Mandarin was the native tongue of Taiwan-born George Chang when he was hired as a manager trainee by Panda Restaurant group five years ago. Chang is now the company’s Texas regional director of operations.
With a growing number of America’s more than 120 million Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and only 70 million Gen-Xers coming up to fill the gaps in the workplace, savvy employers are actively seeking new personnel pools. Couple that with the prediction from the United States Office of Employment that 29 percent of the U.S. labor force will be comprised of Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, Asians, and other minority groups by 2008, and the solution becomes clear.
Restaurants already employ approximately 1.4 million foreign-born individuals—more than any other American industry, according to a diversity report by the National Restaurant Association (nra). More than 20 percent of workers in food-and-prep service are foreign born, and about 45 percent of them have been in the U.S. for 10 years or less. About 17 percent of hourly employees, 10 percent of all foodservice managers, and 14 percent of first-line supervisors are of Hispanic origin.
Companies that have been most successful at integrating these multicultural populations into their workforce have learned to go beyond traditional recruitment, hiring, and training methods. They have, as Teresa Siriani, president of People Report, a human resources research firm, describes it, created their own distinctive “employee experience brand.”
This branding process begins with understanding how to recruit employees from various cultural groups. George Chang, for example, found Panda through an ad the company had placed in the World Journal, a popular Chinese-language newspaper. For some groups, such as Asians and Asian Indians, the internet can be an effective recruitment medium, says Michael Soon Lee, president of EthnoConnect, a multicultural marketing company. Many immigrants also respond well to direct mail “because they generally don’t get a lot of it,” he says.
The internet is also becoming a major tool for finding everything from cars to jobs, according to Siriani. She advises potential employers to use their web pages to promote their employee experience brand by posting company information and downloadable employment applications in other languages.
But, for the most part, employee word of mouth is the most effective tool for attracting multicultural candidates.
“Most of our people come from referrals, employees telling their friends and family members that Panda provides a good place to work, pays well, and cares about our communities,” Chang says.
In People Report’s 2005 Survey of Unit Level Employment Practices (sulep), quick-service restaurant respondents said that almost 4 percent of their employees were Asian or Pacific Islanders. A quarter of hourly employees and 19 percent of managers from this population were brought in through referral. Another 14 percent of Asian and Pacific Islanders found their quick-service jobs via the internet.
Attracting multicultural job applicants begins with establishing relationships and gaining trust within their communities, says Gerald Fernandez, founder of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (mfha), a non-profit organization that promotes the social and economic benefits of diversity and inclusion in the restaurant, foodservice, and hospitality industries. Fernandez advises companies to create dynamic working partnerships with organizations that represent the multicultural populations in their communities, such as the National Council of LaRaza, the largest Latino advocacy organization in the U.S.; National Urban League; and Organization for Chinese Americans. Something as simple as an in-language ad in a local church bulletin can also yield numerous qualified job applicants.
“Once you’ve proven your genuine cultural sensitivity and sincere desire to be a part of the community, these organizations will do your recruiting for you,” Fernandez says.