Fostering inclusiveness at work
The Venues Collection international director of sales, Lilu Fu, reflects on her personal experience and the values of a culturally diverse team.
When you think of inclusion at work, what comes to mind first? How is inclusivity manifested at The Venues Collection?
The Venues Collection team comes from all walks of life, with different cultural backgrounds and professional experience – that extends from the sales and management teams in our Barangaroo office to the multiple operations teams at our venues.
There’s a real sense of respect and collaboration. And I believe when people feel accepted and valued they are empowered to share their voice. This collaborative environment, where everyone can contribute and share their viewpoint, helps us to create better experiences for our clients.
We’re like a big family. We all come from different cultures – for example, my cultural background is Chinese – but we work together as one team and when clients come to our venues and restaurants it’s as though they are guests at our home.
I also think this reflects Sydney, which is home to so many different cultures and ethnicities.
In the post-Covid era, accessibility and flexibility are an increasingly important part of talent management and fostering inclusiveness at work. Is this something you’ve witnessed?
Across our different venues we all have different work patterns. Some of us are part time or casual, and others work full time or have flexible work arrangements. I personally have a hybrid work arrangement, where I work remotely for a few days and meet with the operations teams at our Watersedge venue at least once a week.
I joined The Venues Collection in 2022, shortly after Australia reopened its international borders. This presented a great opportunity to reconnect with the industry, particularly the international markets, because as a sales person my time is predominantly focused on reconnecting with our inbound clients. My time is completely flexible, however it has to work for the business too.
For me, inclusivity and diversity in the workplace means giving people the freedom they need to get the job done. Whether we’re in the office or working remotely, what’s important at The Venues Collection is that we all come together as a team. There’s a sense of trust and empowerment, which shapes our workplace culture.
And with the talent crunch our industry is currently facing, flexibility and openness are more important than ever when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.
What benefits have you seen from such a culturally diverse workplace?
It has really helped us exceed the expectations for our clients, especially when I consider some of our international clients who may not expect us to have the market knowledge or sensitivity to understand certain cultural nuances. This has helped give us a competitive edge, particularly when hosting international groups.
On a weekly basis, I meet with the operations team at our venues and we run through our upcoming events and the international groups in the pipeline, and we work together to craft a bespoke experience for the client. We all have different experience and provide a different viewpoint, but we respect each other and work towards that shared goal.
Earlier this month we harnessed the cultural diversity of our team to curate a dining experience for 50-plus delegates of Tourism Australia and Business Events Sydney’s Asia Mega Famil Showcase, which included event planners from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.
Our team members at Watersedge and Harbourfront shared their cultural knowledge, providing input for menu creation and meal service, which allowed us to better cater to the diverse needs of delegates and deliver beyond expectations.
We created a bespoke menu for the Asia Mega Famil welcome dinner, which showcased the very best of Australian produce, while catering to the dietary and religious needs of the group. This included a series of seafood platters, a live sushi and sashimi station, as well as vegetarian options. Some of our team members were also able to use their language skills to communicate with delegates in their mother tongue.
There’s a lot of talk about what an inclusive workplace should be, but how do you actually achieve this on a day-to-day basis?
I think it’s about empowering your team to have a voice, and supporting them so they’re not afraid to make mistakes.
Creating a sense of belonging means everyone has responsibility and accountability, which leads to a collaborative environment where everyone can feel valued.