Archive

Archive for July, 2015

Business Before Politics

straight talk blog gerry fernandez

Photo taken at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis

Almost daily, we hear of  public figures getting into trouble for something they said, posted or tweeted that was poorly phrased or the implications of which they simply didn’t fully consider. Donald Trump’s recent comments are an extreme example of what can happen if a leader says something controversial about an issue that involves race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Our business is not political but there are political aspects to our business. Whether you like it or not, employees inadvertently express their political views at their place of work and increasingly, so do customers.

Issues like the Confederate Flag or Immigration Reform are hot topics and people hold strong views on both sides. What may seem like innocent exchanges can easily turn into a shouting match and can lead to resentment, loss of morale, and even violence.

Here are 3 Cultural Intelligence tips to keep in mind as the summer progresses and the political season approaches.
#1. Coach your managers to discourage talk of politics and not to take sides in any debate.  Remind them that everyone has an obligation to stay focused on serving the guests regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political beliefs. Today’s workforce is much more diverse and so too are the political views they hold. Political conversations in the workplace can have adverse effects if we are not sensitive to the diversity of political opinions help by staff and guests.

#2. Be informed about current events and understand the issues ahead of time so that you can anticipate potential conflicts.  Think about the purpose of your email: You want readers to respond in a certain way, so use specific call-to-actions such as visit our website, shop the sale now, or sign up for specials.

#3.  Give your staff the language they need. to defuse a potential conflict with a co-worker, vendor or guest.
Certain words are inflammatory or political in nature. For example, undocumented is preferred vs. illegal; sexual orientation vs. sexual preference; people of color vs. minority; and these are just a few examples. Remind staff not to comment on these issues with guests or with co-workers. Tell them if someone does bring up an inflammatory or controversial topic, to ignore the comment, change the subject, or tell them you don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss this issue at work. If they persist, tell them to report it to the manager on duty and let the manager handle it.

Being Culturally Intelligent about how to communicate with employees and guests is just good business. In today’s multicultural, multi-generational world, managers need to know comments like Donald Trump’s may be offensive to many people. The more we stay focused on serving our diverse guests and leaving politics at home, the better we will be as an industry.

Our Time to Lead

A series of recent articles, research papers, and my visit to the city of Charleston, SC this past weekend, has convinced me that now is the time for our industry to get involved more aggressively to help young people find their place in the world of work.

The restaurant, foodservice and lodging industry relies heavily on young people between the ages of 16 and 24 to staff their operations. A recent study conducted by Measure of America and funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, found that an “astonishing one in seven American adolescents and young adults ages 16 to 24 is neither working nor in school.” That means there are 5.8 million young people who are “disconnected” and isolated from the very people and institutions they need to become productive members of society. One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas

The future of our industry and our country depends on the ability of young people to find employment that offers them the opportunity to achieve the American dream. If we aren’t successful, we run the risk of having large populations of disconnected, unemployed and uneducated youth with no hope and too much time on their hands; a recipe for disaster. Increasingly, some of these young people, like the alleged shooter in the Charleston church massacre, go online and end up being radicalized by hate groups such as the KKK and ISIS. ISIS and the Lonely Young American.

Our industry is the number one employer of women and people of color, yet we still struggle to develop them to their full leadership potential. At a time when economic conditions are still uncertain, and our industry is getting ever more competitive, we need to have a pipeline for developing future leaders. We are leaving money on the table by not maximizing the contributions of all our employees, especially immigrants and people of color. We need to take action now by investing the time and resources needed to address the conditions that prevent our companies, and their employees, from reaching their full potential.

I believe our focus should be on engaging leaders from all cultural backgrounds in a serious dialogue on how our industry can address the problem of disconnected youth. We need to work with leaders in federal, state, and local government, as well as civic, charitable, corporate, and non-governmental organizations. We need to unapologetically tell our story and promote the great contributions our industry makes to the lives and careers of people from different cultural backgrounds.

In addition, we need to change the debate away from issues like minimum wage and healthcare and focus our efforts on communicating that our industry is best-positioned to help get these young people employed. We need to tell the public that we teach people how to work on a team, how to run a business and we give them transferable skills; skills that can put them on a career trajectory to a middle class life or better.

There are other challenges facing our country and our industry. The lifetime risk of imprisonment for native born Black males is 68% vs. 24% for Hispanics and 17% for Whites. For young men that do not finish high school they are almost three times as likely to be incarcerated by age 35. This does not bode well for America if large portions of the workforce are uneducated or in prison. To quote the publisher of my local newspaper, The Providence Journal, “This is not about us and them, this is about us!” America and our industry cannot thrive if Blacks and Hispanics are failing at such high rates. “Incarceration and Social Inequality”

The recent shootings in Charleston were unimaginably tragic. However, history has taught us that senseless acts of violence will likely always be with us. While we may never eliminate racism, we cannot afford to do nothing. There is no better place to start than for America to get serious about engaging disconnected youth. We need to leverage technology, scholarly research, and the most effective community groups to develop the right solutions for our industry.

America needs to get serious about engaging disconnected youth. The foodservice and hospitality industry needs to take a leadership position in this discussion. We have the most to gain, in that we would be investing in our own future employees, while helping to build stability in the communities we serve.

Our industry also needs to get serious about addressing racial and ethnic leadership disparities in our businesses. If we don’t, our commitment to diversity and inclusion will be questioned by advocacy groups in the same way as Facebook, Amazon, and Google. “Inequity in Silicon Valley”

As we approach the 4th of July weekend, I call upon the leadership of our industry to get engaged with MFHA to help shape an aggressive agenda for reaching disengaged youth. Businesses need to leverage their innovative capability to help solve the education and employment problems faced by our industry. Companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Sodexo and Chipotle have all shown leadership on this issue. It’s time for the rest of the industry to step up and do their part. If we don’t, we could be in for a long hot summer. Email or call me with your thoughts. Let’s make Labor Day this year a symbol of hope and opportunity for America’s disconnected youth. gerry.fernandez@mfha.net 401.461-6343