News for NOW

Article: The importance of biodiversity in creating welcoming workplace environments

The seasons are easy to admire. As the earth tilts on its axis, altering which parts of the planet receive the sun’s most direct rays, the natural world around us undergoes truly remarkable periodic changes every year. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the world of work has undergone a similarly drastic transformation, our latest Nature of Work Festival newsletter on Habitats having looked at how COVID-19 has shaped and redefined our working environments.

This week we will be looking at the fourth of 12 elements as defined by Paul Miller and Shimrit Janes in their Nature of Work framework: The importance of Biodiversity in creating welcoming workplace environments.

While COVID-19 grabbed the headlines for much of 2020, the year was historic for many reasons. For minority groups, it was a milestone period that will be remembered for reasons both good and bad.

Be it the global momentum gathered by the Black Lives Matter movement, diversity campaigns in sports, and other growing conversations among key circles, the right kind of equality-centric noises have begun to get a little louder. Yet diversity gaps remain glaringly wide, and much work still needs to be done. 

The statistics speak for themselves…


Gender inequality:

  • Less than 5% of CEOs at S&P 500 companies are women, despite making up 47% of the US workforce.
  • Only 26.5% of seats in the United States Congress are held by women. 
  • The global gender gap won’t be eliminated for 135.6 years, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021.


Racial inequality: 

  • As of January 2021, the unemployment rate was highest among black Americans at 9.2%, compared to 5.7% among white workers. 
  • In the US, the median black family has $24,100 in wealth, the median Latino family has $36,050, while the median white family has $189,100. 
  • Five black people and 17 Latinx people were accounted for Fortune 500 CEOs in 2019 – less than 5% of the total.


What is perhaps lesser known is the fact that diverse workplaces offer employers a significant number of benefits – benefits which you may already be reaping in your organisation. As ecosystems rely on high levels of biodiversity to flourish, workplaces also rely on the inputs of a diverse range of participants to create vibrant and productive enterprises.   

Indeed, research shows that companies with greater diversity among executive teams tend to have higher profits and better long-term value. Meanwhile, inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time, while enterprises with low rates of both gender and racial diversity are 29% more likely to make less money.


“Having a diverse workforce that is empowered to work together and build relationships has a positive effect on decision making, information-processing, productivity, creativity and innovation within the organisation, ultimately affecting growth and the bottom line.” 

— Paul Miller and Shimrit Janes, Nature of Work: The New Story of Work for a Living Age


In this newsletter, we’ll be building upon our recent roundtable: Diversity & Inclusion Council: Identifying challenges in leadership and recruitment.

Here, we spoke with several high-profile executives from the hospitality industry about their experiences in relation to diversity, and how new approaches are needed to ensure workplaces may become thriving ecosystems capable of ensuring members of all backgrounds thrive.


“On the question of diversity in the hospitality industry, nothing really springs to mind, which is indicative. A lot of organisations have a checkbox to say 'yes, we’re an equal opportunities employer', but when it actually comes to hiring for leadership candidates, diversity is not even on the agenda.”

— Chris Mumford, Founder, Cervus Leadership Consulting


It is the leadership disparity that forms the crux of the problem in this sector. Hospitality organisations will try to have diverse workforces, yet the balance will often find those from minority groups in the majority of low-paying roles.

Attempts have been made in the past to correct this. Many companies, perhaps even yours, have adopted mentorship programs that try to pair those in leadership with those who are new to companies or in lower positions. However, these often suffer from common issues.


“Mentor-mentee relationships can be successful, but they have to be built on a personal connection. There has to be a social connection – they must have the same views and values, which isn’t easy to find, and randomly assigning people in these schemes therefore won’t always work.”

— Christopher Henry, Co-Founder & CEO, Majestic Hospitality Group


“Approaches around diversity of people have a tendency to reflect wider society’s overarching attitudes to social equity, with organisations either lagging or just ahead of social norms, despite growing evidence of the benefits to individuals, teams, organisations and communities, not to mention the effect on equity across wider society.” 

— Paul Miller and Shimrit Janes, Nature of Work: The New Story of Work for a Living Age


Despite this, there are many examples of companies going beyond the basics and placing diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their priorities. 

Choice Hotels, for example, launched the Choice Hotels Owners African American Alliance (CHOAAA) in December 2020, dedicated to providing ongoing representation, support and advocacy for underrepresented groups in the industry. Further, the company also runs an emerging markets franchise development program that has financially supported over 250 franchise agreements with underrepresented minority and veteran entrepreneurs. 

While Choice Hotels’ efforts are exemplary, it is unfortunately a relatively rare example of dedicated commitments to diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry. 

In the eyes of Ashli Johnson, Vice President of Education, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, who also spoke at our roundtable, systemic change is needed in order to instill such efforts on a widespread basis.


“We all have objectives and benchmarks of our job, and if we don’t achieve those established goals, we no longer have a job. Once we get to the point where we can establish within organisations that inclusion and equity is a part of your role and your specific job function, and therefore a performance metric, that’s when we’ll start to see the rumblings of transformational change.”

— Ashli Johnson, Vice President of Education, Asian American Hotel Owners Association


Yet this should not be viewed as a burden. As we have already discussed, those organisations that embrace inclusion are able to create cultures of belonging where employees have the backing to deliver their best work, in turn driving growth for their respective companies.


“For individuals, teams, organisations and the wider living system of work to all thrive, true biodiversity, where people feel and know they belong, is crucial at all levels. Without it, social equity isn’t possible; social mobility can’t happen; citizen participation is diminished. The full spectrum of services and products that people need and want isn’t available, organisations become stagnant – and people’s ability to succeed in work is severely challenged.” 

— Paul Miller and Shimrit Janes, Nature of Work: The New Story of Work for a Living Age 


Have you considered how your organisation could benefit from a more diverse workforce? This issue and more will be discussed in detail at the upcoming Nature of Work festival.


Further reading: