Apoorva Gandhi’s official title is Vice President, Multicultural Affairs, for Marriott International Inc. Boiling that title down to its essence, Gandhi is keeper of Marriott’s “culture of inclusion.”
His is a big job, encompassing 4,000 hotels and 300,000 associates worldwide. Gandhi is charged with considering the needs of not only diverse guests and meetings, but also diverse employees, owners and suppliers. So what better person is there to offer some ideas on ways meeting planners can be culturally confident and ensure they are taking care of everyone?
Here are a few of Gandhi’s suggestions. He is also happy to field questions from meeting planners. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read all about it
Books about cultural differences provide a world of information. Gandhi recommends “Kiss, Bow and Shake Hands” by Terri Morrison (www.kissbowshakehands.com). “An amazing book — after you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down,” he said. Morrison covers the world country by country, devoting five pages to each. She briefly describes each country’s culture and etiquette, particularly what is and isn’t appropriate in business and social situations. Other good sources of information are reports and white papers found on the Web, although Gandhi advises finding multiple sources to ensure information is accurate.
Reach out to those who represent diverse audiences
Marriott partners with a number of organizations dedicated to minority or diverse audiences, including the National Urban League; veterans organizations; and LGBT groups. Meeting planners can also reach out to such groups as sources for educational materials and training. In some cases, organization websites can provide valuable information. In reaching out to these groups, “the key is to listen,” said Gandhi.
Hire a third party to do cultural training
Marriott uses RW3 CultureWizard, which offers online cultural learning resources and integrated, blended learning models. Company founders Michael Schell and Charlene Marmer Solomon also have written a number of books, including “Managing Across Cultures: The Seven Keys to Doing Business With a Global Mindset.”