Because work is a four letter word. But so is life. And so is love.

Gain Competitive Advantage: Use Diversity Competence

Hospitality is a very competitive industry. Fierce competition for guest dollars and employee talent is the norm. Where can you find the competitive advantage to pull ahead of the pack?

A clue lies in the meaning of the word “hospitality”. Webster defines hospitality as “the cordial and generous reception of guests socially or commercially”. True hospitality feels wonderful. When I am generously received, I want to return to that place. I’ll even be willing to spend more money or to work longer hours to be there.

But essential to my feeling “generously received” is that I feel accepted for who I am. The diverse aspects of me that make me me must be recognized and appreciated. If I feel that my uniqueness is only tolerated (or worse!), I certainly won’t feel “generously received”. And I won’t come back.

Each of us has unique aspects, which define who we are and of which we are proud. Diversity is the differences that make each of us unique and the commonalties that connect us. Diversity includes race and gender but it also includes age group, work style, education, marital status, where we were born and grew up. It includes everybody.

Successful hospitality organizations are diversity competent. Diversity competence is the ability to use diversity in the marketplace and in the workplace as a competitive business advantage. Diversity competence utilizes the opportunities and avoids the hazards that differences create.

Diversity competent organizations know how to make every guest and employee feel appreciated for who they are. But note: the word is appreciated, not tolerated. Tolerant behavior (Hello. How are you? Have a nice day) is not good enough.


Well think about it: have you ever felt tolerated? Have you ever felt appreciated? You know the difference. So do your customers and employees.

So if you had the choice between relaxing or working in a place where you felt appreciated versus a place where you just felt tolerated, where would you go?

Diversity competence is the skill of showing appreciation for the uniqueness of each person and then making a connection with that uniqueness. For example, everybody’s first name is unique for that person. When a hospitality professional smiles and says to me, “Oh, Jane! My favorite niece’s name is Jane”, we’ve made a connection. Skill at finding these connections links guests and staff and fosters that comfortable “mi casa es su casa” feeling which is so much a part of successful hospitality.

In the marketplace, diversity competence means attracting guests of all backgrounds and serving them in ways that maintain customer loyalty. Diversity competence creates an environment where each guest feels truly “at home” without the responsibilities of home.

In the workplace, diversity competence means hiring and retaining the most qualified applicants from all backgrounds, then maintaining a motivating work environment where everyone can be himself or herself and do their best work. From this place of acceptance, employees are better positioned to make every guest feel appreciated.

Diversity competence creates an atmosphere of comfort and cordiality. These are the essence of hospitality. So, in the hospitality industry, when you have diversity competence, you have a serious competitive advantage.

Dr. Jane Petrick, organizational psychologist, is the author of “Making the Connection: Getting Work to Work” and “Beyond Time Management”. A consultant and professional speaker with over 30 years experience, she has assisted organizations worldwide connect with the joy of healthy work. Send your workplace questions and comments for this column to her at Because work is a four letter word. But so is life. And so is love.

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