The issue of cultural diversity is increasingly attracting broad attention from academics and industry, not only in the United States but also globally.
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Current globalization trends coupled with international labor migration has meant that societies, nations and organizations are becoming increasingly cross cultural (Richardson 2005), thus the need for stakeholders to adopt and harness strategic initiatives to leverage diversity as well as enhance performance and effectiveness (Ying-Chang et al 2011).
The hospitality industry, in particular, is at the core of recent developments in globalization and labor migration as can be witnessed by the increasing mobility of the workforce and attempts within the industry to expand business operations to international frontiers (Pinilla 2002). Hence, the importance of developing strategies to manage cultural diversity becomes a central guiding pillar for the industry.
Aim & Structure
Assuming a case study approach, the present paper aims to address how Hilton Hotels Corp employs strategic initiatives in recruitment and training of multi-cultural workforce with the view to gain competitive efficiencies and enhance organizational effectiveness through managing cultural diversity.
The paper begins by briefly explaining the various facets of cultural diversity and how they apply to the hospitality industry, followed by a brief overview of why organizations need to manage cultural diversity and if such management can translate to competitive advantage.
The main focus of the paper, however, will be to critically analyze how the Hilton Hotels Corp uses the recruitment process and training initiatives as strategies to manage cultural diversity and hence gain competitive advantage. The paper will conclude by providing some recommendations that can be used by industry players to enhance competitiveness through leveraging diversity.
At the most basic level, cultural diversity “…reflects the characteristics that make one individual culturally different from another…The difference encompass patterns of lifestyle, values, beliefs, ideals and practices, race, ethnicity, national origin, language and religion” (Richardson 2005, p. 24).
In organizational context, cultural diversity encompasses all groups of people at all echelons of the organization, and requires that employees are empowered with the capacity to pursue their career aspirations without being unnecessarily inhibited by the aforementioned variables, which are largely considered as irrelevant to individual performance (Kautish 2012).
Cultural Diversity at Hilton Hotels Corp
Before going to the basics of how Hilton manages cultural diversity, it is imperative to note that international workers are a mounting category of employees in the hospitality industry, primarily due to globalization, market expansion, high employee turnover and skills shortages (Devine et al 2007).
Owing to these factors, culturally diverse workers form an invaluable new source of labor for the hospitality industry, as long as they are adequately integrated into the industry and properly managed. This prerogative, in my view, elucidates the importance of cultural diversity management within the hospitality industry.
With more than 540 hotels and resorts in over 78 countries across six contnents (Hilton Hotels & Resorts 2012), the Hilton Hotels Corp is undoubtedly one of the leading hospitality organizations in the world.
The hospitality chain has its roots in the United States, but it has effectively used the concept of franchising to expand to all corners of the world, including popular locations such as New York, London, Paris, Beijing, Toronto and Sao Paulo, among others (Ying-Chang et al, 2011).
The noted expansion implies that Hilton operates in culturally diverse geographical contexts and employs increasingly culturally diverse workforce to manage its operations and serve customers worldwide. The analysis section of this paper will focus attention on how this hotel chain uses manages cultural diversity through recruitment processes and training initiatives to enhance competitive efficiencies.
The Need to Manage Cultural Diversity
Pinilla (2002) argues that “…the new labor and economic contexts have led the hospitality industry to face an increasingly culturally diverse workforce” (p. 26). Such cultural variations, if not properly managed, can destroy the harmonious functioning of global hospitality organizations and also render labor and employment practices in these firms sub-optimal (Stevens & Ogunji 2011).
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More importantly, research has found that a diverse workforce, if properly managed, provides organization with an expanded pool of talent and experience which not only drives innovation and change but ultimately leads to competitive advantages (Adu-Febiri 2006; Cox & Blake 1991).
Consequently, there exists compelling evidence that managing cultural diversity in contemporary firms is one of the most important components of organizational success.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Managing Cultural Diversity
Among the advantages, a stream of emerging literature demonstrates that hospitality organizations that have adopted cultural diversity management as part of the business strategy are more successful and are able to attain competitive advantage over others, particularly in terms of employee empowerment, creation of a corporate culture that is respectful and inclusive, and facilitating employees to employ their unique knowledge to expand the organization’s knowledge base (Cox & Blake 1991; Richardson 2005).
Conversely, according to these authors, organizational effectiveness is put in jeopardy if managers are incapable of managing cultural diversity, more so in limiting the organizations’ capacity to embrace the innovation that is extremely fundamental for developing and maintaining sustainable competitive efficiencies.
Extending on these studies, Stevens and Ogunji (2011) argue that managing cultural diversity assists hospitality organizations to penetrate broader competitive arena and compete in diverse markets, not mentioning that it makes it possible for these organizations to promote flexibility and rapid response to organizational change.
Additionally, effective management of cultural diversity prevents workplace discrimination and prejudice, enabling employees to make full use of their skills and capabilities for optimal output (Roper & Brookes 1997).
Lastly, effective management of cultural diversity enhances the organization’s ability to respond to cultural preferences in local markets, improves decision making processes through wider choice of perspectives and more thorough analysis, and enhances organizational flexibility to adequately respond to multiple demands and shifting business environments (Richardson 2005; Kautish 2012).
Among the disadvantages, cultural diversity is known to cause communication difficulties (Shen et al 2009), increases ambiguity, complexity and confusion (Adu-Febiri, 2006), limits management’s choice in decision making, affects technology transfer and management ideology and value system, and triggers over generalization of organizational policies, strategies, practices and procedures (Kautish 2012).
