During a recent phone conversation, a successful manufacturing business owner complained that he couldn’t find African American, Asian, or Latinos to hire for his business. I asked if he’d contacted the local trade schools, colleges, or universities. No! He explained, he didn’t want them ruined by the education system, he wanted to train them his way.
I asked a series of questions, hoping to find a solution. Was he paying a low wage for a skilled position? No, the starting wage was 22.00 per hour. Accessibility had to be the issue. Yes, the company’s location was outside the city limits, but was accessible by bus and train. I began to question my ability and my business model. It wasn’t pay, accessibility, or location that were barriers? I asked what was is company culture was. That simple question, opened a pandora’s box. First, he offered the defense of his personal values, beliefs, and political leanings. Then he offered an odd response. He didn’t want to upset the company’s current culture by forcing his employees to speak Spanish or be subjected to “those people”.
Yes, I could’ve become angry and berated him for his ignorance. But, in his social and cultural ignorance he spoke a larger truth about white business leaders’ fear of change and acceptance.
I said to him, “You can’t find what you’re not looking for”. The quick and easy have become the politically correct standards, rather than change. We hear about “Fight for 15”, “we support BLM”, large donations to HBCU’s, hiring diversity managers, or promises of change, yet there is no measurable outcome. We know the horrific numbers regarding pay, zero growth opportunities, and the corporate toxic culture. The sad truth was that he, as the owner, had chosen the dominant culture and the beliefs that culture held. He is the barrier to his own growth and potential, not the people.