers and stakeholders is a tool for which I believe the industry can have a greater impact.

For many, the idea of working in hospitality evokes notions of unenthused burger flipping, exhausting concierge or barista work in a local start-up, labelled, “low skill work” as opposed to having low entry barriers for employment in frontline positions. The ease of accessibility in hospitality careers is branded as a negative, resulting in a misrepresentation of industry jobs consisting of disposable and undervalued labour. In order to change this narrative, we must consider how we can use accessibility as a tool to benefit business environments.

We talk a lot about making sure that the experiences we offer to guests are accessible to as many people as possible, but are we making hospitality careers with longevity accessible, and who to?

Whilst having nearly double the unemployment rate, people with disabilities are active job seekers, and can provide the same exemplary quality of service as fully abled individuals, given that business invests resources appropriately. Ex-offenders are also looking for opportunities that enable reintegration and sustained employment, proven to reduce recidivism rates. Within prisons, vocational education and qualifications are attainable, meaning individuals enter the industry with appropriate abilities to be functional employees. With this in mind, why is it that we don’t have industry wide practices that encourage the training and employment of disadvantaged communities, when there is an institutionally supported recruitment method?

Organisations such as Crumbs and practical experience offered by The Clink have led in this front, providing experiential and administrative training for disadvantaged adults, allowing them to build confident independence in finding employment in our industry. The burden of high turnover rates would be alleviated by recruiting and supporting these communities since they’ve shown to have better loyalty and reliability to businesses whilst also filling the skill shortage hospitality suffers from as a result of high turnover.

Diversifying recruitment has benefits beyond filling a vacancy, government reports show that public response to employing ex-offenders is 81% positive and has provided businesses access to government contracts. Whilst acting with good ESG rating shouldn’t have to be incentivised, the mutual benefits of investing into people from differing or unconventional backgrounds should be recognised and increasing their accessibility to our industry will only improve this.

There are lots of tools and communities that provide brilliant information and networks for existing leaders, but with disparity, generally speaking, in education for younger people, how do we get in front of those looking to choose a career path? I believe apprenticeships and scholarships are a great way to go. Providing more industry supported routes into hospitality, only serves to legitimise the professional development we see young people seeking in employment. This also increases accessibility to those who are unable to pursue further education in our field, most notably minority communities of colour.

Given that I’m in my third and final year at the Edge Hotel School, I can attest to the privilege of education and training. Practical experience and academia has given my peers and I a newfound appreciation for the industry, and in my case, a desire to improve its reach by promoting the career potential to younger audiences and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I’ve always strongly believed in the potential of the hospitality industry as a whole to do more when it comes to fair and diverse representation especially in managerial positions and believe that increasing our accessibility will allow us to access different sources of labour, reduce the skill gap, and improve diversity throughout working divisions, addressing some of the substantial issues of our industry.