The Importance of a Gay & Lesbian Employee Network

By Darrell Schuurman Co-Founder, Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce | August 09, 2010

I think that if you ask any senior executive of almost any company today, "What's your most important asset", they'll say their employees. Especially within the tourism industry, employees play the most important role in the services that you deliver. But in today's competitive industry, good employees are hard to find, and equally hard to keep. I'm not going to profess to be an HR expert, but employers that want to attract and retain employees have to understand and diversify their employee base and provide incentives that are of value to them.

Having a diverse work force is extremely important for any business. A diverse work force is able to respond to your diverse clientele. They have a better understanding of your customers, while bringing new ideas and creativity to the workplace. Successful companies are also understanding that diversity must include lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-persons (LGBT) employees, and that programs, opportunities and incentives must be put into place and exist for them as well.

Incentives such as bonuses and wage increase are important, but more and more employees are looking for reasons that speak specifically to them, that are of personal value. What you're seeing now is the establishment of employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide a group of employees an opportunity to create an internal network based on common attributes. What these groups do is encourage and establish a sense of diversity within the workforce. Examples of common ERGs include Women, Latino, and African American groups. And now, you're starting to see a growth in groups for the LGBT employees, often referred to as Gay and Lesbian Employee Networks (GLEN).

More gay and lesbian employees are living openly gay lives, and demand to be fully open and accepted at work. Unfortunately, in some countries it is still legal to be fired for being gay, so companies that are seen as embracing and empowering their LGBT staff, and where everyone can be open without fear, are seen as progressive and inclusive companies. The establishment of a GLEN is one way for companies to achieve this, and in turn stand a better opportunity to attract both employees and customers.

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), more and more big companies are creating gay and lesbian employee groups. From a survey of 400 large companies last year, 63% of them have a GLEN. Technology and financial-services companies have typically been quicker to introduce these groups, like IBM and Wells Fargo, but in the tourism industry there are also good examples like American Airline's GLEAM and Kimpton's K-GLEN.

So what is a GLEN?

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There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.