For over twenty years, April Kelly-Drummond has dedicated her efforts to Denny’s diversity initiatives. Daily, her leadership is demonstrated internally and externally with national and local civil rights initiatives. As Denny’s Director, Diversity Affairs and Multicultural Engagement, Drummond took time to talk with rolling out about Denny’s day-to-day operations and commitment to the community. In recognition of Women’s History Month, April Kelly-Drummond exemplifies the Female Success Factor.
How important are diversity and inclusion to the day-to-day operations of Denny’s?
It is incredibly important to our brand; Denny’s is committed to embracing the unique qualities of each employee and valuing those differences in thought, culture, and experiences. We are proud to have built a diverse and inclusive workforce and demonstrate our commitment by making diversity top-of-mind and celebrating it every day. Our internal and external culture is designed to promote our openness to all people, ideas and perspectives, and highlights our commitment to diversity while aligning with our corporate strategy and core values.
Name two best practices of Denny’s that empower women at the corporate and franchise level.
Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality – Denny’s has a Women’s Leadership Group with the goal to educate, elevate, and encourage our female leaders by attending conferences, lunch & learns and workshops that are designed to enhance both personal and professional growth. For example, Denny’s is a member of the Women’s FoodService Forum and every year, we sponsor a group of women to attend either the national conference or regional events. Also, Denny’s provides free access to the Women’s Food Service Forum database which included monthly webinars and additional resources to support career development.
Promote education, training and professional development for women – Denny’s tuition reimbursement, training and development are available to employees. In support of women leadership in the restaurant industry, the company pays the membership for many women leaders, as well as supports their attendance at the Women’s Food Service Annual Conference.
Additionally, this is our third year to host a summer internship program at our corporate office with a focus to introduce a diverse group of both undergraduate and graduate students to the restaurant industry. We want to make sure these students understand the many career opportunities within our company and the restaurant industry as a whole. Many previous interns have gone on to have careers at Denny’s.
At Denny’s, what’s the largest obstacle you currently face when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified diversity candidates (women, minorities, LGBT individuals, and disabled individuals)?
As an organization we’re lucky not to have too many obstacles when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified, diverse candidates. Denny’s offers competitive pay and benefits and puts an emphasis on training to offer our employees all the tools and knowledge they need to do their job and develop in their career. We are proud that our turnover is low compared to the industry average.
As of December 2016, minorities make up 64.5% of Denny’s total workforce, 50.8% of all restaurant management and 24.5% of all corporate/support roles.
What advice do you have for diverse candidates when seeking jobs? What should they look for when considering a company?
A career at Denny’s is open to everyone with a passion for great food, teamwork and growth. When candidates are considering a company to work with, it’s important that they must have a passion for that brand and want to bring it to that team. We’re always looking for candidates with unique skills, experiences and backgrounds that can add to the diversity of our company.
How important are mentors to helping advance one’s career?
I believe it’s important to have multiple mentors throughout your career in order to provide constructive and developmental feedback. However, it’s important as an individual that you are always humble enough to seek out additional wisdom and are willing to listen, even when what’s being said may be hard to hear. This is the only way you can grow, and I believe a mentor will provide that additional feedback that sometimes your supervisor may not provide.