Diversity Champion: The Westin Calgary

Monday, July 15, 2013

Embracing Diversity in all of its Facets

Didier Luneau, GM at The Westin Calgary,
 spends a day in a wheelchair
to better understand what it is like to
live with a disability. 
As an organization committed to helping employers build more inclusive workplaces we have a tendency to focus on persons with disabilities – this is our mandate after all. However, embracing diversity means embracing many different groups of people alongside persons with disabilities, including women, visible minorities and immigrants, aboriginals and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) peoples.  

Being an employer committed to diversity means embracing all of these groups, and our Diversity Champion for the month of July, The Westin Calgary, does just that.

Didier Luneau, General Manager at The Westin Calgary, believes the core of diversity is showing respect to individuals. “We have a lot of passion at The Westin Calgary for diversity and inclusion,” he says, “we know the more diversity we have in the hotel, the better we can accommodate our guests and our associates.”

The Westin Calgary partners with Champions and other community organizations in Calgary for several reasons. To find diverse talent that can help meet their recruiting needs, to improve awareness about diverse peoples in the workplace, and to give back to the community in Calgary.
Posting jobs on the Champions employment board and working closely with our Employment and Retention Specialists to find the right people for the right job is just one way The Westin Calgary tries to find diverse talent.

“Calgary really is a melting pot,” says Susan Reeves, Director of Human Resources at the hotel, “our guests and associates come from all over the world and bring many different values, culture and possibilities to the workplace. All of our new associates go through diversity training when they begin – including disability awareness training.”

Recently, Didier spent an entire day in a wheelchair as part of the Chair-Leaders Enabling Access event in Calgary.

“It was a real eye opener for me,” Didier says. “People were friendly to me but I could tell that they were looking at me more for my disability than as another person. It was interesting to be in that position as I did not feel as recognized as usual. I felt more empathy rather than respect for what I am bringing to the table.”

His time in the wheelchair also meant Didier was able to personally experience and identify many of the barriers which exist in the hotel, both for a guest and an employee. He hopes that they will be able to make the necessary changes in the future.

As mentioned earlier, building an inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities is only one part of how The Westin Calgary embraces diversity. Over 34 different languages are spoken among employees at the hotel, representing numerous cultures from around the world. The hotel hosts different cultural days throughout the year to honour all the different heritages their employees come from.

At The Westin Calgary, embracing different cultures is seen as a smart business decision as it makes the hotel a more welcoming place for their guests and associates.  Hotel associates receive training in cultural etiquette and go as far as to encourage their cooks from different areas of the world to create meals based on their own culture. It’s all a part of making people feel at home by giving them a sense and a memory of where they are coming from.

The Westin Calgary is also keen to include women in roles they aren't traditionally represented in. For example, women are often underrepresented in areas like the kitchen and engineering/maintenance in the hospitality industry. The hotel strives to find and present opportunities to women who are interested in fulfilling these roles. The Westin also continually reaches out to the LGBT community. In fact, Starwood Hotels (The Westin's parent company) was the first hospitality company to become a partner with the Pride at Work initiative – a Canadian organization dedicated to improving the climate of inclusiveness for LGBT employees in the workplace.

Most of all, The Westin wants to contribute to building a better Calgary.

“The community is giving us a lot, and we want to give back as much as we can,” Didier explains.
Which is why The Westin Calgary partners with many organizations like Champions, Inn from the Cold, the Drop In Centre, Rupertsland Institute, Immigrant Services Calgary, La Table Des Chefs (The Chef Table), Calgary Children’s Foundation and many others to find creative ways to give back to the community.  

For four years in a row The Westin Calgary has experienced the highest employee satisfaction and engagement for all of the hotels in Starwood Canada. With their commitment to diversity and inclusion, it is easy to see why. 

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2 Comments:

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