Businesses should treat every employee and applicant equitably, says Cosmos Tours & Cruises chief executive Giles Hawke

I recently attended my daughter’s school, where she and her class have just been reading a book called Something Else by Kathryn Cave. The theme of the book is treating others as individuals who are unique and valuable in their own right, even if they are different from you. It’s about values such as tolerance, respect, inclusiveness and empathy, and is a great introduction to junior school. And it’s a fun and thought-provoking read, whatever your age.

Viva la différence

In a world in which there seems to be an increasing amount of conflict and disagreement between people who are ‘different’, it is good to step back and reflect on the fact that everyone is different. But that shouldn’t stop basic human values prevailing or stop us remembering that at almost every level, we are all more alike than different.

It also made me think about the various awards, events and groups that raise awareness of issues such as sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism and any other ‘ism’ out there.

I applaud the work done by these bodies and believe it is important for issues to be addressed and dealt with. At the same time, we need to take a broader perspective and reflect on the more fundamental human values that underlie our attitudes.

I believe people can and should be able to succeed whatever their sex, race, sexual preference, age or disability. What I don’t believe, however, is that we should employ or promote people specifically because of one of these factors.

Diversity is key

In the workplace, diversity and breadth are key, alongside ability and attitude. Someone’s gender or sexual preference is irrelevant when I am looking at whom I want to work with or for – my focus is more on their skills.

I have spoken to a few people recently who insisted that they would never want to ‘get the job’ because they were female or straight or gay. They would rather be the best person to do that job.

The key for businesses to attract employees is to demonstrate an open and progressive approach and offer good conditions such as flexible working.

Adopting transparent recruitment practices, monitoring attitudes and behaviours, and championing achievement are part of this approach to recognising and rewarding talent.

I’m not suggesting that sexism, ageism or any other type of discrimination has disappeared, but in an industry that is built on understanding and celebrating that which is different, we can be, and possibly are, leading the way in ensuring we treat every single person as a valuable and contributing individual.

And just in case anyone thought this might be getting a little heavy, we may want to take further inspiration from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong. You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody. You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals!
The crowd: Yes. We’re all individuals.
Brian: You’re all different.
The crowd: Yes. We’re all different.
Man in crowd: I’m not . . .