Analysis & Discussion
This section analyze and discuss how Hilton Hotels Corp, based in the United States but running hospitality subsidiaries across six continents, employs strategic initiatives in recruitment and training to manage its workforce with the view to gain competitive efficiencies and enhance organizational effectiveness.
The main objective “…of effective recruiting is to attract strong candidates who are prepared both to meet the agency’s strategic goals and priorities and to work in the agency’s environment” (Building and Maintaining 2000, para. 16).
Hilton Hotels Corp (thereafter referred to as Hilton) has realized that broadening its employee base and enlisting a diverse workforce not only expands the organization’s pool of talent, innovativeness, experience, and insight, but also provides it with the requisite inputs to excel in the international business environment (Wise, 2011).
Consequently, the organization has developed recruitment policies and processes that guarantee representation of minority groups and individuals with unique talents across diverse cultures. In its franchising policy, Hilton has embedded a recruitment strategy that avails an opportunity for locals to manage and work its numerous franchises, provided they operate within the guidelines set by the organizations and business strategy (Ying-Chang, 2011).
As such, local managers and employees are better placed to fulfill the demands and expectations of customers, providing the organization with a competitive edge over other industry players.
Such a recruitment policy, according to Ma & Allen (2009), enables the organization to reduce costs associated with recruiting expatriates to run local hotel franchises, and also enhances the organization’s capacity to recruit employees of diverse national backgrounds and host country elites.
Hilton’s recruitment policies are totally cultural sensitive, implying that candidates are recruited based on their qualifications regardless not only on their age and gender, but also on their religious orientation, ethic origin and nationality (Ying-Chang et al 2011).
The organization takes cognizance of the fact that as multiculturalism of workforce increases and global demand for cultural-specific services from consumers intensifies, the development and implementation of culturally sensitive recruitment techniques becomes more than ever valuable and important for players in the hotel and hospitality sector.
By recognizing that cultural differences exist between the recruiter and potential candidates, particularly where such recruitment is done on ethnic minority groups, it is important for management to undertake consultative and participative recruitment process in line with Holfstede’s small power distance attribute of his cultural dimensions (Holfstede et al 2010).
Additionally, as is the norm in Hilton’s recruitment policies, managers recruiting from diverse backgrounds should be encouraged to use variable management and organizational behavior techniques which harmonize the varying needs of culturally diverse candidates to prevent any form of discrimination and to ensure that they are able to identify talent regardless of the individual’s cultural background (Seymen 2006; Ma & Allen, 2009).
This implies that authority and decision-making in recruitment process must be decentralized to local subsidiaries in line with one of Holfstede’s small power distance attributes in his cultural dimensions (Holfstede et al 2010).
At Hilton, recruitment is not done from the head office; rather authority to recruit key staff to run international subsidiaries is decentralized to the local managers in a bid to achieve competitive efficiencies through the recruitment of local members of staff, who are undeniably well versed with local business trends and practices (Ying-Chang et al 2011).
Such a recruitment initiative facilitates the selected workers to not only respond effectively to cultural preferences in local markets but also bring into the organization high levels of creativity and innovation through diversity of perspectives and less emphasis on centralized rules (Seymen, 2006).
Training forms one of the foremost strategies that organizations use to assist employees to increase awareness and sensitivities to culturally diverse groups with the view to enhance organizational competitiveness and success (Seymen 2006; Adu-Febiri, 2006).
To borrow from the power-distance dimension of Holfstede’s cultural dimension, minority workers may have the perception that they are less powerful and, as such, expect organizational power and authority to be distributed unequally within the organizational context (Holfstede et al 2010).
However, a strand of existing literature demonstrates that training initiatives have been successful in empowering minority employees to give their best without regard to existing cultural differences (Devine et al 2007) , hence contributing to competitive advantage.
The Hilton Hotels Corp engages in bi-annual training of employees to recognize cultural differences among the workforce and to utilize them to generate advantages for the hospitality organization. In these forums, the management is involved in training employees to respect ethnic, racial, religious, gender and age differences, along with their contractual, training and employing practices (Groschl, 2011).
This form of training has been instrumental in lowering employee turnover and increasing productivity in the hospitality industry (Pinilla 2002). Formal training in cultural diversity issues has also enhanced organizational flexibility by empowering culturally diverse employees to respond effectively to multiple demands and shifting work environments that are characteristic of the hospitality industry (Richardson 2005).
Apart from the bi-annual training sessions for employees, the management of different Hilton franchises publishes and disseminates booklets and brochures intended to form the basis of employee behavior during interactions within a multicultural context.
Rules of engagement as well standards of etiquette are well espoused in these mediums of communication to enable the workers deal with variant situations as they arise in the work environment, leading to better cooperation and collaboration among culturally-diverse employees as well as superior customer satisfaction (The Hilton Family, n.d.).
In addition, the hospitality organization trains foreign employees on the use of a second language, which may be the official language used by locals. Such training, according to Ma & Allen (2009, facilitates faster integration between management expatriates and local members of staff, leading to achievement of competitive efficiencies.
Conclusion & Recommendations
This paper has sufficiently demonstrated how Hilton Hotels Corp has been able to employ recruitment and training strategies to manage cultural diversity.
Many organizations within the hospitality industry are increasingly becoming multicultural due to globalization trends and international migration of labor, hence the need for hospitality organizations to engage such strategies to achieve competitive advantage and effectiveness.
However, it is recommended that the management of Hilton engage local stakeholders in creating an environment of inclusion and values differences, and in assigning adequate recruitment and training resources to existing diversity programs.
Additionally, it is imperative for the hospitality organization to make employees an integral component of its efforts to plan and implement cultural diversity initiatives.
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