Posts Tagged ‘talent development’

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. 401.461-6343


And Then There Were Three

February 27, 2015 Leave a comment

And then there were three
In just six months from September 2014, the foodservice industry went from having six CEO’s that are Black/African-American, to just three. I emphasize three because according to the Census Bureau and the National Restaurant Association respectively, Blacks make up 13.2% of the U.S. population and 11% of the foodservice workforce. These numbers suggest, as do the data in MFHA’s 2014 Diversity Report:  State of the Foodservice Industry , that the industry is not developing Black employees for leadership opportunities commensurate with the percentage of Blacks that make up our workforce.

The departure of Clarence Otis (Darden), Steve Davis (Bob Evans), and most recently, Don Thompson (McDonald’s), illustrates just how quickly the “complexion” of leadership can change regardless of how committed to diversity and inclusion a company may be. If a company does not have a comprehensive plan to attract, develop, and retain multicultural talent, then its leadership will continue to be largely White, and the image of our industry will not change in the eyes of minority groups. How disparate is the representation of people of color in our industry? The following data provides a clear picture:
Restaurant General Managers                      Corporate Office Directors
White 64%                                                           White 87%
Hispanic 23%                                                       Hispanic 7%
Black 6%                                                              Black 2%
Asian 2%                                                              Asian 3%
*Source: 2014 State of the Industry Diversity Report, People Report & MFHA

If our industry is going to compete for top talent, then we have to be serious about developing employees of color. An industry executive told me recently that while he was attending The National Black MBA Conference, students laughed and said that they would never work for a restaurant company. They cited the company’s website and referenced the lack of people of color as one reason for not taking foodservice opportunities seriously.

MFHA’s 2014 Website Cultural Inclusiveness Assessment makes the case that leading brands use their websites to communicate a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. Websites of the top 100 restaurant brands, as named by Nation’s Restaurant News, were reviewed and each company was issued a letter grade ranging from A-F, based on how well they communicate cultural inclusiveness. Only 9 companies received a grade of B or better. MFHA members scored the best:
Company Website Grade
McDonald’s                  A
Yum! Brands                A

Darden                        B
Denny’s                       B
Golden Corral              B
Cracker Barrel             B

The foodservice industry is the second largest employer of minorities in America, so we do not have a diversity problem. What we do have is a development problem.

Our development challenges will only get better if leadership commits the financial resources to implement multicultural talent development initiatives and take the time to understand the nuances associated with engaging different cultural groups. Budgets reflect priority, so if your company has no budget for culture and inclusion then your company is not serious about it. The replacement of Clarence Otis, Don Thompson and Steve Davis as CEO’s of their companies was not about being Black.African-American. It was likely more about the performance of the company. Yet, performance has one color and that color is green.

I have said many times that diversity is about business. If our industry does not do more to develop our multicultural talent, then the image of our industry will suffer, and so too, will our bottom lines. Then, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.