Patrick Cescau
A Chair’s perspective

patrick-cescau_760x677Throughout my career I have passionately advocated for an authentic company culture that values equal opportunities and encourages a balance of different perspectives, backgrounds and skills around the table. Out of this comes a richness of experience and innovation, better decision making, an engaged workforce, and more often than not, a more successful company overall.

Diversity doesn’t happen by accident though; it requires hard work and I am proud that this is something IHG has always strived for. As a global hospitality business, we place great importanceon ensuring colleagues working in our hotels and offices reflect the diversity of our guests, owners and local communities. Actively demonstrating that there is fair opportunity for people to progress their careers is equally critical – and this starts with setting an example from the very top of the business.

The composition of IHG’s Board requires a constant evaluation of what’s required both now and in future to support the company’s needs. Appointments are based on individual merit, with a focus on maintaining an effective balance of knowledge and skills, diversity of style, character, gender and perspective, and geographical representation. This approach extends to our Executive Committee and is something I believe plays an integral role in creating a powerful wider senior leadership team.

Undoubtedly, we want to go further. IHG’s business spans more than 100 countries and nearly 5,800 hotels, and therefore change can take time. We recognise that we still don’t have enough women in Hotel General Manager (GM) and operations roles, and we are committed to changing that, whilst continuing to increase the diversity of our leadership team more broadly.

We have a Global D&I Board, chaired by IHG’s CEO Keith Barr, which was created to ensure we keep moving forward to strengthen a culture of inclusion, increase the diversity of leadership and talent, and make sure we put the right processes around our actions. This includes effective recruitment and talent retention strategies, flexible working commitments, and the expansion of popular Employee Resource Groups and mentoring programmes in local markets.

One example is RISE, a programme created to ensure female leaders are given the network and support they need to achieve their ambition of becoming a GM. The 12-month programme, which also gives mentees valuable opportunities to develop and grow, piloted in 2018 and has now launched in markets across all three of IHG’s operating regions. To improve decision making and how we work with one another, a programme is also rolling out to provide all corporate colleagues with inclusive leadership and unconscious bias training.

We recognise the need to promote wider change in our industry too, and IHG has committed to several important initiatives. We are a member of the 30% Club, which includes a commitment to maintaining at least 30% female representation in our senior leadership teams. In addition, we have signed up to Women in Hospitality’s Diversity in Hospitality Travel and Leisure Charter – a 10-point action plan to ensure that D&I remains a priority, and that we openly track progress.

It is a very powerful thing when a company environment is truly understanding of everyone and unafraid of difference. Clearly stated actions and targets are important measures of progress, but businesses will in the end be defined by the authenticity of their culture. Diversity in the workplace requires an ongoing thoughtful and varied approach that is considerate of how, as individuals, we understand, value and respond to things in different ways. Ultimately, it is about fairness and a sense of belonging, recognising the value in everyone and reaping the benefits that this brings.