EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Companies must develop their cultural competency

2011-10-23T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Companies must develop their cultural competencyBy Jim Garrett nwitimes.com
October 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

During the recent Diversity Inc. annual dinner and awards at Olympia Fields County Club, the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau was awarded the Community Spirit award for the bureau's ongoing support of diversity in our marketing and development campaigns.

However, what really struck me was the poignant keynote address by Gerald "Gerry" Fernandez Sr., president and founder of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance. Fernandez spoke about creating sustainable diverse communities, particularly in the hospitality industry.

Diversity Inc. also works to create sustainable diverse communities, which is one of the points Fernandez also drove home. Long-term economic growth of the communities in which they draw their employees and customers is a key to future growth as a business. One of the ways to keep the community healthy and prosperous is through reinvestment in the community.

We talk about sustainability from an environmental perspective all the time; why not from an economical viewpoint? Much like the paper industry plants trees to continue their future supply, the hospitality industry should "plant trees" by targeting urban and multicultural communities for entrepreneurial talent.

Corporate reinvestment is a great long-term solution, but it is difficult and slow to get corporate partners moving. However, the passionate individual can achieve great things with the support of other highly motivated people.

In the Chicago Southland, we do not need to search and wait for that passionate person. By day, Johanns Williams is the mild mannered general manager of La Quinta Inn in Matteson and a board member of the Chicago Southland CVB, but on the Internet, he is the driving force behind JobsFanPage.com and on Facebook.

The Facebook page has such a simple idea behind it; I'm shocked no one thought of it before. The idea is this easy: If you see a help wanted sign, shoot a picture of it, include the location and post it to the Jobs Fan Page on Facebook.

Williams is pushing for a new jobs movement in not only the Southland, but also America, through encouragement and engagement of job-seekers.

In the long-term he wants to help provide Web-based job training information to increase employability. He is personally reinvesting in the communities to help build the next generation of workers, hospitality or otherwise. He is trying to develop a pipeline to bring talented people from diverse backgrounds into the marketplace.

Our hope is that other companies will see Williams' passion and work to develop pipelines for their own company. The hospitality industry is the No. 1 employer of immigrants, minorities and young people looking for career opportunities. Attraction and retention of this talent is an ongoing need, but few companies have a pipeline to develop that talent.

The continuing development of diverse young talent is essential not only to the hospitality industry, but for America. Companies must continue to develop their cultural competency and connectivity to keep up in the multicultural markets.

Under the leadership of Joe Martin and with the support of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, Diversity Inc. is working toward a time when ethnic, religious and economic status will no longer be considered in the hiring process and will focus on the value of diverse professional talent in the Chicago Southland.

Jim Garrett is president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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