Affirmative Action: Advancing diverse talent in foodservices

More than 40 years after the launch of affirmative action, only 16 of the Fortune 500 companies are run by people of color and that number includes two female CEOs.

?The population is growing with the biggest growth from minorities. Companies that want to compete for talent going forward will need to build cultural competencies to attract the right talent for their business,? says Gerald A. Fernandez Sr., president of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance.

Leaders in the foodservices industry have been succeeding in implementing diversity initiatives. Diversity and inclusion at Sodexo Inc., a leading integrated food and facilities management service company, is ?fundamental to achieving outstanding business results because it drives our ability to identify and develop the best talent, create an inclusive culture where our work force can thrive, and deliver excellent services to our clients and customers,? comments Rohini Anand, senior vice president and global chief diversity officer.

At Sodexo, 12.75 percent of the managers are Black, 6.5 percent are Latino and 3.5 percent are Asian. At fast-food giant McDonald?s Corp., approximately 12 percent of executive managers and senior officials are Black, 9.5 percent are Latino and 3.5 percent are Asian. ?Developing and maintaining an inclusive and diverse work force gives us a treasure trove of different perspectives, insights and innovation,? says Kevin Bradley, the chain?s director of inclusion and diversity. He adds, ?When customers see that we live diversity and inclusion in our hiring practices, they are more prone to be loyal customers.?

Still, says Fernandez, a firm can do well in diversity and fall short on inclusion. Many companies have people of color working on their teams, but the top executives do not use the insights of those people, he says. Fernandez contends that an inclusive work force, one in which all employees feel valued, is needed to ?activate the power of diversity in management.?

The best practices to date for attracting, retaining and advancing a multicultural work force are pipeline management, executive support, education and business resources groups.

Pipeline management

Tyson Foods Inc. employs a formal pipeline management process that routinely monitors the progression of women and people of color. ?The process identifies developmental opportunities and job assignments to help people advance,? explains Shawn Coker, vice president of Diversity Business Practice. Similarly, the diversity department of food management company Compass Group partners with its internal recruiting organization to build a pipeline of diverse talent.

Executive support

The president and CEO of Tyson and those who report directly to him make up the company?s Executive Diversity Business Sponsors, which sets the inclusion and diversity strategy. A Diversity Leadership Team makes recommendations to the EDBS on increasing the effectiveness of inclusion and diversity efforts.


Inclusion and diversity training is required for all management team members at Tyson. In a one-day workshop, participants learn from each other by reflecting on personal stories and experiences. They remain connected to each other up to three months following the workshop through structured work assignments.

Business resource groups (Networks)

?We have moved from a model of networks for the sake of networking to having them act like true business partners and drivers of the business,? comments Bradley. McDonald?s resource groups developed business plans that impact key drivers for company growth. At Compass, networks facilitate associate development and have helped increase associate engagement.
?The diversity of Compass Group?s associates has helped us thrive and remain competitive in a diverse global marketplace,? says Vincent Berkeley, chief diversity officer at Compass.