Tourism and hospitality companies in Finland are facing a serious challenge of lack of qualified employees as Finland is opening its borders to international arrivals again after covid-19. Many tourism and hospitality employees have changed careers due to layoffs and the long-lasting uncertainty the industry is undergoing. Work-based immigration and inclusion of international graduates into Finnish job market are seen as key elements in responding to the needs of the Finnish tourism and hospitality companies. However, are Finnish companies ready to change their organisational cultures to be more inclusive?
Authors: Huy To & Jaana Häkli
When it comes to tourism and hospitality industry, diversity is an essential factor as it is the industry where different individuals around the globe meet. In a professional context, diversity often goes in tandem with inclusion, and they are often abbreviated as D&I. Regarding tourism and hospitality industry in Finland, diversity and inclusion are still considered to be at its inception. Many Finnish companies have recognised the importance of diversity but have not paid enough attention to inclusion efforts; many have started diversity and inclusion journey for a while but are inept at diffusion of knowledge and values about diversity and inclusion; or many have not even embraced diversity and inclusion at all. Research on diversity and inclusion in the tourism and hospitality industry in Finland has shown these facts which should be kept in mind if tourism and hospitality organisations in Finland want to improve their organisational culture.
Diverse workplace to be turned into inclusive workplace
According to the research results (To 2021, 54-55) 95% of students who are also working in tourism and hospitality industry have an interest in working for a diverse workplace for various reasons. Diversity stimulates creativity and innovation; diversity represents different types of customer segments, enabling better understanding of customers; and diversity helps employees learn different skills and knowledge from others. They also recognise the importance of inclusion in the workplace and in development or organisational culture. Therefore, students as employees or future job seekers want to work for a workplace that is not only diverse but also inclusive. Companies need to start to open their doors more to international graduates and they need to be more open to diversity among staff. Additionally, companies need develop their corporate culture into being more inclusive if they want to engage their staff members into the company in the long-run and avoid constant changes in work force which is a common problem in tourism and hospitality industry in Finland. (To 2021, 54-55, Ruuskanen 2021.)
Myers (2021) has put the two terms figuratively: Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. It can be deduced that the party is a metaphor for the organization, and the entire former part of the mantra refers to the efforts of an organization to hire people who represent different layers of diversity. Being asked to dance denotes to the fact that these people are given chances to act. Individual ways of dancing vary, and so do individual potentials, viewpoints, experiences, and approaches. Therefore, inclusion takes a step further, ensuring that every person who has been invited to the party is asked and feels comfortable to dance with the unique dancing patterns.
In this regard, companies that are merely focusing on diversity should shift their direction towards cultivating inclusion. It is highlighted that inclusion is to be prioritised over diversity. Diversity does not seem to work without inclusion because diversity is just a representation while inclusion makes this representation work thanks to a sense of belonging, a high level of motivation, and a feeling of being valued. Those companies that attach great importance to inclusion tend to at the same time embrace diversity in order to further advance inclusion in their organisation. Hence, inclusion could play a role in managing diversity, but diversity may not bring about inclusion.
A weak sense of connection between employees and their organisation
Most students who are also employees in different tourism and hospitality companies feel included and very included in the workplace. However, only a quarter evaluate their organisations’ inclusion efforts as decent and effective. In this respect, much as employees feel included in the workplace, most of them do not feel a potent sense of connection with their organisation. (To 2021, 55.)
This gap may stem from the fact that a concrete inclusion policy has not yet been available. Many organisations, especially small- and medium-sized ones, seemingly fail to recognise the necessity of such a policy. They often feel that it is not difficult to manage and include e.g. a group of 15 people, and therefore an inclusion policy is redundant. Nonetheless, an absence of a concrete policy often leads to unconscious omittance and thus incomprehensive implementation.
Another reason is that organisations are not good at delivering the message to employees even though they have had and executed inclusion policies and programmes for a while. They are struggling with the problem of making their inclusion policies and programmes easy, approachable, and understandable to every organisational member. In this regard, there is an urgent need of inclusion trainings which are aimed at helping the organisation in communicating and implementing the practices effectively.
Myers, V. 2021. The Vernā Myers Company. [Cited 13 Dec 2021]. Available at: https://www.vernamyers.com/
Ruuskanen, L. 2021. Koko maata koetteleva ravintola-alan työntekijäpula näkyy myös Itä-Suomessa – tuhansia alan työpaikkoja jää täyttämättä [Cited 13 Dec 2021]. Available at: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-12030426
To, H. 2021. From Diversity to Inclusion: A Transformational Strategy of Corporate Culture Development. Bachelor’s thesis. LAB University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lappeenranta. [Cited 13 Dec 2021]. Available at: https://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2021120924794
Huy To is Bachelor Student in LAB Tourism and Hospitality Management study programme graduating in December 2021.
Jaana Häkli is a senior lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences and works as a project specialist for TalentHUB South Karelia project.
Illustration: https://pxhere.com/fi/photo/1193657 (CC0)
Reference to this article
To, H. & Häkli, J. 2021. From diversity to inclusion – a wake-up call to Finnish tourism and hospitality companies. LAB Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/from-diversity-to-inclusion-a-wake-up-call-to-finnish-tourism-and-hospitality-companies/