How your brand can tackle unconscious bias

How your brand can tackle unconscious bias

6 takeaways from MUFSO panelists on this important issue

Gloria Dawson | Oct 02, 2018

Starbucks. Papa John’s. The Spotted Pig. In the last year, restaurants large and small have made headlines over race and harassment issues, leaving operators to grapple with how to create inclusive company cultures while also preparing themselves to respond if an incident occurs.

Ready to handle accusations and acts of discrimination from your employees and customers. Ready to handle questions about diversity and inequality on how you staff your business. And ready for these issues to be raised at the speed of social media.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said James Fripp, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Yum! Brands Inc. He was joined on the panel by Gerry Fernandez, founder and president of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, and Brett Carrey, a senior consultant for Blink OnDemand Crisis PR.

Tackling biases in your business isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the right thing for business, panelists said. In fact, Fripp said “inclusive leadership” is now a core competency for executives.

It’s a tough and complex topic, but we’ve distilled it down to six key takeaways for operators looking to address unconscious bias in their businesses.

Don’t leave money on the table

Fernandez of the MFHA started off his talk by holding three one dollar bills in the air. They represented money a business might get from various racial or ethnic groups. “Which one is which?” he asked.  “Which dollar are you willing to do without?” By not welcoming everyone to your brand, you’re “leaving money on the table for lawyers,” he noted.

Find out what your brand says to potential employees

Unemployment is low. Workers can afford to be more selective about where they work. “If your brand doesn’t say something healthy and positive and inclusive, well then the young people don’t want to work for you,” Fernandez said.

Your CEO might not be your best spokesperson

Trotting out a CEO to quell a crisis might seem like a great idea, said Carrey of Blink OnDemand Crisis PR. But that approach might elevate a small incident into a larger one. Regardless of who speaks for the brand, he said, a timely response that demonstrates empathy and accepts responsibility is essential.

Train for a crisis before it happens

“You don’t want to have yourself caught off guard when a crisis happens,” said Carrey. “You want to be prepared well in advance, and you want to train for it before actually happens.”

Be inclusive

“We don’t need some people, we need all people,” said Fripp, noting that this applies both to people working for your brand and the people your brand is communicating with.

Never use the “F” word

“They’re just not a ‘fit’,” should not be in your vocabulary said Fripp. Yet, he hears the phrase a lot when comes hiring. When you dig a bit deeper, “what you start hearing people describe are not competencies at all, they’re biases.” Sometimes a potential new employee might be eliminated or a promotion denied because the applicant didn’t go to a certain school or doesn’t go out for drinks after work. Biases go far beyond gender or racial differences, he noted.

Contact Gloria Dawson at gloria.dawson@knect365.com

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