• Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

How is the industry doing on DEI? Depends on who you ask

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Oct 24, 2022

Photography: Shutterstock

Before releasing its practical guide for promoting diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) in foodservice organizations, The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance provided a detailed overview of how the efforts of the industry to date have been perceived.

The biggest takeaway is the glaring disconnect between the views of employers and workers. Evaluation of past and potential employees was less than glowing, while operators were much more liberal in their assessments of what was being done.

“We have a huge disconnect. The disconnect is between what an organization says it has and the experiences employees have had,” said Sue Crystal-Mansour, vice president of program impact for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF).

For example, 98% of employers with a DEI strategy said they educated employees about these initiatives, primarily through company employee handbooks. Yet, observed Crystal-Mansour, employees reported that they were largely unaware of these programs. She questioned aloud the wisdom of using employee handbooks as a means of communication, as they are rarely referenced by workers.

The NRAEF, MF&HA, National Restaurant Association and Cornell University have partnered to survey five key stakeholder groups in industry DEI efforts. Funding was provided by American Express.

The groups contacted were:

  • 200 catering organizations;
  • 2,000 current restaurant workers;
  • 1,000 workers who left the industry in the past five years;
  • 1,000 people who have never worked in the company; and
  • 1,000 people who have not worked in the restaurant industry but have indicated that they would consider working in the field.

Workers were also organized statistically according to the secondary classifications they gave themselves: White, Black, Hispanic, member of the LGBTQ community or disabled, among others. And the entry was also analyzed for gender differences.

Overall, said Crystal-Mansour, the Ph.D. who led the research, employers viewed industry DEI efforts as more widespread and ambitious than the workers who participated in them.

It was just an academic point, she said. By pitting satisfied employees against workers whose dissatisfaction had driven them out of the company, “the greatest difference was observed among individuals who did not feel supported by supervisors and where there were no policies and inclusive DEI climate,” said Crystal-Mansour.

And “once they’re gone, they don’t come back”.

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