As we come to the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Basel Talal, Radisson Hotel Group’s Regional Manager for Saudia Arabia, Kuwait and Levant, reflects on how this is an ideal time for business leaders to think carefully about their company’s own inclusion policies and how best to inspire employees to embrace diversity among all their colleagues.
Respect for diversity in the workplace begins with good leadership, and good leadership starts with creating a sense of belonging for every member of a team. It means ensuring that every employee – from senior managers through to operational staff – feel they are an important part of a family, no matter the social backgrounds they come from, the cultures they practice, or the religious beliefs they hold.
We are all the sum total of where we come from, and there is much strength to be afforded to the organisation that recognises how powerful and impactful a united, diverse workforce can be. In particular, the best organisations are those that celebrate their people for their values and, in turn, allow those values to form part of the workplace ethos.
For example, I reflect on my own faith as a Muslim and the important role that discipline plays in Islam. I am very aware of how this has empowered me to deliver on the expectations of the leadership role I hold within the Radisson Hotel Group, managing 30 properties belonging to 30 owners, with close to 200 departmental heads and around 2,000 staff. In my case, my faith keeps me focused and strong, and I have easily been able to bring the beliefs I was raised on, into my workplace.
My faith – like many other religions – reminds me every day of the core strengths of good leadership: an ability to remain humble and down-to-earth no matter how high you might rise within an organisation. And to remember, in so many ways, the importance of the way you connect with staff down the line. As Islam says: “Treat others the same way you would like to be treated.”
Within our own corner of the hospitality industry, Radisson Hotel Group’s corporate culture relies on the fact that we have many different mindsets in one company. This is therefore embedded into both our HR policies and the promise we make to our guests, that is, the need to respect individual differences, life experiences, and the diverse world views of wherever our colleagues or guests come from.
By working together in this way, our group has been able to remain dedicated to building a truly global team of employees, in every location in which we operate. In turn, our employees are able to understand the diversity of the guests we serve in terms of their needs, and how we should adapt our operations to meet their requirements and expectations.
Having a diverse team also enables us to create places where every staff member can express his or her own authentic self, seize opportunities, voice their opinions and make decisions with confidence. I think this is crucial. We have also learnt that different perspectives result in different skill sets being brought into the workplace, which helps us to create memorable moments that have become one of our group’s key objectives.
Diversity in the workplace makes employees feel accepted, it makes them feel they belong and are valued, and it also makes very good business sense in reducing staff turnover.
At no better time can this diversity be embraced than when we celebrate our individual high days and holidays while sharing the meaning of them with our colleagues – the month of Ramadan being one such opportunity.
For example, when our Muslim team members on duty break their daily fast by having iftar or prepare themselves for the next day with suhoor, we often do this in team gatherings where non-Muslim colleagues are also invited. Likewise, when we celebrate Eid after Ramadan.
We also recognise that there are differences among Muslims themselves, both within and outside our organisation, with Islam being followed in countries as diverse as Malaysia, the Middle East, and Africa. Therefore, before Ramadan starts, we conduct surveys among our Muslim staff to ask which foods should be incorporated into our menus as these too differ from country to country. For instance, both Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton and Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence Cape Town have halaal-friendly restaurants, with the latter certified through the Crescent Rating Module facilitated by Cape Town Tourism. Pork products are cooked in a separate kitchen, while both hotels have been offering guests options of an iftar dinner or suhoor breakfast, which is also available as room service. Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence Cape Town will also be offering an Eid menu at R550 per person this year.
And just as our Christian or Hindu colleagues, for example, will pick up the extra load from their Muslim colleagues who may need to work shorter hours during Ramadan, so too will their Muslim teammates pick up the load whenever the holidays of other faiths fall into the yearly calendar.
There is no organisation on earth that can grow successfully without respect for diversity and inclusion. And as the world we live in becomes increasingly globalised with each passing day, it is time for business leaders to appreciate that they can capitalise on the values that different religions bring to the table. These are critical tools that can be used to bring people together. Both acknowledging and accommodating them in the workplace is important for the future of any business today, wherever in the world it may be situated.