The Dos and Don'ts of Diversity Training in the Attractions Industry
Diversity training for attractions is essential as companies aim to attract customers and future workers from diverse backgrounds whose needs and interests are varied, says Dr. Cecilia Orellana-Rojas, senior vice president of strategy & research of the National Diversity Council.
“According to a 2022 Statista survey, just under 70% of millennials in the United States enjoyed amusement parks,” she continues. “Given that millennials are more racially diverse than any generation before them, the amusement parks industry…should benefit by intentionally and strategically focusing on diversity training to continue to enhance employee skills and competencies needed to serve a growingly diverse audience.”
At Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R), diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) extends to all aspects of their organization, including attractions like Hersheypark, says HE&R Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Ferraro, who is also chair of HE&R’s DE&I Council.
Because of this, HE&R provides comprehensive DE&I training and resources for team members and have also introduced new programs like HUE (HE&R Unity & Equality), dedicated to connecting LGBTQ+ team members and allies through education, advocacy, and professional development.
“DE&I training…[is] a fundamental step for any hospitality company aiming to create a warm and welcoming environment for both our team members and our valued guests,” Ferraro says. “We are dedicated to playing our part and deepening our efforts in this critical space, ensuring that our hospitality experiences mirror the incredible tapestry of our diverse team members and guests.”
When it comes to starting or expanding on staff diversity training, Nicolle Figueroa Rosado, manager, education and strategy at the Big Break Foundation, advises starting by identifying what IDEA training is meant to accomplish, ensuring it has full buy-in at the executive level, and having a strategy in place.
“And then also following through on that strategy and measuring regularly and making adjustments as needed,” she adds. “IDEA training should never be a checkbox exercise or the only thing an organization is doing to foster equity. To create organizational change, IDEA training should be part of the solution, but not be the solution.”
Ferraro recommends having diversity training available year-round. “We believe in a continuous learning approach, offering ongoing resources and events that allow team members to deepen their understanding of DE&I, making it an integral part of our work culture,” she says.
Figueroa Rosado adds that diversity training should be customizable. “There is no one size fits all when it comes to IDEA,” she explains. “Organizations will want to look for a training plan that can be tailored to what it is that they do, so their services, their visitor experiences, their specific products, and that supports their IDEA goals and objectives. And for organizations that have a multinational presence, it’s also crucial that the training be customized to each location as IDEA does differ from culture to culture.”
What to Avoid
As for what not to do with diversity training, Dr. Orellana-Rojas says diversity training is likely to be unsuccessful if it overlooks the participants and their identities, their workplace requirements, and the organization’s strategic needs.
“Blaming and shaming methods are counterproductive,” she adds. “Diversity training must be approached from a place of courageous learning, safety, and engagement in critical thinking. [And] if there is no measurement and follow-up for the training, a shift in employee attitudes is unlikely.”
Figueroa Rosado advises avoiding making diversity training mandatory. “Mandatory training can show the organization is committed to IDEA, but on the other hand, it can have the opposite effect and inspire backlash and resistance,” she explains. “So, to counteract that, there should be clear, frequent, and consistent messaging around what the benefits of the training are and how the training supports the thought or direction and goal of the organization.”
Ferraro urges individuals to not forget the value of staff feedback and inclusion. “HE&R conducts periodic Employee Engagement Surveys and listening sessions to provide a platform for team members to voice concerns, offer suggestions, and ensure our messaging around our company goals and DE&I initiatives resonates with everyone,” she continues. “By thoroughly incorporating DE&I in all aspects of our company and fostering an environment of open dialogue and continuous learning, we ensure that diversity is not just a goal but a fundamental element of our identity at HE&R.”