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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

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

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An Open Letter to MFHA Members, Supporters and Industry Colleagues

Victims of Dylann Storm Roof who is in custody for the church shootings

Victims of Dylann Storm Roof who is in custody for the church shootings

Dear Members, Supporters and Industry Colleagues,

I invite each of you to join me and the MFHA Board of Directors in extending our condolences and prayers to the people of Charleston, South Carolina. We should especially remember the victim’s families, friends, and members of Emanuel AME church. It is moving to see such faith and forgiveness on display in the community during such a difficult time.

The killings at Emanuel AME are the latest, and by far the worst, in a series of high-profile tragedies that have occurred over a period of nearly two years. It has become disturbingly common to hear of Blacks being killed or otherwise mistreated, whether by hate-filled individuals, groups, or even officers of the law.

I look at these events from the viewpoint of a father, husband, grandfather, business leader, and man of faith. As a Black American, and father of three sons, the racial intolerance and violence being visited on people of color is of great concern to me and my family. Debra and I worry about the safety our sons. We speak with them frequently about the potential for conflict and are relieved and thankful when they return home safely. Our family is strong and we are blessed, but we have had our share of difficulties, many of which were irrefutably related to race.

In my position as MFHA President, I have spent nearly two decades working with companies, trade associations, community organizations, and the media to promote our industry as a great place for people of color to build a business of a career. I have spent thousands of hours, and traveled from coast to coast, advocating for diversity and promoting our industry as a place where people of all cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds to thrive.

I believe that in the wake of tragedies like Charleston people need to take action. The great Irish Statesman, Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

As the leader of our industry’s leading multicultural organization I feel compelled to speak out on this issue. Our industry is the largest employer of minorities outside of the federal government, so I believe that other groups and business leaders should speak out as well. We need to do our part in helping to build a nation that is more tolerant of difference, more compassionate, and more culturally intelligent about the way we engage with each other.

Howard Schultz of Starbucks showed leadership when earlier this year he launched “Race Together” in an effort to get people talking about race. While that initiative fell short of its goal, I applaud Starbucks for making an effort to engage its employees and customers in this important conversation. Acts of racial hatred, discrimination and intolerance are affecting our most valuable resource; our employees!

We’ll never know if anything could have prevented what happened at Emanuel AME. I hope that once the funerals and prayer vigils are over that we will continue to have a dialog about race and culture. I believe that culturally intelligent conversations and culturally intelligent leadership will lead to solutions. Solutions that I believe can bring our community together for the good of all America.

God bless the people of Charleston, the family members of the victims and Emanuel AME Church.

Sincerely,

Gerald “Gerry” A. Fernandez
President & Founder
MFHA

Our Multicultural Moment: A Challenge to Executive Leadership

TirbuteAd

Some of MFHA’s recent Multicultural Leadership Tribute ads featuring Leaders of Color and Executive Allies.

For nearly twenty years, the Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), in partnership with our corporate members and media partners, has led the effort to promote diversity and inclusion in our industry. We recognize that building Culturally Intelligent organizations – those that embrace the multicultural community, market effectively to it, and draw talent from it – is good for the industry and it is good business.

MFHA has made progress in many ways, and we continue to applaud the and innovative programs that some leading, proactive companies have developed. However, as the 2014 State of the Foodservice Industry Diversity Report confirms, our progress on talent recruitment and career development has improved very little in the past twenty years. Even as we have increased awareness and engagement on many fronts, the numbers of multicultural leaders in management ranks and other positions of leadership have improved very little.

Many companies that had aggressive diversity and inclusion programs in place several years ago cut back on those commitments during the recession and have yet to renew them. In addition, research confirms that a lot of companies are content to make minor, half-hearted efforts, but do not put the time and resources behind them to allow them to be really successful. Isn’t it time we got serious and did what is not only needed, but what is indisputably right and in the best interests of our industry?

The old saying that there is “no time like the present” rings true. We can continue to muddle along, give lip service to our industry’s challenges, or we can commit to really make a difference. Each of us has to determine if we are going to be a part of the solution or remain a part of the problem.

This is our “Multicultural Moment”; one that presents an opportunity to renew our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and building Cultural Intelligence.

Here are some specific, clear and unapologetic suggestions we should all embrace to take advantage of this “Multicultural Moment”. Here is our Challenge to Executive Leadership:

  • Get the facts about your own organization and be candid and open about them. If you have progress to make, acknowledge it. If you don’t have a strategy and plan in place, now is the time to put one together. Considering how long we have been aware of the need to promote cultural intelligence, our numbers are very poor when it comes to people of color and women in senior management and on boards. The numbers tell a story that is both clear and sobering. We simply have to do better!
  • Find out why your numbers are so low. Ask the hard questions. Conduct a complete and thorough review of the recruiting, development, and advancement numbers for White males, Women, and People of Color. Don’t hide the individual group numbers. Call out specifically how Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Women, etc. are doing as an individual group.
  • Challenge your leadership team, not just your human resource department. Ask them to come up with legitimate action steps to improve the numbers. Hold them accountable for minority talent development objectives.
  • Identify high potential talent and commit resources to developing them to their full potential. Minority advancement will not accelerate without an increased effort. It is no secret that, at one time, people in power took deliberate and specific steps to deny Blacks and other minorities’ access to basic American rights. It will take deliberate and specific action steps by this generation’s leaders, especially White men and women of good will, to level the playing field for people of color and women. It will not be popular, or easy, but it is the right thing to do and our businesses will benefit from it.
  • Meet with your peers and challenge each other and the industry groups you fund to develop SMART goals to improve the advancement of minorities and women in management.
  • Report your results inside and outside of your organization.
  • Engage ethnic and racial community groups and ask for their help.

If we are going to make meaningful, measurable progress, our executive and other senior leaders, including leaders of color, must do more. There will never be a better time to act. It’s really more about economic equality than just racial, ethnic, or gender equality. In a very real sense, this is our “civil rights moment,” both for our nation and our industry. The stakes are high for our companies, our industry, and our communities. Our future depends on our ability to create culturally responsive workplaces that can develop diverse talent into Culturally Intelligent leaders. The time to act is NOW.

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